The Age of the Grifter
We had limited channels on the auld telly growing up, especially in comparison to the amount now and their accompanying +1s. When we got the cable box, life seemed boundless; the prospect of sport on demand on Eurosport and the likes, seemed fantastic. Who doesn’t want to watch the 1974 World Cup Final commentated on by some bored bloke, tasked with overdubbing the original footage from some storage unit in Woking?
Heading into my teens at the time; the real channel to watch was MTV. This was way back when they played music and not round the clock footage of drunken Geordies fighting and shifting, and other such reality based treats. I loved watching the mini stories told in the stream of music videos emerging. I remember nearly being late for school as I was so transfixed by Radiohead’s Just video, worth it too!
They had a rave music show on a Friday evening, which had a slew of unusual (druggy) presenters. Out of these emerged Russell Brand. It was enjoyable to see him bamboozle some drug addled fella, eyes bulging like a sucky calf, with questions on existentialism and other quandaries of the universe. His mix of Cockney and classical language sealed the deal. Both on screen and at home we hung on every word; even if we were lost most of the time, raver or not!
Seeing him evolve over the years has been interesting, and not just in a hipster I knew him first way. Probably around the Get Him to the Greek years were his zenith. The bigger he got the more political he became. Considering myself a socialist, his left wing diatribes were right up my street.
When on the left, you often feel like you’ve nobody to vote for or anyone sees things quite your way. So when you get someone saying things you believe inherently it is certainly something you take note of and continue to listen and hope others do too. You feel seen.
However, it feels like most who get to this spot, veer off wildly soon after, particularly on the left, and this guy was no different, alas. I gradually restored my factory settings when it comes to feeling seen as a socialist, and returned to Orwell, Radiohead and Nirvana in similar measures. They say you stop listening to new music after 32 and I may be the synecdoche of this point. I am now back playing all my hits.
The pandemic (as discussed vehemently on previous posts), was a devastating time for us all, whether we knew it or not. One positive was it helped us see the bluffers and downright nasty show themselves for the grifters they are. It’s an ill wind …and all that.
It has been highlighted there is far more cash on the right, and telling those already entrenched what they want to hear, be it about masks, vaccines or anything that differs from their caustic takes. Naturally some, with the scent of stale cash in their nostrils shifted this way. Brand among them alas.
To watch this devolution has been sad and disappointing, but so thinly veiled. With these types of bluffers, I don’t really care if they talk crap, it is the clicks, likes and blind endorsements they get that sickens me. It is so clear yet many seem happy to bypass that in return for hearing what they want to hear. Can it really be that easy?
What Can We Do?
Seeing the likes of Brand, and in particular Joe Rogan gain huge income from flirting with disinformation and exploiting current chaos for personal gain is fairly dispiriting. Having to delete my Spotify was a pain, but worth it to breath a little easier, and hey, who doesn’t want to side with Neil Young? Another on my narrow list of art that sees me, as discussed above and previously (See previous discussion on Rockin’ in the Free World).
So, all we can do, I guess, is turn them off. Even if this only makes them shout louder about Cancel Culture from their Netflix specials. These people, after all, are free to say what they please, but they are accountable for these words. Using Cancel Culture to absolve oneself of any accountability is a shrewd enough move, in fairness. Sometimes I wonder if Cancel Culture even exists or is it a marketing tool for those who claim to abhor it? They’ll cancel me for this is spouted as they say something beige, banal and predictably hateful.
It is our job as active citizens, in a global world to see through this cynical tactic. None of us like being duped, so I find it hard to see people wilfully dupe themselves, just in order to hear what they want to hear. We must call out this debasement of our discourse. We are free to disagree, and should do, but to have our very reality twisted in fake outrage to the sound of cha-ching is unsettling and infuriating. If we can’t have consensus on reality then where are going at all?
Wha’ bou’ our own?
Yes indeed we have plenty of wannabe Brand’s at home on these shores. A couple of sports ‘journalists’ come to mind. Outraged at everything and nothing. In fact, I can think of at least five bluffers from these shores instantly. Their response to anything is highly predictable. Part of the anti-anti brigade. These guys are Aldi cola in comparison to the Coca-Cola level grifters, but still have enough followers to be problematic. Trump got elected off it, as did Johnson, so to the unscrupulous mind this seems an open goal, I guess.
What’s most concerning is hearing their nasty takes come up when out and about. It is depressingly predictable; whatever outcry is being said by some you can trace back to these clowns and their phoney outrage. They sold themselves as sports types; got their audience and then went rogue.
Covid did funny things to us all, yet it was very transparent in seeing people lose their minds about lockdowns and such, simply because they weren’t able to continue the self indulgent life they were used to. Whadya mean I can’t go training and then pub? This is an outrage. Much like some who lost their minds at schools being closed, when it was clear they didn’t like their kids.
This kind of commentary doesn’t lessen, it deepens. It is depressingly familiar. The more attention these types get the more they have to show their full debasement and suddenly everything is up for debate. A stone’s throw from here to Just asking questions about flat earth theories.
Along the Way
Of course, along the way it is inevitable minority groups will be targeted; refugees, LGBTQI+ etc. It is the targeting of refugees that sickens me most. I have had many challenging times in my life and can’t imagine how it would feel to be at my lowest and have people accuse me of being a freeloading scammer or worse; an unvetted male!
This is readily exploited by the grifters we have here. The we need to look after our own brigade, who keep a straight face spouting this whilst doing nothing for our own. We have many problems on these shores with housing being the standout one, but we need to look up not down when it comes to our frustrations with the state. Refugees have nothing to do with this of course, so should be welcomed. Diversity is life. Not seeing people here, who have benefitted from the kindness at ports, trying to pull the ladder up behind them.
Our grifters know this, but that won’t deter them from exploiting any aspect of the culture war of the day for a quick buck and to of course, stay relevant. Grim stuff all in all. To see some members of the government do likewise is sickening to say the least, all to distract from their own disastrous housing policies and the callousness of the lifting of the eviction ban. This must be called out for the shameful stuff it is!
If students leave my class with development of their disposition to think critically then I am content with that. This is vital today, especially in spotting our grifters in our midst. Even critical thinking is being hijacked by these sycophants in this age of the grifter.
First step in thinking critically? Being able to acknowledge you can be wrong, and there’s lots you have yet to learn. Can you picture any of our grifters ever admitting they should reconsider a topic they spouted about? Not a chance I fear, so for them to try hijack this phrase is darkly comic, to say the least.
I may be far older now than the wee boyeen transfixed by MTV in its heyday, but I am hopefully wiser. Being wiser doesn’t mean I know it all, it is rather knowing I have lots to learn and lots I won’t ever truly know. One thing I have learned however, is how to spot these grifters. I suspect we all have, whether we choose to admit it or not.
So, even if those of us lurching towards our forties are losing any relevance, it is incumbent on us to show those following behind not to follow such false idols, let alone actually fall for it. Say what you want, follow who you want, but be prepared to be accountable for it.