The migrant crisis was meant to be the topic this week. I didn’t really want to write about ‘Pig-gate’. When the story first appeared on Twitter I said that I wouldn’t do it, but here we are. I’m about to write about it and you’re going to read it. Let’s just accept that neither of us come out of this in a positive light, our standards of political discourse have slipped, so let’s hold hands and step into the void…
During his university days at Oxford back in the late 1980s, David Cameron placed his genitalia in the mouth of a dead pig as part of an initiation ritual for the Piers Gaveston Society, an exclusive men-only dining society. If that is true, then it is odd and shows that students do crazy things to be accepted by their peers. But we already knew that. Acceptance aside, it is terribly unlikely to have impacted his less than perfect performance as prime minister. We already knew that too. And, as Stephen Bush explained in the New Statesman, it is strangely not illegal: “Bestiality involves penetration of the “vagina or anus” of a living animal. Necrophilia involves having sexual intercourse with a dead person. The mouth of a dead pig is a legal no man’s land.” So what’s the big deal here? Its attraction lies in its absurdity.
Number 10 has not officially denied it. Once you start denying things like this it could open the flood gates. There are people who think David Cameron is a lizard man. As much as I enjoy the image of him at a podium saying the words “Let me reassure the electorate, and David Icke, that I am most certainly not a lizard man,” I really think that that and indeed this is somewhat beneath politics in this country, whether it is true or not.
Let’s take the story seriously for a moment because so many people I respect have done exactly that and have used social media to pass it on. Where did it come from?
The story appears in a biography of David Cameron to be released this year. It is titled Call Me Dave and co-authored by Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott. Lord Ashcroft is a multi-millionaire and long-time Conservative Party backer. He was offered the position of junior whip in the foreign office in David Cameron’s 2010 government as a thank you for giving so much time and money (nearly £8 million according to Ashcroft himself) to the party. He rejected the position, however, saying that he was insulted to be offered such a lowly role, writing that “It would have been better had he offered me nothing at all.” Such is the entitlement of the super-rich that when they essentially succeed in buying their way into government they believe the position offered to be low and take personal offence. Ashcroft believed money, not talent, is what was important and felt personally slighted when he learnt otherwise.
Isabel Oakeshott is an award winning journalist with The Sunday Times. That’s her positive bio and probably the one which will feature on the inside cover. What one should know about Oakeshott is that two years ago one of her sources – Vicky Pryce – was jailed. I know what you’re thinking: surely that’s no fault of hers, Joe? Well, it was: the source was jailed because of evidence given by her and her editor, John Witherow. The evidence was not pried out of their hands by a legal diktat, nor was it stolen in a raid. No, it was freely volunteered to the judge. Journalists must protect their sources at all cost because the relationship between a source and a journalist is based on trust. Otherwise how could, say, a dissident living in a despotic dictatorship be able to trust that the journalist in front of them will not reveal their identity, which may endanger their life and those of their family? Oakeshott violated this trust. The ridiculous thing is that they appealed the decision – as they should have done – but they then handed over the files before the appeal took place! Then she wrote a piece in The Sunday Times blaming Pryce for her own imprisonment! How can anyone trust what Oakeshott says or does again?
On the one hand you have a peer with “beef,” and on the other you have a journalist lacking in principles. Nonetheless, a story is not axiomatically a lie if told by crooked individuals. It could be based on sturdy foundations. So, who told them the story? A Tory backbencher who claims he was a contemporary of Cameron’s at Oxford; however, he has refused to be publicly named but says he’s seen a photograph. Anonymous sources are sometimes a necessity, but without said photograph or a corroborator the story’s foundations are looking decidedly shaky. Luckily, for all of the parties involved, the story broke in a newspaper; hence, this newspaper is backing them up with its good name, its credibility, and the expertise that comes from years of ethical, objective investigative journalism. So, the newspaper has risked its reputation to put this story out, correct? Well, no, the book was only serialised in the newspaper. They did no further fact checking and merely printed what was in the book. The foundations are shaking themselves loose. It is so improbable that the story is true at this point that the only thing that can save it is the newspaper’s good name; so, what is the name of the bastion of journalistic excellence putting their moral weight behind the story? The Daily Mail. Ah, the story seems to have all but retracted itself.
This reminded me of an anecdote Hunter S. Thompson tells in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72 which has been flying about on social media as Pig-gate came to light. Supposedly, one of Lyndon Johnson’s first political campaigns in Texas was getting a bit too close for his liking, so he “told his campaign manager to start a massive rumour campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.”
