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Why We Still Love The People’s Premiere

In that autobiography you may possibly have noticed former British PM Tony Blair is currently touting, the one called ‘A Journey’ (a title that masterfully captures the sublimely faux modesty of its subject), Blair compares himself to Princess Di.

‘“We were both, in our own way, manipulators” — good at grasping the feelings of others and instinctively playing on them.’

The papers of course have seized on the People’s Premier’s candidness, making headlines out of it.  That and his observation (conveyed in a kind of morse prose) that Gordon Brown had: “Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero.”  And also his claim that he knew Gord’s premiership would likely be ‘a disaster.’

I agree with Tony.  Or rather, Tony agrees with moi.  Back in 2006, when Brown’s bizarre (and now conveniently forgotten) popularity with the media was rampant, just before his coronation as Labour Leader, I predicted, with Cassandrine accuracy, that Brown would be a disastrous leader of the Labour Party and that he had in fact already lost the next General Election.  I also compared Brown and Blair to Charles and Di, calling Brown an ‘operator’ and Blair a ‘great manipulator’.

Of course, it didn’t really take much insight to see all that coming, even if most of the media couldn’t at the time.  But in the piece I talked about how Blair’s ‘lying’ was what made him a much more successful, much more popular politician than Brown – who was very, very bad at it.  Which is not to say that Brown was a much more honest man – just that he wouldn’t and couldn’t perform for us.

‘Admitting he lied is not a mistake Blair is likely to ever make. Blair’s special talent, the thing that puts him ahead of most other politicians, certainly in British political history, is that he can convince himself his lies are literally the god’s honest truth, at least for as long as he’s telling us them. And – truth be told – in his mind, he never actually ‘lies’ to us at all. He’s an actor – an actor of the Stanlislavsky school: the emotion he shows us is ‘true’, it’s just usually attached to something that is not. This is why he’s such a great performer and politician – we appreciate and are flattered by the energy and the psychosis he puts into his performances. He is a great manipulator…’.

‘Brown on the other hand is a great operator. And operators, unlike manipulators, are painful to watch. They resent having to manipulate us and we resent having to watch them resenting having to manipulate us. Tony is Princess Di to Brown’s Prince Charles. Brown, who tells us he is ‘quite private’ and who prefers ‘substance over celebrity’ as if these were reasons why we should be interested in him, clearly wants power but he doesn’t really want to become the thing that power is in this mediated day and age: an actor. He won’t be forgiven for that by the electorate/audience.’

Brown’s desperate agreement to appear in those Election X Factor shows – in which David Cameron and Nick Clegg, both thespian heirs to Blair, shone with their ‘look, guys’ sincere insincerity – only threw his boring manse inflexibility into even more painful relief.  The electorate treated him with Cowellian disdain (the most damning thing of all was that those listening on the radio thought Brown had won the debates).

And even in the political afterlife the emotional gulf between Brown and Blair persists.  Blair of course is passionately hated, where Brown is merely despised. Or worse, pitied.

‘Doesn’t he look OLD?’ we spit, when Blair pops up in the papers or on telly, usually to tell us with those raised eyebrows how he doesn’t regret anything and didn’t fib about anything either, honestly guys.  ‘Hasn’t he aged BADLY?’ we gloat, pretending to be beyond his charms now.  But actually sounding just like a bitter ex trying to convince themselves that their former amore fell apart after the affair ended after he turned out to be sleeping with the au pair.

Truth is, Blair still has that Diana star quality – partly because he is still a great manipulator, but mostly because it’s so difficult to work out which side of the reason/unreason line he’s on these days.  You can’t but watch with rapt attention, trying to divine the content of his (Catholic) soul.

12 thoughts on “Why We Still Love The People’s Premiere”

  1. It’s true that after so much protesting, one does get a little tired. But, that’s the western ‘so called left’ for you. They think they can change things by protesting only. And since that always fails – it tires them all out, and back to their latest hit sitcom they go.

    The Latin American left though rarely strictly protest. They gather, they organize, they make things happen – they work hard towards achieving a goal. They form guerrilla armies if pushed too far and they attempt to take those bastards down, one way or another.

