Modern life, as Michael Gove, Piers Morgan and Nigel Farage know all too well, is a numbers game – “numbers” in modern parlance meaning “attention”. The sugar rush of all eyes on you and the lucrative kickbacks that come with it. When Farage tweeted yesterday to his 508,000 followers that we “won’t want to miss” his ITV interview with Piers Morgan, which was retweeted by Morgan to his 5.4m followers, neither of the pair were incorrect.
Farage and Trump – just like Katie Hopkins, Kanye West or Milo Yiannopoulos – know that fulsome support of the Trump administration, due to its scarcity, makes them very fascinating indeed. It struck me recently that I could feasibly pay my mortgage off by 2018 via pro-Trump punditry alone, if only I could summon enough blackness in my soul to cheerlead his planned closure of Mississippi’s one remaining abortion clinic.
“Trump is right!” I could tweet, perusing brochures for a lovely new kitchen. “Those bitches should have kept their knees shut in the first place!” Because there’s gold in them there borderline fascist hills.
While millions of viewers will indeed be gripped by Morgan’s interview mapping Farage’s Journey To The Golden Elevator – a depressing Roald Dahl book if ever there was – millions of others will hate-watch so as not to be out of the social media loop. Numbers are numbers, as the bosses at LBC would no doubt agree.
And the only thing gaining more attention than the Piers/Nigel combo this Sunday evening was Gove’s photo with Trump. A photo of yourself grinning and doing a double thumbs-up beside a bashful Trump is becoming as synonymous with dismal try-hard losers as a photo sat in the fiberglass touring Game of Thrones chair, or one taken cuddling a sedated tiger on a gap year. The Gove/Trump photo was taken beside Trump’s framed Playboy cover, which was, incidentally, one of the few times a fanny was allowed within the pages of that magazine sporting wild, uncontrolled hair.
Gove’s Trump hook-up was scheduled in order to question the President-elect about Brexit and foreign policy. In actual fact it sounded like a conversation between two first-term English language students, sharing one textbook, after being pressganged into classes outside a McDonalds on Oxford Street. “Do you like Germany?” “Yes Germany very good! My father come from Germany. And Scotland? Very good too! But no like Syria, very sad.”
In the 2012 film Game Change, which dissects Sarah Palin’s 2008 bid to be the US Vice President, the plot revolves around a crack team of Republican advisors, vocal coaches and political mentors who swarm upon Palin’s home to whip the gaffe-prone woman into shape. These people come bearing cue-cards, world maps and Post-Its to work tirelessly to stem the silly soundbites. Hollywood lied to me. Where are these clever folk now?
No one, it seems, can shepherd Trump into forming a coherent sentence which doesn’t involve merely trilling insincere corporate-sounding respect (Merkel, lot of respect), denouncing something as “a failing piece of garbage” or sliding into a wildly inappropriate anecdote (Miss Universe “did very well in Russia”.) And here was Gove, cometh the hour, cometh the man, one of Britain’s leading authorities on education, a stickler for raising standards in reading, writing and comprehension, now so very uncharacteristically toothless.
Gove was silent over Trump’s ideas of increased vetting of European travel into the US, lifting Russian sanctions, endorsing the Kremlin’s idea that NATO is obsolete or the idea that his son-in-law Jared Kushner should lead the Middle East peace effort – but then where would bringing up all of that have left Gove’s lovely photo?
As we’ll see over the years to come, as Trump’s retinue grows, there will be very few of his inner circle attempting to halt or appease him. Just people with their thumbs up, making up the numbers.
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