Wee 41 of the column and this time I get political, with terrible results.
As a portmanteau, Brexit works quite well. It rolls of the tongue, and its similarity to the word breakfast gave great material to headline writers: Full English Brexit, Brexit buffet, bed and Brexit – all potentially great headlines. Granted, none of them make sense right now, but you just come up with the snappy headline first, and then everything follows after that, much like Brexit itself, or when Elton John out on loads of weight and some wag in the tabloids ran the photos because a sub came up with the headline ‘Goodbye Normal Jeans’.
Sadly, the only part of Brexit that appears to work so far is the term itself. The tidy little quip is the only part of the UK’s will they/won’t they trial separation that isn’t a dysfunctional mess. Yet somehow, there are some who think that Ireland should adopt an ideology that neither works as a portmanteau nor as a concept – Irexit.
From the get go, this word does not work. It is clunky, and slows down your eye as you try to figure out how to pronounce it – Ire-Zit? I – regsit? Or perhaps the gallic Irezii? Surely whoever forced this term into existence could have tapped into the usual seam of rampant nationalism by offering us ‘Ourland’ or ‘Hiberniaaah go on’, with a poster of Mrs Doyle in full Nazi regalia. No, they went with Irexit instead, and even hosted a conference around this stupid theme.
I was glad to hear there was a solid turnout from that most silenced of majorities – white Christian males. They are the voiceless ones in society, they were told, and who could possibly disagree – the last thousand years of human history is devoid of any mention of this vast, annoying section of society. How many times have you offered an opinion on human rights on the internet, with no-one jumping into your timeline to tell you how things really are for the struggling gender. Where oh where are all the angry white men you wonder, as you yearn for a flood of ‘well actually…’ corrections, casual racism, nonsense logic and death threats. Who will stand up for the forgotten millions of angry white blokes? Nigel Farage, that’s who.
As a preamble to his headline slot at the conference, Farage went on Marian Finucane’s show to offer some thrilling insights into Irish history, pondering why we fought the British for our freedom only to be ‘ruled by Brussels’. It seems a little childish to bring up the 800 years of brutal British rule again, but it’s hard not to. While his ancestors standing back as we died of starvation in our millions may seem like ancient history, it’s still a bit of a stretch to compare the EU building a load of roads for us to the brutal rule of a nation that saw our people as akin to dogs. Still, perhaps Nigel’s grasp of history isn’t that great, as last September he somehow ended up talking at a far right rally in Germany after being invited there by the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister. Surely he wouldn’t have done that if he had even the vaguest knowledge of the Holocaust, would he?
The themes of the Irexit conference were the usual smorgasboard of half-baked notions held by the angry white men of the internet – the media is silencing them (despite much of the audience on the day being journalists), the EU has too much control over Ireland (despite the clear evidence that Ireland really could have done with a lot more control in the years 2005-2007) and Nigel is the man to lead us into this glorious future (‘us’ being an army of internet weirdos).
What made the conference more remarkable was that people actually paid to go and see a man who looks like Kermit the Frog and sounds like Oliver Cromwell tell them in a plummy English accent that they should do what he says.
The turn-out at the conference was reassuringly low, but the problem with events like this is that it gives legitimacy to an ideology that is inherently wrong. No matter how I chortle at it, I know that there are people who will read the coverage and think that Farage is right, that civilisation is falling, and immigrants are to blame. The Farage Roadshow may make for a laughable affair to most of us, but there are many who find truth in his lies, who believe they are oppressed, or under threat, or are the guardians of their race. You have to question where the line is between emboldening the supposedly disenfranchised white Christian males to become politically engaged, and the sort of deranged anti-immigration rhetoric that led to Thomas Mair murdering Jo Cox in cold blood. How far do the right have to go before they are seen as a threat to democracy, to decency, and to civilisation?
Do we really need Farage and his ilk, bringing their PT-Barnum-meets-Joseph-Goebells sideshow here, trying to set up our own Alt-Right here – or Alt-Deis, to use the gaelic? We’re only just getting over a hundred years of having lads in black marching around, preaching at us about how to live our lives, and frankly, we’ve really had enough; we need to be more open, more connected to Europe and less insular. So to to quote Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets, go sell crazy somewhere else Nigel, we’re all stocked up here.