Trump’s recent visit to the UK helped further cement a far-right alliance in the Anglo-American sphere.
Liberals and the left reacted to the occasion with a mix of scorn and anger, Channel 4 News coverage being notably scathing for established TV in this country. Centrists and soft-rightists were more given to awkwardness and incredulity.
But the right has nailed their colours to a very ugly mast, as demonstrated on the front page of Murdoch’s Sun. It splashed on the key points Trump had given them in an interview: “Migration is killing Europe” (not “harming” mind you, but KILLING) and “Terror is Khan’s fault.” These overt “culture-war” narratives are exactly in line with the alt-right thinking of propagandameisters like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, endlessly spouted by an army of Pepe avatars (and who knows how many Kremlin bots).
Murdoch is said to have been sceptical of Trump prior to the Presidential Election in 2016. Now he has cravenly capitulated to power like many Republicans, not merely flirting with fascism but happily pushing the memes.
The Mail’s Stephen Glover further illustrated this Faustian bargain in an article headed “He’s dreadful. But how exhilarating to have a leader who understands the yearnings of the British people.” Is it a bit of a slip to admit that someone so dreadful can be exhilarating: incessant lying, the internment/disappearance of thousands of children and boasts about molesting women may well appeal to the strange and sadistic instincts of the gammon, but they might at least keep it to themselves for the sake of appearances.
In their commentaries about Brexit, Glover, Trump and other hardliners, they have increasingly coalesced around the position that they know exactly what 17 million people were thinking when they voted in June 2016, despite there having been no plan or clarity on what “leave” meant. It can mean a whole bunch of things, and that’s fine. Telling people both what it meant and what they think is exactly the sort of elitism and arrogance that we’re told many remain supporters are guilty of.
Awkwardness for UK conservatives is underlined by a level of unpopularity for Trump that clearly eats into their base (only about a third think he is neither “poor” nor “terrible” as a president) and his treatment of Theresa May. Within a space of 24 hours, he had gone from being brutally critical about her pouring heaps of praise on her. This may seem typical of his habit of sewing constant confusion, but it’s also typical behaviour of a gaslighting abuser. The establishment media, in general, have been too embarrassed or naïve to say that this is what’s just happened to our “leader”, but conservatives and nationalists ought to be as repulsed as anyone.
However, centrists and leftists need to be wary of lapsing too much into defending such institutions as NATO, global “free” trade capitalism and US intelligence agencies. It’s a sign of just how far to the right the agenda has shifted that this strange phenomenon should arise.