Government by Gaslight
Updated: Jun 4
The most atrocious bores, recounting stories of their children, their holidays, or their dreams, present you with a precious and unintended gift in the occasional flashes of silence that render their conversation almost bearable. After making good your escape, if you are fortunate enough not to live permanently with the bore, the peace you derive from the next few uninterrupted minutes of silence and solitude is no less than a glimpse of paradise.
In a similar way, the chaos of the last year has afforded a few moments of peculiarly pellucid clarity. You know who your true friends are now. You know who has a heart and a spine, and who is a shallow, treacherous conformist. You know how your neighbours would have behaved in the Milgram experiments, and who would have gone running to the Nazis to snitch on Anne Frank. You also know your true relationship with the state, and what a wretched state it is, lying like a leper in purple, as its corruption shows clearly through its finery. These revelations may not be comforting, but it is of some worth at least to be able to perceive an occasional clear truth amidst the maelstrom of lies.
It is true that the British state, like all states, has often behaved badly, lied, and manipulated the people it was supposed to be serving. It is also true that its dishonesty has grown more extreme and more cynical, and has affected more of the native population in recent years. Over the last eighteen months, however, the corruption and brutality of the Johnson regime has become so blatant that no one with an elementary sense of justice can ignore it. Dominic Cummings, a man excluded from the debate of Pandaemonium in Book II of Paradise Lost on the grounds that even in Hell there must be some standards, has achieved an unlikely heroism for stating the obvious.
When you look at what is most wrong with government today, however, you often find that its roots go back well before Johnson and Cummings. Tony Blair is responsible for much of the sickness, David Cameron, who called Blair “the Master” and consciously imitated him, is even more culpable. It is trite, but nonetheless true, to point out that Blair detested the traditional Labour membership, and Cameron despised the Tories. The logical culmination of their legacies is a government which hates everyone. Whatever your views, values, ideals and aspirations, the current regime is not sympathetic to any of them. If you happen to be a wealthy, compliant technocrat, given to making large donations to the Conservative Party and Tweeting about how wonderful Mrs. Johnson is for renting her wedding dress, they will probably tolerate you for a while longer, but don’t expect this to last forever.
One particular abomination which we owe to Cameron is the “Behavioural Insights Team”, colloquially known as the “Nudge Unit”. Along with the Seventy-Seventh Brigade and numerous other sinister clandestine organisations, this team is dedicated to using what used to be military techniques to demoralise and manipulate the British public. It is, of course, unforgiveable that such units should exist at all in a civilised society, using taxpayers’ money to abuse those who fund them. The government is fulfilling a role well-known in literature and film: the deadbeat husband who terrifies and abuses his wife in order to prey on her: Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda, Lopez in The Prime Minister, Rasheed in A Thousand Splendid Suns, Monk in The Purple Rose of Cairo, Gregory in Gaslight.
Gaslight is the film (or Gas Light, the play) which gave its name to the practice of gaslighting, in which the criminal tortures the victim by making her question her own sanity. This is what Martin Bashir did to the Princess of Wales, and his predatory conduct is clearly one of the reason why her sons are both now so vocal on the topic of mental health. The BBC, however, has not learned its lesson, since it continues to assist the government in gaslighting the British public. In decades to come, the continued employment of Laura Kuenssberg will be as baffling as that of Martin Bashir.
Political corruption is not exactly new, particularly in the area of procurement. As Kipling shrewdly noted:
Who shall doubt "the secret hid
Under Cheops' pyramid"
Was that the contractor did
Cheops out of several millions?
Or that Joseph's sudden rise
To Comptroller of Supplies
Was a fraud of monstrous size
On King Pharaoh's swart civilians?
Until recently, however, many of us were privileged to ignore the evil. The fact that politicians are disgusting barely had any impact on our lives. If you were told that someone at a party was a Member of Parliament or a County Councillor, you realised that you were at the wrong sort of party and made a mental note to avoid having to speak to them or lend them any money. If you heard that they worked for a “Nudge unit”, you would assume that they specialised in vulgar innuendo and give them an even wider berth.
Just what can be done to clean up politics is a question so vexing that it is probably unanswerable. The Myth of Sisyphus is child’s play by comparison. It may be that the most pragmatic approach is to accept that only the most loathsome characters ever become politicians, and put all our energy into keeping the wretches firmly tethered in their place. Nonetheless, the initial steps now that they are untethered are fairly obvious, and it may be helpful to set them out explicitly.
First, realise that the government is completely inimical to your interests. All they want to do is increase their own wealth and power by robbing you, and abusing you while they do so. Even the most critical reporting of government activities falls far short of the truth. There have, for instance, been numerous stories about Matt Hancock’s corrupt dealings with his sister and his friends. These are clearly fabrications: Matt Hancock has no relatives, as he was grown on a Petri dish by Patrick Vallance, and no friends, as he has the personality of a yeast infection. The reality is far more perverse and twisted.
Second, ignore everything the government says, and refuse to do anything it purports to mandate. This also involves being aware of the direction in which the Nudge unit, the Wink unit, the “Say No More” unit and all the other innuendo-wallahs are trying to propel you, and resisting strenuously.
Third, and finally for now, we should have the courage of our convictions. The whole aim of the psychological operations by the Ogle unit, the Squeeze unit and the Grope unit is to demoralise and depress, to wound our minds with their lies. They do this partly by attempting to assume a morally superior stance. I notice, for instance, that Sadiq Khan, a psychotic sadist whose ambitions for London are about as appealing as those of the Luftwaffe, has taken to plastering posters all over the metropolis barking at Londoners to “Be Kind”. When people do not see the irony of trying to bully others into kindness, there is not much point in trying to engage them in ethical debate.
While compassion is wasted on the zealots, however, and one should routinely assume the worst of the government and their paid shills, the same does not apply to those whom they have frightened. It is a sad fact that it is often difficult to be sympathetic towards victims of bullying. Many delinquents have been abused as children, and battered wives often make the most maddeningly irrational decisions. Abuse is not good for anyone, and there is no point in expecting its victims to be paragons of virtue and wisdom. Many people are still terrified out of their minds by the sinister stream of government and media propaganda which has been directed at them incessantly with precisely this aim in mind. Our contempt and hatred should be implacable on this point, but it should be directed entirely against the culprits, not their victims. No words, and few punishments, could be too harsh for Johnson, Hancock, Whitty, Vallance, Kuenssberg, Morgan, and all the other vile abusers who have battered at the sanity of the nation. Their victims, however, have already been damaged, humiliated, and made miserable. Those of us who have escaped, though far from unscathed, with some dignity and sanity, can only sympathise with their plight, and, in time, assist them in taking revenge upon their tormentors.