Who wants to be a billionaire?

Who wants to be a billionaire?


Peter Burden gives his monthly thoughts on the state of current affairs for KCW Today. 

Those of the World’s population who like to apply a little intelligent analysis to current affairs were left deeply flummoxed by the extraordinary decision taken by the American electorate on November 8th. Their choice of the Great Pussy Pouncer for President was, for many in both the US and in Britain, frankly incomprehensible. It’s hard to say who comparable over here might have generated the same blend of mirth, incredulity and dismay. There are a few candidates, for sure, although none of them could ever have been nominated here, let alone voted in as Premier. Or could they? For who could have guessed that 38 percent of the British people would vote to commit national hara kiri by leaving Europe?

Imagine any of our home-grown billionaires proposing themselves for President as Mr Chump did: Sir Philip Green, for example, or the TV Reality Show Star, Lord Sugar (the obvious comparison), and several others who might have had a go.

Sir Richard Branson, if he weren’t English, would love to be President; or Sirs Dave and Fred Barclay (on a twin ticket), or the world’s polluter in chief, Bernie Ecclestone, or David Beckham (though he’s worth only half a bill and someone would have to revoice his speeches). Then there’s the distinguished social reformer, Mike Ashley (who, like the Pussy Pouncer, enjoys speaking frankly), or, more likely, Richard Desmond, or even the Pouncer’s new best friend, Nigel, the infamous Anglo-Oik. These are all absurd options, of course; however we have been warned not only by the American electorate but also, more distressingly, by our own that strange things can happen in this era of collective, hideously ill-informed global anti-establishmentism. The sense of unreality this has created has been heightened in Britain by the complete disappearance, like a fart on a balmy summer’s evening, of our former premier and architect of the tragically ill-structured referendum that has allowed a minority of the British people to bundle us all out of Europe.    

Now, of course, every commentator in the universe has been trying to fathom how the always preposterous prospect of ‘President’ Trump has become a reality. This conundrum has become even more bizarre now that he seems to be back-tracking on most of the extravagant and more ridiculous pledges he made to the US people in the course of his campaign.

This series of u-turns and volte-faces over Obamacare, the Mexican Wall or banging up Hillary for her obscure misdeeds suggest that the Pussy Pouncer simply conjured up promises which he knew he couldn’t or wouldn’t keep simply because he judged that just enough of the American people wanted to hear them. More bizarrely, though, it seems likely that they knew they were being lied to; and they didn’t mind, for they and us, and most of the advanced world are so used to being lied to that we are inured to it. For decades now the advertising industry which plays a potent and nefarious role in shaping prevailing culture has extravagantly and persistently lied to its audiences, and it’s as if we’ve come to expect it.

A simple example of the effectiveness of a well-turned lie was the marketing of Le Piat d’Or, a branded French wine of pedestrian quality in a distinctive bottle that appeared in Britain in the 1980s. It was cleverly promoted by enticing TV commercials featuring French folk as stereotypical as those in Peter Mayle’s cliché-ridden Year in Provence. The big lie was that ‘Les Francais adore le Piat d’Or’. The truth was that the French did not adore Le Piat d’Or because they’d never seen or heard of it. It seems likely that a lot of the punters who went out in hordes to buy it from the supermarkets didn’t really believe the lie, but appreciated that they were being deceived in a charming and seductive way. In the same way, there are legions of aging men who are happy to believe that a certain “men’s” hair dye “ targets only the grey.” Impossible, of course, but the lie clearly has great appeal for some of our top entertainers, like Sir Cliff, and Sir Mick, who looked even more vain and foolish when their colleague, Sir Tom abandoned the whole charade and became his far more wholesome, grizzled old self again.

There was an echo of this mendacity in our own recent referendum during which the xenophobes and little Englanders were happy to believe untruths put about by the Brexiters, because they were untruths that resonated with their own prejudices. In other words, whether you are an advertiser selling hair-dye that will miraculously reverse the aging process, or a politician peddling a self-serving policy masquerading as a benefit to a large chunk of the electorate, you may lie with impunity, provided that you are using attractive, comforting, user-friendly inexactitudes.

Politicians have always lied; we know and understand that, and while the anti-establishmentists want a new set of politicians like Farage and Trump, they also want them to carry on that particular political tradition. And as a seasoned American huxter with the morals of city hoodlum, the President Elect is probably as good a liar as you could find anywhere in the world.

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