If David Cameron’s “piggy in the middle” moment confirms anything – besides the rather obvious point that rich posh boys don’t make for very nice human beings – it’s that social media is at its worst when big news flops onto the doormat. There was once a time when comedy required wit and verve. Timing, context, and a keen ear. These days however, such prerequisites no longer apply. Why should they, when we have such esoteric components as the internet connection and the phone signal? Ideal tools for your own pithy take on the Prime Minister skull-fucked a pig meme to reverberate across the online echo chamber with all the other pithy (and definitely not similar) jokes and observations – if not for eternity then for something that very much feels like it. It doesn’t actually matter whether Cameron did indeed fuck a pig – the story’s out there now, and excuse me just a minute whilst I jot down a bacon sandwich pun and fire up Photoshop to generate some highly original Peppa Pig tomfoolery…
Whatever the facts, there is a political parallel to this story (and no, it’s not Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror). Much against everyone’s advice – including his own – Hunter S Thompson was appointed the Political Correspondent of Rolling Stone magazine to cover the 1972 US Election, from early primaries through to Richard Nixon’s inauguration; coverage published in book form as Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (which I can’t recommend enough, even if you lack a political bent).
HST was fascinated by the mechanics of politics – how it warps perception and sets the agenda – and whilst exploring the subject of dirty tricks and blatant electioneering, recounted an (almost certainly apocryphal) conversation between former President Lyndon B Johnson – then running for election in Texas – and a campaign aide:
The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumour campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.
“Christ, we can’t get a way calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.”
“I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”
Ah, what japes. The primary difference between then and now being that a remark such as Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that no longer applies. Cameron and his porcine friend are now irrevocably linked in the public’s consciousness, and whilst several other allegations former Tory donor Lord Ashcroft makes in his grubby little book are far more politically damaging if true, Cameron skull-fucked a pig is our new jam.
Which got me thinking. The British political landscape has grown rather weird over the last few weeks, what with Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership election (a sentence that’s still bizarre to type) rewriting convention. Unless his momentum implodes during the next five years – entirely possible, considering Corbyn’s lack of friends in high places – the next General Election will see an outsider politician running for the top job. A radical (by perception if not necessarily by manifesto). Someone with grassroots, not mainstream support. Someone the media has already judged as something between a court jester and a rampant Trotskyite traitor. Someone so far on the periphery of the Westminster machine that the Parliamentary Labour Party struggles to hide its abhorrence at the very prospect of his leadership.
In other words, we’re in the process of re-running the 1972 US Presidential Election. The election in which George McGovern – a little-known Senator from the boondocks – ran on a radical platform built upon grassroots support (or as radical as mainstream American politics 1972 style can be – everything is relative, here), then came from nowhere to win the Democratic nomination despite the media treating him something of a joke, and a party machine ready to stab him in the back at any second because their preferred, established candidates grew too complacent with their mutual back-slapping.
Indeed; I’m beginning to suspect that the next five years are being scripted by Hunter S Thompson. And whilst such a suspicion only takes us so far – the UK hasn’t rekindled the Vietnam War as of yet, whilst Cameron’s already said that he won’t be running for a third term, making direct comparisons with Richard Mulhouse Nixon somewhat moot – Thompson has only just sat down at the typewriter. Give him time…
Accordingly, and in the name of science, I’ve just ingested two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-coloured uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls… and can now confidently predict political carnage of the most debauched and atavistic proportions in the very near future. McGovern crashed and burned of course – as with Corbyn his campaign was undermined by gaffes and self-inflicted wounds the moment he secured the nomination – but as a journey it remains fascinating. And – as Nixon’s extra-curricular activities ultimately proved – far darker than everyone suspected. HST again:
The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes… understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose.
That, in a nutshell, is British politics right now. But without the pig.
Lazer Guided Melody is available to become the Political Correspondent of any newspaper or magazine who will have him – just as long as it’s not Pigfarming Weekly.