(Update 22nd January 2019: D’Ancona and all editorial staff left the magazine today as a consequence of the sacking of two other members of staff: Drugstore collapse)
Formerly one of the many anti-socialist professional trolls at the Guardian, Matthew D’Ancona has pretended to re-invent himself as a protagonist in the competitive industry of liberal dilution of culture. Playing the part of time-travellers from the late 1980s he and his colleagues created Drugstore Culture magazine with mock vintage messy late ’80s visual style, purposefully anti-intellect prose and bizarrely offensive political juxtapositions. The fake intended market for the magazine was a new breed of yuppies. But, instead of fast cars and sharp suits of ’80s yuppies, the new imaginary yuppies had silly coffees, ill-fitting shoes and selfies with Ruth Davidson.
The boring real objective of Drugstore Culture magazine was to be yet another drab forum for deceptive centrist tripe. All the bells and ’80s rave whistles in its style were a distraction.
The aforementioned Ruth Davidson appeared in a video “interview” or, more accurately, a promotional film. The continuous promotion of Davidson by the centrist media is sickening but unsurprising. Their desperation to have anything instead of socialism has led them to try to persuade Gina Miller to be Lib Dem leader, to a man called Owen Smith and to the most vacuous politician ever and a staunch supporter of all the disgusting Tory policies: Ruth Davidson. Davidson is nothing.
Drugstore Culture is in partnership with the Progress sub-group People’s Vote. The People’s Vote astroturfers know that the Tory/DUP government, and its majority in any parliamentary vote, will not agree to a second referendum on Brexit. The purpose of People’s Vote is to occupy a political position as staunch remainers so that, in the chaos of post-Brexit Britain, they can aspire to challenge as fake opposition to the Tories. A simple longview tactic. This tactic requires constant attacks on the Labour leadership.
The intent of DRUGSTORE CULTURE: We back a People’s Vote was to prove a second referendum is the only viable option, rather than no deal or else a messy deal. Some of the analysis therein of the latter two options was correct but nowhere in the article was there a solid positive reason to support a ‘people’s vote’ and the only reason given to suggest the referendum result might be reversed is that there are some more younger people who have reached voting age and, conversely but unsaid, some older brexiteers have died. The article had a hollow argument that encapsulated the lack of vision and the lack of consistency in People’s Vote.
The political longview positioning in the above article was noticeable via its false equality of respective Tory and Labour differences. The assessment of Labour and Brexit was knowingly inaccurate: “The Labour Party is hopelessly divided – its leadership stubbornly maintaining that the 2016 referendum must be respected, its members and most of its MPs longing for a re-think.” The right-of-centre Progress is the key internal cause of any divisions in Labour but that fact didn’t suit the agenda of Drugstore Culture.
Although not presented as serious the faux attempt at humour in Culture Type: The right-wing left-wing person was very weak. It was a snide comment repeating the insulting fraudulent claim of socialists being disproportionately middle-class. It read as if written by a “comedian” who might do a UKIP gig.
John McTernan, former Director of Political Operations for Tony Blair and current screaming head and professional troll for hire to anyone who pays, was handed a platform to eject some anti-Corbyn drivel. There is no pit deep enough to hold the diarrhea that McTernan ejects. His tactical muse is Katie Hopkins and his political muse is Lynton Crosby.
In Finally, Corbyn has total command – and that’s his problem McTernan depicted Labour as being on the verge of problematic internal disputes while he sidestepped the only real division in Labour: Continuous deliberate disruption by Progress of whom McTernan is a member. He tried to push a false narrative of Corbyn being anti-EU and, therefore, at odds with the majority of the Labour membership and he invented differences between unions and Momentum. These tired false claims were straight out of the Lynton Crosby dead cat guidebook. The only true facet of McTernan’s argument about differences in Labour was his observation of Progress chair Alison McGovern’s keenness to create division.
McTernan’s knowing ignorance was put to bad use and his enthusiasm for unethical behaviour by (Progress) MPs was displayed nakedly. On Open Selections of MPs he said “with all the serious talk of a centre party, a round of deselections would give an immediate boost to any new configuration – providing them with an instant bloc of MPs.” That is, McTernan supported Progress MPs leaving Labour but remaining in parliament without by-elections and, thus, stealing seats.
His language to describe democratic selection of MPs, in contrast to parachuting of Blairite clones from a decade ago, was worthy of a Daily Mail editorial.
“It’s an obvious power grab – both an act of revenge by Corbyn supporters against the MPs whom they feel have not supported the Leader, and an attempt to stack the Parliamentary Labour Party with MPs far to the left of the voters. It’s a resurfacing of the Left’s will to purify the party – even at the expense of power.”
