When I was a teenager, I was a devoted fan for several years of the American death metal band known as Slayer. They were loud, they were aggressive sounding, they were sacrilegious – everything I was looking for in a musical act when I was fifteen. They sang about Satan; the lead guitarist had a band of long nails protruding from the leather strap around his arm which made him look like some sort of fantasy Viking warrior.
The thing I remember most about this was the absolute worship other Slayer fans had for the band coupled with a distinct hatred of the group that could be found in anyone who didn’t fall for their charms. In other words, if you were a fan of Slayer, you loved them in a semi-religious fashion. If you weren’t, it just sounded like horrible noise you wanted to shut off or run a mile from.
It may seem odd to compare a gentle seeming older man who tends to his allotment to a band that pioneered the death metal genre. But here’s what they share: their fans love them, but there aren’t many of those fans, and to everyone outside of that small bunch of followers thinks that anyone who likes Slayer/Corbyn must have something wrong with them.
For a rock band to operate this way is perfectly acceptable. So long as your band of followers is sufficiently large enough to keep the group commercially going (and I’m assuming given the band is still performing after 35 years of being together that this is the case), then that’s all right. But if you’re a leader of a political party that has aspirations to be in government, enthusing several hundred thousand people to the point of ecstasy while alienating literally everyone else in the universe that comes into contact with you won’t cut it.
To phrase the analogy a slightly different way, if you’re the Labour leader you need to be The Beatles (or at least The Rolling Stones). You can’t be a niche group that appeals wildly to a group of people the numbers of which are relatively small. Labour would need at least 11 million votes (probably 12, now that I think about it) in order to win a general election. Looked at in this context, half a million members doesn’t seem like all that many.
You will never get a majority of Britons to love death metal, is what it comes down to. If only those who will be manning the Momentum event in Liverpool could understand what that has to do with them.
Richard Gadsden says
More and more of the media is like Slayer, which may explain why great chunks of it fall for the intensity-of-preference fallacy – because it isn’t a fallacy in the business of media (you can extract more money from an obsessive fan than from a lukewarm “I quite like that song on the radio”).
If your business model is “get a few hundred thousand obsessive fans” then you see someone else doing that, you’re going to see them as a success.
Incidentally, Labour may actually be a success as a business – their revenues have to have shot up.
Phil Beesley says
If the UK was a band (you can tell I’ve read too many market research questions), it would be The Kinks. 20% of respondents, wishing to have no association with kinkiness, would decline to answer or lie; a truly British polling result.
Lib Dems are like The Fall — ever changing but with a constant theme. Fans press recordings on uncomprehending friends who politely say “Thanks”, thinking “what’s that about”. Tim Farron is like a Fall band loyalist, the reliable bloke on bass guitar holding the act together. That is not intended as a criticism of Tim.
Just in case anyone pops up to say that popular music was great years ago, best selling single in the UK in 1965 was “Tears” by Ken Dodd.
Saint Vitus are much better anyway 😉
So I sp’pose that makes me the musical equivalent of some ultra-left splinter group that views Corbyn & McDonnell as sellouts 🙂