A Preacher, a Faker, and a Public Opinion Maker

So Joey Essex and Nigel Farage have both gone on a boat trip this week. Yeah, that happened. Both pretended not to know one another, both also pretended to like each other’s attire, and both regularly pretend they are a lot more stupid than they actually are to make money and gain followers. The amusing part is, so many people believe them. Celebrities have always played a prominent role in gathering votes. Joey Essex is another weapon in the arsenal of British Politicians. With his immaculately wavey hair and spandangled set of whitened teeth, Joey Essex means exposure. Essex also allows politicians to grab attention from young people they otherwise would not have. The lights that pave the way to Westminster have been lit and the race to pass the finish line is on.

Essex, a professional media performer, plays the village idiot very well, and is currently filming a programme to work out why he should vote and how Westminster works. Essex is, as one might have reasonably assumed considering his media image, a voting virgin. Less and less people are voting due to political apathy and politics joining entertainment has for a long time been a symbiotic relationship. This sounds like an entertainment show aimed at people who know as much about politics as I do about The Only Way Is Essex. That is to say, nothing. My Impression of the reality show from which Essex has garnered fame is that they all are young, have admirable hair, crispy tans, precious sets of teeth, and drink too much in the eyes of old people and have loads of sex. The idea of one of their brood having the bants with some blandly-dressed, socially-awkward, semi-unattractive political operators is at the very least, titillating.

For the generation who mock and aim disregard at those who disregard and mock the political system, they are probably best not to conduct themselves in such a fashion. Thirty-five percent of people were not enough bothered to even vote in 2010, and they are votes to be gotten. Joey Essex is the perfect lovable idiot and media pet to make use of. The secret is, of course, despite his image cemented amongst the young, Essex is hideously clever and knows that by giving young people what they expect and desire he is entertaining them with deliberate and necessary satisfaction. A career is fueled on this being sustained. A career that is now becoming Joey, the averagely intelligent and stylish guy being put in irregular circumstances. There was his soiree in the Jungle, his bout as a mountain snow-boarder, and now as the political student. Taking him out of his comfort zone has become a great marketing angle, and it is working.

The dubious part in all of this, however, is that muculant politicians such as Nigel Farage can use it to their advantage. Complicit celebrities compliment their agenda. Farage is something of a controversy generating publicist, who manipulates events to suit his own constructed image as a cutesy uncle figure who says outrageous things. Well known to want to lead Britain out of the EU, Farage was once declared having taken £2m of taxpayers’ money in expenses and allowances as a member of the European Parliament, on top of his £64,000 a year salary in order to finance his anti-EU agenda. Farage strongly opposes the use of bank bailouts, including the Irish blanket guarantee that sunk the economy, and said that it is “buying your own debt with tax payers money”. Farage has also said that discriminating employers should be allowed to hire Britons over foreigners, saying that employers “should be much freer to make decisions on who he or she employs”. He clarified his position in a later interview with Trevor Philips as that “if a British employer in a small business wants to employ a British person over somebody from Poland they should be able to do that without fear that they contravene discrimination laws.”

Nigel Farage has many Faragism’s, he once said mass immigration was making parts of the country appear “unrecognizable” and like “a foreign land” at Ukip’s spring conference. Farage said further, “In scores of our cities and market towns, this country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognizable . . . This is not the kind of community we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.” One should keep in mind that his wife is German, so he can’t totally abhor all immigrants, despite the somewhat ignorant comments. There were also concerning comments regarding Muslims as being a “Fifth Column” in British Society. In a Channel Four documentary, he said that there was “an increasing level of concern because people do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us.” Then there were comments about Mothers he made in a speech, “If a woman has a client base and has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to the employer when she comes back than when she goes away because her client base cannot be stuck rigidly to her.”

These are a menu of comments Farage has uttered that generate controversy and usually lead him straight away attempting to clarify what he has said. It almost seems like he says something inflammatory and automatically is then out to deflame the controversy. The initial delivery, however, seems to continue, and seems to is the brunt of his message.

Politics and Entertainment will always be compatible because we enjoy seeing the world of seriousness clash with the world of triviality. Most of our media consumption is a diet of gossip. And what is gossip, after all, if not a sustained interest in the business of others. Mind our own business, we are told, but that’s merely a lame way of trying to cover up our secrets. Curiosity will win the day. The warning we must heed, though, is that tactful politicians will use people for power and we must be vigilant they do not use us as an extension of those celebrities we support through our curiosity and for our entertainment.

Aaron Vallely is an Irish writer, freelance journalist, and essayist.