“Christ, we can’t get a way calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.”
“I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”
I hope you understand why I wanted to ignore this story and hope that everybody regained their collective sanity. It was unlikely to be true and not worth the time I had to put into it; hence, I forgot about it and went back to researching the migrant crisis.
“Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in,” says Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III.
I got pulled back in when I noticed the people most enthusiastically spreading the story. These were the same people who shouted “smear” when I and others raised objections about Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy for the Labour Party due to the unsavoury company he keeps. Stephen Daisley termed it nicely in his column for STV News:
The hypocrisies of this episode are boundless. The Corbynistas, who cry “smear” at every fresh revelation about Jeremy, jihad and the Jews, are gleefully retweeting a single-sourced claim from the Daily Mail.
The quandary here is that people – especially, it seems, those of my generation – appear to lose their critical faculties and sway according to their predilections and what they want to be true. To these people Jeremy Corbyn must be defended at all costs and, ergo, everyone else attacked mercilessly. Everyone is held to a higher standard than Corbyn because he is working towards the greater good. For an example of what I mean, go to Twitter and search for the words “Liz Kendall Tory” and witness how Corbyn supporters debated campaign policies with another candidate during the leadership race (here is a link for those of you not on Twitter).
I got frustrated with the spreading of the Cameron story not because I am any kind of fan of his, but because the truth should win out. If someone is accused of something they did not do, I see injustice. Likewise, if they are accused of something which they have done then I think they should be judged accordingly. Corbyn supporters do not work within these basic parameters because he is working for the greater good. He is holier than thou. His cause is held above all others and his actions are therefore deemed necessary. This is leader worship based upon denial and revisionism. Imagine, if you will, asking a Corbyn supporter whether they had heard the radio interview where Corbyn refused five times to take the opportunity to condemn the actions of the IRA. The response you would receive would be an equivocal: no, that didn’t happen. Should you direct them to the clip on the BBC website and play it through to the point where he got so flustered that he hung up, you’ll be told that this is all part of the mainstream media’s attack on him. Should they accept that it happened they will then try to explain away why he wouldn’t condemn terrorism and cheerfully spout off some nonsense about dialogue and helping the peace process, not acknowledging their previous positions of denial or conspiracy theory. A full reverse ferret with bells on.
Martin Robbins wrote a brilliant article on Little Atoms last week highlighting this penchant for conspiracy theory. He used Richard Hofstadter’s seminal 1963 essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics to explain how Corbyn supporters are drawn from the same conspiratorial mindset as those who consider Nigel Farage the saviour of the UK or Donald Trump as someone who will make the USA “great again.” I know Hofstadter’s essay intimately having spent hours studying it for my postgraduate thesis – the title of which is a play on Hofstadter’s own (and can be found here) – and I had to reconsider my position after reading Robbins’ article.
I thought that Corbyn supporters were the disillusioned and the disenfranchised. I thought that they could be persuaded, with reason and logic, to see that Corbynism is illogical and would lead both the Left and the UK in general down a disastrous path. I thought, naively as it happens, that if spoken to in the right tone and presented with the evidence Corbyn’s current supporters would admit they were wrong and would help us and our likeminded thinkers return the Left to its historical positions of anti-totalitarianism and pro-human rights. I can now see how wrongheaded that thinking really was.
Should you ask a Corbyn supporter if they think David Cameron’s has ever put his private parts into the mouth of a dead pig, one will receive a vociferous affirmative. This is because they believe that Cameron and his ilk are expected to debase themselves, what with them being all that’s wrong with society. However, by sacrifice and submission to a greater cause, by breaking the monopolistic control that the right-wing media exhibits over the brainwashed general public, the true Left – the Corbynistas – can (and will) usher in a new leader who will rid our country of the evil in which it is currently engulfed, and welcome us into a new age of prosperity.
That’s the founding myth of Corbynmania and a perfect conspiracy theory. People who fall for these myths make everything fit their preconceived worldview, no wonder they believe the Daily Mail when it suits their interests.
Don’t read this as a crossing over to conservatism, I still believe in the foundations of the labour movement. This isn’t about Dave anymore, it’s not even about the long deceased pig; it’s about large swathes of the Left – my political home – giving up their critical faculties and surrendering in exchange for delusions. It does force me to ask a brutally honest question, though: is a government led by David Cameron preferential to one headed by Jeremy Corbyn? Does one want the pig or the hammer and sickle? The political landscape of the United Kingdom is beginning to look ever so bleak.