White-trash bashing

Read spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London) on the trashy politics of the Bushophobics.

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics

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You hear it all the time: ‘I hate that stupid Bush!’ Most European and many American commentators now appear to believe that only weak-minded dupes could vote to re-elect that redneck in the White House. When they announced the discovery of a sub-humanoid ‘Hobbit’ with a tiny brain this week, I was surprised that somebody did not claim that it was wearing a ‘Vote Bush-Cheney’ badge.

But why, exactly, do so many of President Bush’s critics despise him with such unprecedented venom? It can hardly be because he insists on Washington’s right to launch wars of intervention. That has been the position of every president since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Bill Clinton did it in Kosovo, with support from not only Tony Blair but also Clare Short and John Kerry. And Mr Bush is not the first president to launch a war on a dubious pretext.

No, like much else today, the reasons seem to be more personal than political. Mr Bush has become the symbol of the one minority it is deemed respectable to hate. Everybody understands that it is no longer acceptable to be rude to racial or ethnic minorities; even Mr Bush’s conservative Republicans go out of their way to avoid insulting Islam. The one group that is considered fair game, however, is the kind of ‘white trash ‘ who can be branded ignorant racists. White trash chavs from, say, Essex are an easy target for abuse over here. White trash rednecks from backward places such as Texas are an even easier target over there.

I am not about to set up a ‘libertarian Marxists for Dubya’ campaign (or for John Kerry either). But the vitriol directed against Bush supporters seems to me no less trashy politics than the racist prejudice that some Republicans espoused in past elections.

The contemptuous tone of this campaign is captured by a song I keep hearing called American Idiot, by the punkish American band, Green Day: ‘Don’t want to be an American idiot/One nation controlled by the media/Information age of hysteria/I’m not part of a redneck agenda’. A lot of supposedly more highbrow criticism has been in the same low tone. One typical British intellectual has called on all ‘intelligent, educated, civilised, cultivated, compassionate people in America’ to vote against Bush – with the obvious implication that anybody voting for him must be a barbaric, brutish American idiot. Radical American commentators publish articles under headlines such as ‘Clueless people love Bush’ and ‘Don’t be brainwashed!’.

A constant complaint is that many ‘clueless people’ have already been brainwashed by the Bush campaign’s use of scare tactics through an allegedly compliant media. Arianna Huffington, a leading anti-Bush columnist, claims that Americans are voting in a ‘fog of fear’, and that thanks to Mr Bush’s ‘unremitting fear-mongering, millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain, but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain . . . It’s not about left wing v right wing; it’s about left brain v right brain’. Or, she might just as well have said, intelligent and logical people v emotionally idiotic lizards.

These attitudes are not only contemptuous, they are a cop-out. How much easier it is for the liberal Left to blame stupid voters and the lying media for propping up Mr Bush and the Iraq war, rather than face up to its own failure to mount a convincing case or win the argument. Some of us on the British Left have been here before. Twenty years ago, we heard similar arguments from those who wanted to excuse Labour’s inability to cope with the Tories. It was not the pathetic opposition that enabled Margaret Thatcher to win three elections, you understand. According to the blame-dodgers of the British Left, it was the magical power of Thatcherism that had bewitched ‘greedy’ working-class voters with its ideology of ‘authoritarian populism’ – whatever that meant.

Today we seem to have the Thatcherism debate rerun as farce. Those who complain about stupid American voters being brainwashed by the incompetent, incoherent Mr Bush are only deluding themselves – not least about the notion that things will change for the better if Mr Kerry wins. Those who protest about the power of Republican fear-mongering are using scare tactics of their own, with Mr Bush cast as bogeyman along with bin Laden. Those who pour public scorn on ‘American idiots’ are parading the latest version of the socialism of fools.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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