Welcome to the Upside-Down of the boring culture war, where golf is basically branded an essential traditional working-class sport (because Tory donors wanted the courses reopened) while being concerned about people travelling on public transport is branded an effete pursuit
of the lah-di-dah ivory-tower liberal elite (because Tory donors wanted their workers to get back to work).
Young people who voted Remain—and those too young to have voted but whose sympathies might have lain with Remain—are “spoilt” because they might prefer to travel abroad rather than stay at home this summer, according to an article by a middle-class scion of a family of rightwing journalists who cheerfully says elsewhere that she “loves going to Italy”. Just part of the ongoing manic attempt to divide and rule
: pit the north against the south, the M25 against the regions, a suspect “metropolitan elite” against true working patriots (as if the journalists writing this malign nonsense somehow fall into the latter camp rather than the former).
State school teachers and pupils being sent into disease crucibles is presented in a full-spectrum politico-media campaign as “heroism” and “common sense” and unions opposing it are attacked on all sides, especially from Labour, as old-fashioned and obstructionist. Private schools are of course staying shut until September but they are not being attacked (except by parents furious that they keep having to pay the eye-watering fees in absentia, which is actually quite funny). The English always cheerfully accept that the lower orders
should be exposed to more risk.
Meanwhile people seem ever more comfortable with the cognitive dissonance required to believe a syllable uttered by their prime minister, the mediocrity whose facility with bon mots and Home-Counties-pleasing racist caricatures turns out to have been inadequate to meet the demands of a national crisis. They calmly accept his contradictions, mainly because Johnson's supporters over the years have told them solemnly “He's not just someone you'd like to go to the pub with, he's a genius and a scholar
”, which is an embarrassingly simple trick to fall for, on a par with an adult being amazed and delighted by someone performing “got your nose”.
The words “said Boris” are a pretty straightforward code to break, indicating that whatever has preceded them is an obvious lie
(e.g. “There will be no customs border in the Irish Sea, said Boris
” translates as “It is childishly obvious that there will be a customs border in the Irish Sea”) but many still find it tough to break. Equally, the fact that Johnson has signed up to something does not mean he won't immediately start railing against it and demanding it be scrapped, which means any contract or treaty he puts his name to is automatically worthless. This week it's the level-playing-field provisions in our EU withdrawal deal, which he is both absolutely furious about and a proud signatory to. There'll be something else next week, and then the week after that, and by and large the English will respond to these grinding U-turns and outright contradictions with the usual “He wasn't sure he wanted to get better from his horrible illness but having a baby changed his mind” and “Do you remember him on 'Have I Got News For You?', I mean I've forgotten everything he said but you really felt you'd like to go to the pub with him”.
Do you clap on Thursday nights for our NHS staff—and cast a suspicious eye at neighbours who don't—but also support the government's decision to charge those NHS staff who aren't native to Britain if they need the exact same NHS treatment that they provide? Do you find yourself agreeing that any opinion along the lines that “people deserve protection” is elitist and fundamentally suspect? Do you believe a single phoneme
that is said by or on behalf of Boris Johnson? Then you've been breathing the fumes in the Upside-Down for too long and you're becoming far too comfortable there.
So take a few simple precautions. Don't accept the contradictions; interrogate them. If you're being told something that is the opposite of what you know to be true, assume that this is not an accident and that the person telling it to you also knows
that it's wrong. If you are being urged to take the word of a known liar (e.g. most of the Cabinet), resist giving them the benefit of the doubt.
(Of course the trouble with authority being inherently untrustworthy is that it's tempting to believe absolutely none of what it says, which leaves the field wide open for believing any manner of old horsefeathers
instead. Please don't let "I need to keep a beady eye on what ministers are telling me because while they're busy protecting their careers and reputations our lives could be at risk" morph into "Covid was developed in a Chinese lab to be spread around the world and activated by 5G masts so that, uh, world government and a sick docile population, or maybe an angry and mobilised population, but anyway definitely chemtrails and faces of lizards in clouds, also GEORGE SOROS and BILL GATES", because come on