    Nowadays though – Latin Americans are so aware of what’s happening that the right oligarchies are all moving to Miami and guerilla armies have been replaced by real grassroots work and smart political and economic strategies. Not the kind that just involves people “showing up”. Of, course – like all changes, it can still be messy. We are dealing with people after all.

    Che Guevarra is largely to blame for that. Because he genuinely cared. He and people like Simon Bolivar, Eduardo Galeano and others instilled a deep sense of love and compassion. As corny as that may sound to the western pallette. Just go to South America and mention Che’s name – you won’t get the kind of unfounded irrational cynicism that you get here.

    And here, you always get that usual line “but Che was violent, he killed X amount of people…” Duh!, of course – it’s a centuries old friggin war he was fighting!

    What do they think – that the empire will give up with hugs and kisses?

  2. I shouldn’t leave “antisocial causes” just hanging their without any specifiers; it sounds way to vague and general; I should say that I lean to causes in the world that will undermine the forces which destroy our world and the lives of so many people in it . That which is ‘deviant’ is just most alternatives to the religious insanity in America. Really those become tamer all the time. Today a walk in the woods was just fine.

  3. Well, it did say by anti war protesters and breakaway republicans. I’d say the Republicans threw the eggs and the anti-war protesters threw the shoes.

    Who knows, he might have found a nice pair for himself.

  4. …by breakaway Republicans angry at the peace deal in Northern Ireland.

    I saw a clip of him rushing into the bookshop having run the gauntlet, egg free, with that drag queen smile at full-wattage with an almost post-coital thrill to his complexion – and doing that thing he does of sticking out his arms with the elbows crooked to announce his importance and Big Man on Campus status. I wonder if he picked that up from Bush? Bush never seemed to pick up Tony’s DQ smile.

  5. I think that your version had more referential pungency. Medusa’s eye’s were far more to be feared than Caligula’s I believe . Although I wouldn’t want his attention in any way to speak of. At least you know not only who they are but who Mitterand is: The only reference I’ve heard any Americans make about him was a squack that arose on the net about him eating a boiled bird with a napkin on his head. That’s the kind of thing that gets people’s blood boiling. They hate the French anyway because they’re literate and theirs is just another language (besides English ) that no one can speak.

    You have done what you’ve done, Mark, and any lack of recognition and bullying you’ve gotten as a result have been for an honorable cause. I believe that it is just a function of personality, intelligence and perseverance in believing that something good can be gotten out of the world and passed on. I’m not sure that everyone has a choice.
    The ability to see things in new ways and write them down are just a job you’ve had , maybe all the more special for not being appreciated. Consider so many of your predecessors who sat in jail cells. Original thinkers are not always well liked. You’ve been doomed to be a success, perhaps you will disappoint. We all do, at one time or other.

  6. At one time a power metaphor which had considerable currancy amongst the denizens off the deep end of the underbelly of sexual sadomasochism was that “It takes a good bottom to make a good top”. I.e. all emotionally developed people realize their submissive as well as their oppressive potential. To play one role well is to know the other. I find this true in human power relations. People who are relentlessly in need of power often fell inadaguate but don’t realise it. I think that people like Thatcher are simply not strong enough to appear weak. She was a friend of our R. Regan who played a major role in destroying Democracy in the United States and establishing a wide class system. I remember her best for having helped the butcher Pinoche’ escape justice in the World Court by stealth and of course decimating the power of working people in England.

    OMG, mouth of Marilyn Monroe; he must have been joking; she looks like a sewer rat in the mouth, the eyes too. i don’t know why they didn’t caracaterize her as a rodent with a red wig on; who could see tears in those squinty little eyes? Imagine kissing that mouth. Phewy! She was probably just pissed off because she had to settle for alley sex.

    I never find those in established power sexy at all; they are too undermined by the layers of deception under which they function to ever be believable. People like Reagan,Thatcher and Bush were only lackeys of the corporate interests & the wealthy. They were weak thugs, in fact, who obtained their self worth doing service.