McTernan‘s comments on antisemitism were, unsurprisingly, regurgitation of existing libel and slander. The fact that he chose to use a vile non-joke by knuckle-dragging right-wing uncomedian Matt Forde about Nazism and Labour revealed how deep the pit is where McTernan swims in his own fecal matter. “That’s another law of politics that Corbyn has managed to break – he kept the [antisemitism] row going for ten weeks,” he claimed. No, Corbyn was involved in no row about antisemitism for any length of time; smears and libel were (and are being) directed at him, by people like McTernan.
Throughout, McTernan belittled the integrity, capability and honesty of Jeremy Corbyn and of his supporters.
He insulted Jennie Formby: “Corbyn has a new General Secretary, Jennie Formby, who is subservient to his office.”
He libelled all supporters of Corbyn: “Corbynites have relentlessly defended their right to free speech to attack Israel in antisemitic ways.”
His petulance was so immature that the article could have been written by James Cleverly or Brandon Lewis.
McTernan is an unpleasant sociopath. He fits in well with the agenda and methodology of Drugstore Culture.
Horseshit seemed to be a theme in the Drugstore Culture articles. “Clinical psychologist” Alex Evans composed the biggest steaming pile of rancid manure that has ever been allowed to be published anywhere: Political rage should be treated like PTSD. His essay was so bad, so disturbing and so disturbed that it needed a full kicking.
Evans started with a question that required nothing more in response than the most peremptory snort of derision: “What if we stopped thinking about polarisation as a political issue and thought about it as one of psychology and public health?” That set the tone of an essay rammed with deeply offensive anti-analysis and violently ludicrous deductions.
Referring to his visit to Jerusalem Evans said “Israelis and Palestinians had boxed themselves into completely exclusive narratives.” He praised another “psychologist” Gina Ross who, according to Evans, “is increasingly starting to look at political polarisation in Israel and Palestine as a mental-health issue resulting from collective trauma.” The reality is that the army of one country occupies part of another, steals homes and land from the occupied, slaughters protesters, steals water supplies, stops people from travelling for vital life-saving healthcare and routinely bombs civil buildings. It is a very violent thieving occupation and daily invasion. But Evans chose to see only psychological similarities.
“Israelis live in constant low-level fear of terrorism, from stabbings to bombings, rocket attacks, or even invasion. Palestinians, meanwhile, live in constant low-level fear of their house being seized or demolished, or arbitrary arrest, or because of living under more or less total surveillance.”
Evans used the psychological angle in his discussion as a tool to help him to depict daily life in Israel and Palestine as equal partners engaged in conflict.
“On both sides, there are constant signals and cues that convey the message: you are not safe. Mothers take their kids to school with M4 assault rifles slung over their shoulders. Watchtowers, walls and wires are everywhere. Police vehicles have their blue lights on literally all the time.”
After trying to reduce the conflict to an equality of stress, Evans tried to blame stress for escalation of conflict.
“So it’s hardly a surprise that CTS [Continuous Traumatic Stress] in Israel and Palestine is widespread. Classic symptoms include anxiety, irritability, hyper-arousal, and – especially – ‘othering’: blaming everything on scapegoats. And when enough individuals display these symptoms, their effects naturally enough start to seep into politics too.”
Evans’ simple tactic was to remove all the political decisions as causes and to cast them as consequences. Thus, if a corrupt judge ordered a Palestinian home to be destroyed and land to be stolen then, according to Evans’ analysis, that judge was doing so because of stress; if an IDF sniper, cowering behind a mound, fired across the border to deliberately kill a Palestinian medic then, according to Evans’ analysis, that sniper was doing so because of stress; if a boat in international waters was attacked, stolen and its passengers and crew kidnapped, robbed and beaten by Israeli navy then, according to Evans’ analysis, the navy was doing so because of stress.
Evans chose to create a false “psychological” analysis in order to absolve blame from the perpetrators. His dismissal of the dynamics of the conflict was extremely political.
Unbelievably, Evans managed to go further into the abyss of shameless deception by equating the conflict between Israel and Palestine to the consequences of Brexit.
“The more I saw this dynamic play out in Jerusalem, the more it reminded me of Brexit Britain.”
His context was the “psychological” effects of political differences. Alongside the fact that such a spurious analysis allows culprits to dodge responsibility for politically motivated acts, Evans’ chosen perspective is also an attack on the intelligent capacity of people to understand and to develop political views.
“Threat perception can be collective as well as individual, and about perceived cultural as well as physical or emotional threats – which is where the issue becomes relevant to politics, not just in Israel and Palestine, but also in the UK, US and Europe.”
