IT would be an understatement to say that we have been reminded often of the shortcomings of Boris Johnson and few of us are, therefore, under any illusion that he may not succeed in his avowed intent of leaving the EU by 31st October.
However the game is afoot and, in spite of the recalcitrant opposition of a Remainer Parliament and the EU, the rules have changed since the toppling of Mrs May as Boris tells us No Deal is a real possibility, some of the EU negotiators will have been replaced, tectonic plates may have shifted, recalculations may been made, new pressures brought to bear and changes of heart made. We might as well take him at his word for now, have a punt on him and, if he fails, move the smart money on to Nigel Farage. The stakes include the ‘extinction’ of the Tory Party. This is to say that the future is the same as the future always is; a place for speculation and excitement.
In spite of this a new disposition towards the future is constantly exhibited by his opponents in the guise of Channel 4 and BBC journalists and commentators. This disposition is a key weapon in the total psychological war they are waging on him. It consists in the conferring on themselves of a new and almost Faustian power with respect to the future. They behave as though they can control future outcomes by the mere act of pronouncement or fiat as if they have been granted a Royal Charter to, God-like, coin truth and reality with their words. Where a situation is, in reality, fluid they make it concrete denying all room for manoeuvre in a future that is, by definition, posited and unrealised. In this way they seem to believe they enter the chain of causality and make it happen as they say it will happen, closing future doors and manhandling the players in the game of the future in directions they wish them to follow in a suite of self-fulfilling prophesies. In doing this they do no less than attempt to reconfigure the nature of the relation between present and future reality.
In recent interviews between Boris Johnson and Laura Kuenssberg and Emily Maitlis and Bernard Jenkin we saw this in action. We also saw a Channel 4 journalist pouncing on Boris Johnson as he alighted from his car. ‘Will you resign if we haven’t left by November?’ ‘But if there’s no withdrawal agreement there will be no implementation period.’ ‘If there’s no implementation period we can’t invoke GATT 24.’ ‘It’s impossible to avoid a hard border.’ And most telling of all in this context – ‘Can you give us concrete guarantees?’ What they are trying to do is to congeal into imprisoning concrete a situation that is fluid and undeclared thus encouraging Johnson to throw in the towel now because all future avenues have been effectively closed by the mysterious power of journalistic pronouncement. They direct him to caged-in paths that they alone allow him, telling him they are the only paths available, in order to make success impossible. This is a kind of brow-beating, mental bullying and coercive control. To employ another term much used these days, it is also a form of gas-lighting whereby you convince your victim that reality is different from what it actually is. These are all well-known weapons in the arsenal of brainwashing, psychological warfare and the dissemination of propaganda. As the hysteria mounts they are now used uncompromisingly and ‘with extreme prejudice’. The attempt to control the agenda becomes more and more obvious as interviewers desperately over-talk and gabble their message (as opposed to that of the interviewee invited on, purportedly, to give his) to the camera.
These interview tactics are used with a range of other strategies. Interviewers’ teeth are sucked, heads are shaken and eyes are rolled. No one does the mournful, miserable, concerned and pitying eye-roll better than Laura Kuenssberg. This contributes to creating the impression that the hapless interviewee tasked with difficult future negotiations is hopelessly deluded and even, perhaps, mentally incompetent simply because he refuses to see the future as already set in Remainer stone as the interviewer does. A tutting parental dynamic (with Laura as Mother or ‘Auntie’ and Boris as a hapless Just William) is set up because the interviewee won’t consent to the BBC’s advance annexation and colonisation of the future and its directing of how things are going to be. The attempt to guarantee that the future will be that way also includes the attempt to force him to lay out the negotiating cards (and to seem dishonest if he refuses), that he is wisely keeping close to his chest, so that his failure is guaranteed anyway. In encouraging such unwise revelations the broadcaster is simply trying to insert another cause which would lead, inevitably, to failure; the self-fulfilling disaster they wish for. The whole thing is an attempt to reconfigure our temporal condition and freedoms so that the media-prisoner’s hands are comprehensively tied before he goes out into the arena to face the lions.
The Who’s John Entwistle wrote a song called Boris the Spider. At present it is Boris the Fly, caught up in a mind-controlling media web trying to suck the life out of him. It is important that, as time goes on, we see this coercion for what it is (more and more people are) and that he breaks free of it. I wouldn’t entirely put it past him given his media savviness.