Laurence Fox was on GB News last night. This isn’t news, obviously; Fox, maybe even more than Farage, is built for the channel. I watched his clip so you don’t have to. It revealed a lot, I’m pleased to say.
I like watching Fox because he is one of the least sophisticated right-wing pundits in Britain today – not the least sophisticated, mind you, for I suspect that is a bottomless pit – and as such, reveals more than he intends every time he speaks. Last night, he was on about the “green movement” which I think to Fox means everything from the guy who does green washing at a major corporation to the XR activist who thinks humans should be exterminated to save the planet. He talked about how greens should find God instead of the religion of wokeness – beyond the very basic problem of monotheism’s less than stellar track record, tying green issues into being ‘woke’ reveals a lot about the way the right wants to talk about this sort of stuff at the moment.
Environmentalism is increasingly popular across the political spectrum. I was very taken a few years ago when I was doing a project built around preservation of bat habitats only to find that many Tory MPs with rural seats told me about how important the issue was for a lot of their constituents. So many right-wing pundits wonder why Boris Johnson has spent so much time on building a green growth plan without figuring out that for a lot of Conservative voters, it’s becoming more and more important.
So, if you’re on the right and you don’t like the environmental agenda, what’s the best way to make others on the right not like it either? Attach it to wokeness. It worked for Brexit, and as such it’s the climate sceptic right’s best chance of knocking the green agenda out of the spotlight.
When I think of what ‘woke’ means to me, it comes down to Theory. The idea that everything is relative, a social construct; there is no objective truth, just power structures. One doesn’t need to know anything about Theory or that such a concept even exists to be woke, course – in fact, it’s arguable that the less you know about Theory, the more you’ll just go along with the whole thing. Fox has a point when he compares wokeness to a religion – there are definite religious elements to the belief system that runs through a lot of the modern left, all of which spring from Theory originally, however much a lot of it has taken on a life of its own over the last decade.
What Fox was trying to do on GB News yesterday was take everything the right don’t like and put it in a box labelled ‘woke’. The desire to breath cleaner air, halt or reverse the emergence of weather patterns less than ideal for human existence or save animal habitats has nothing whatsoever to do with Theory, even tangentially – meaning there is nothing inherently ‘woke’ about caring about sustainability. You can be woke and green, and many young people might well be, but that’s beside the point. You can like football and you can like lager, and lots of men in this country like both, but they have nothing to do with each other and you can like either of them without liking the other.
The reason Fox was doing this – consciously or unconsciously, who knows – is that ‘wokeness’ is really unpopular with a great many voters. They often don’t know exactly what they don’t like about being ‘woke’, but the ones that hit the marks most consistently are the extreme end of trans activism (where biological sex itself is negated as a meaningful concept), the idea that all white people are inherently racist and there’s nothing that can be done to change this ‘fact’, a general hatred of Great Britain and finally, the suspicion that all of this is being done to service an extreme vision of far left anarchy (‘defund the police’ being the most recognisable part of this last tranche). This stuff is electoral poison. It helped us get a very hard Brexit when the right tried to make leaving the EU about those four concepts (even though they have nothing to do with our relationship with Europe in any way, shape or form) and the left obliged by going along with it.
Now, it’s the green agenda. If you want to destroy the popularity of environmentalism using intellectual arguments, you are on increasingly shaky ground. The science is not only solidly on the greens’ side, the effects of climate change are becoming unavoidably visible. On the other hand, if you try and make the equation “caring about green stuff = the obliteration of sex as a concept + defund the police”, you’ve got a much better shot at making climate scepticism popular once again. Throw the term ‘woke’ around and hope it sticks. It might not work, but it’s probably the best weapon they have at present – which just goes to show, the right don’t have as much of a stranglehold on the political conversation as is sometimes assumed.
Say what you want about GB News – you can’t say that it isn’t occasionally education, even if that’s usually by accident.
While I’m here, I’ve got a new book coming out in the autumn entitled The Patient. It’s about a woman who goes into the hospital to give birth to her child, being two weeks overdue….and ends up staying in the hospital for a year, still pregnant the whole time. If you want to find out more, here’s where you can have a better look.