Evans’ “threat perception” has some validity with respect to decisions some voters make because it is used by politicians and media to try to guide voter choices. For example, Matthew D’Ancona has used this technique to dissuade people from supporting Jeremy Corbyn. But, Evans put too much emphasis on “threat perception” as a cause of voter choice. His objective was to denigrate the capability of people to make important decisions.
To assist his warped argument, Evans described “polarisation” as a mental health issue.
“Reimagining ‘polarisation’ as a public mental health issue implies that the way forward is less about victory than about healing.”
By “polarisation” Evans meant the centrist opposition to people having clear ideological political perspectives – anything that isn’t woolly pointless centrist tripe. He compared “political polarisation” to other estrangements that were addressed via psychological solutions.
“Rather than creating winners and losers in a zero-sum game, psychological treatment aims for a shared understanding of what the problem is, and a plan for both treating the immediate symptoms and building resilience to the underlying causes. What might such a treatment plan look like for the vast relationship crisis that is political polarisation?”
Evans’ argument was acutely offensive – toward the intelligence of voters and activists – and was absurd. He not only objected to clear consistent holistic political viewpoints but he also claimed that consistent political viewpoints were a mental health issue that needed a “treatment plan.”
He had no respect for “ordinary” people’s political understanding and the choices they have made. “In democracies, politics is about ordinary people and how they perceive and react to what’s going on around them.” “Perceive” and “react” rather than analyse and understand. Evans immediately followed that sentence with
“This places a huge premium on individuals who are able to manage their emotional states and take care of themselves mentally – whether through CBT, mindfulness, philosophy, knowing how to ‘untrigger’ when fight/flight responses light up, or just making time to unplug.”
Every word of the quote above was an attack on the ability of voters to learn, to analyse, to understand, to follow an argument, to develop a cohesive political viewpoint and to be sure that their choice is correct. Evans attacked the right to be allowed to judge who to vote for; he attacked the right to vote.
Evans concluded his awful essay with suggestions on how the fake problems he has chosen to perceive could be solved. Just like every establishment analysis of political persuasion, Evans chose to fail to mention bias and stupidity in TV, radio and newspapers and directed his attention at social media. It is not coincidence that social media has been the only public forum for developing activism and knowledge for people with a left-wing outlook.
“We need to change how social media itself works if we want to make it less vulnerable to being weaponised psychologically, as it has been in recent years by actors like Russian trolls or Cambridge Analytica. And, in the short-term, that may mean voting with our feet to bring pressure on companies like Facebook to change.”
Evans didn’t specify who the “we” is at the start of the above quote. The insidiousness of the direction of his conclusion oozes with authoritarian control: “bring pressure on companies like Facebook to change.”
Evans noted the “othering” tactics of right-wingers with respect to the US election and Brexit but he failed to state that exactly the same tactics have been used, slightly less uncouthly, by May, Cameron, Clegg, Clinton, Blair, Trudeau, Merkel, Macron, etc. Evans also failed to mention the “othering” tactics, including acute xenophobia and racism, used by most British newspapers and by TV and radio broadcasters.
He expressed his objection to a “them-and-us” attitude as an objection to right-wingers like Trump and Farage.
“Donald Trump and Nigel Farage triumphed in 2016 because of their adeptness at telling stories. Instead of just bemoaning their playing fast and loose with facts, we need to propagate the right kinds of story: narratives about a larger us, rather than a them-and-us, emphasising what we have in common rather than what divides us.”
But, Evans’ con was that he was taking an observation about the divisive tactics of the far-right and projecting onto any political perspective that isn’t the confidence trick of centrist compromise. It was the left-just-like-Trump angle pushed by all centrist/liberal opponents of socialism.
“We urgently need to invest in creating bandwidth for encountering people outside our small, and increasingly, shrill filter bubbles of the like-minded – and for steering into hard conversations in which all of us are heard, rather than shying away from them.”
Nothing scares the ideological centre more than well-organised left-of-centre people who exchange ideas, knowledge and solidarity.
Evans’ fear was palpable. He recognised the success of social media as an enabler of left-wing activism and solidarity and he demanded that stopped. The psycho-babble argument was as hollow as Nick Clegg’s chest. His reduction of people’s capacity to understand politics to a psychological issue was anti-human and a display of centrist fascism.
Drugstore Culture is a petulant display by embittered sidelined centrist opportunists who, cast adrift from the political bubble, shout plaintively from outside begging for relevance. D’Ancona’s political positioning is inside a doorless room with walls creeping inward. This magazine is 1980s The Face eaten by 1980s Norman Tebbit and shat onto the floor.