    People like Che Guevara was political but way to much of an idealist to even be accepted in Cuba eventually.
    That was sexy. When the power clearly arises out of peoples own resources and humanity and is not bestowed by opinion people become authentic . Mark, I think senses the sexual allure of criminals and antisocial personages who are self made or made in anarchy, not just social functionaries. Morrissey’s appeal is his honest failure to conform, even to rock star standards. Genet’s figures are immanently sexy because of their resistance to conformity. Same with De Sade’s women.
    Mark is to me very much a modern aficionado and torchbearer of that deviant/authentic sensability. That is , as I think he knows, very difficult for a journalist; being an esoteric, a poet.

    Most people in similar jobs sell out to stupid politically popular causes, if any of them have the capacity to think beyond what will most surely sell. These are not good times for individuals who say what they think and think more than most people are willing to admit.

  7. On some measures Charles probably did have a better EIQ than Diana – and Brown than Blair (though Brown of course was the one that was prone to strops and pulling faces in public). Blair’s interest in ‘EIQ’ is entirely self-serving – he’s very proud of his ‘sensitivity’ to his audience. But probably only really interested in the ‘instrumental’ aspects of EIQ.

    I’m reminded of Blair’s praise for Brown’s ‘big clunking fist’ around the time of his coronation and his warning to the Tories that it was coming their way. It sounded faintly ridiculous at the time, but we can see it’s pointed ambivalence now. Brown’s ‘big clunking fist’ was a big clunking fist because it had no ’emotional intelligence’. I’ve often referred to Blair’s drag queen smile, but it is quite remarkable the way that he is willing – eager, even – to characterise himself in ‘feminine’ terms: EIQ, ‘soft power’ etc. etc. I think that Cameron has taken all of this very much on board. E.g. the pictures of him rubbing noses with his new-born daughter released to the press (it almost looked as if Cameron was implying that he’d given birth her himself).

    Even Blair’s Catholicism could be cast in those terms too: it’s the ‘Mother’ church which he has followed his wife and mother of his children to. Likewise the theatrical masochism of his own Christ-like poses during and after the Iraq War: ‘This is what I believe. I can do and say no other. Crucify me if you must.’

  8. I’m fascinted by Blair’s use of the phrase “emotional intelligence”–known in the trade as E!Q–and his assertion that Brown has none of it.

    In theory, emotional intelligence has many dimensions–of which sensing what others want to hear, and using that to manipulate them, is only one. Being alert to one’s own moods and feelings, and identifying them, is another dimension of EIQ. Putting on a positive face when you’re feeling low is another (is that a form of deceit?). It could be argued that when we take all those elements into account, perhaps Charles had a rather better EIQ than Diana.

    Does a devotion to principled honesty show a low EIQ? Is the pursuit of truth intellectually intelligent, but emotionally unintelligent?

    Is a lie a lie? No, it’s showing “sensitivity to your audience”. Blair’s utter failure to acknowledge the moral dimension of deceit sends a chill up my spine. Perhaps that makes me old-fasioned.

    Surely, what Blair describes as “emotional intelligence”, in simpler times, would be the callous arrogance of the psychopath.

    Blair’s Catholicism plays a key role in his pathology. Spew enough word-barf, and you convince yourself that you’ve won an argument.

    Blair can manipulate an audience. Especially when that audience is himself.

  9. It’s to bad you British don’t get some down and out lying thugs to feel pretty certain about-at least that they’re just surefire psychopaths; I don’t think you would or could tolerate the kind of behavior we do because America still has that pioneer spirit; beyond principles or scruples of any kind. We don’t think we were hustled into some absurd position by a doxy; We know that we were just fucked so disgustingly that like rape victims we just don’t dare talk about it. We’re taught that all’s fair in wheeling and dealing- apparently in politics as in business.

    Can you imagine anyone even thinking of Bush as being like Princess Di? Or even Glenda,(?) the wicked witch of the west. Even someone like Sarah Palin can only be likened to something on the far side of sanity.

    Even our presumed best politicians make Tony look girlish in a strange way.

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