Big Brother viewers are the REAL clever ones

I had a bit of a debate yesterday with a friend who is the second person I’ve come across (after Meaders) who thinks that George Galloway taking part in Celebrity Big Brother is actually (snigger) a good idea. My friend was convinced that George Galloway’s appearance on Big Brother was a masterstroke, designed to get apathetic people interested in politics. George Galloway to the rescue!

Er, no. You hear this sort of shit all the time. People, for some reason, always want to compare Westminster with Big Brother as if Big Brother is something that politics should aspire to. They say that more people vote in Big Brother than vote at a general election — though this ignores the fact that Channel 4 viewers are actively encouraged to vote multiple times, because that is how Channel 4 make their money from the programme. There could be only a few thousand people voting on Big Brother for all we know.

Apparently George Galloway’s appearance on Big Brother will get the Great Unwashed (who apparently all watch Big Brother) interested in politics. This is despite the fact that Galloway would never be allowed to use Big Brother as a political platform because Channel 4 have an obligation to remain politically balanced — a bit difficult to do in the Big Brother house. Galloway would have known this before he entered the house, so he couldn’t possibly have gone in to “spread the word”. It should be screamingly clear to everyone that Galloway is doing this for ego purposes alone.

Besides, the idea that an appearance on Big Brother is all it takes to halt apathy is really patronising. It is exactly the same as suggesting that because Dennis Rodman is on Big Brother all of a sudden everybody will find themselves interested in basketball. It’s plainly nonsense. People aren’t stupid. If they aren’t interested in politics, they aren’t interested in politics. Some suntanned, moustachioed ranting nutcase — who seems to genuinely believe that “almost every Muslim in the world” has heard of him — talking about opened orifices on a here-today-gone-tomorrow reality television show isn’t going to get anyone interested in politics.

It is exactly the same as anything in life. Some people are into football and others aren’t — that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong, or that football needs to reach out to more people. I think the idea that everybody should be interested in politics is a really pious position to take. I think the only reason most of us are into politics is because some authority figure told us to be, or because it’s supposed to make you more intellectual or something.

I think that the people who don’t fuss themselves with politics — the ones who apparently all watch Big Brother — are the real clever ones. They know that the chance that their vote will be pivotal in the general election is so close to zero that they might as well not bother. The same goes for even voicing an opinion — there are so many people with opinions, so why should my own one make a difference? Any difference it makes will be so tiny that I might as well not have bothered. Those of us who are busy debating about politics are the real suckers.


  1. Don’t you think there’s an awful lot wrong with the perspective that politics is just-another-interest, next to football, etc? And that by extension, for most people, it is just another product to be sold to them, by clever marketing, when it’s time to ‘buy’ again?

    Don’t you think that necessarily puts us on the road to an oligarchy (assuming we aren’t there already), where politicians only have to make decisions for the benefit of that small percentage of people who will listen to what they are really saying? Or is an oligarchy okay/inevitable whatever?

    You can also count me as the third person who, at least, can’t see any harm being done by Galloway being in the BB house. Just about everything he ever says is dismissed by ad hominem attacks. The media go to such efforts to portray him as a nutter who has lost the plot/pure evil/etc (“OMG the guy who met Saddam Hussein! No! Not Donald Rumsfeld, we don’t talk about that anymore! George Galloway, stupid! Isn’t he evil for meeting Saddam! Look, just shut up about Rumsfeld okay, that doesn’t count.”) on the order of Abu Hamza/other genuine nutters. Being in the BB house, even if he’s not talking politics, is a good way for him to defend himself against these attacks, by establishing himself as a ‘normal’ person (whatever ‘normal’ means, but he has to look normal up against the psychological problems most of those celebrities seem to have).

    Dissenting voices are extremely healthy for a democracy, and I think it’s important to listen to them properly, even if you then end up deciding you don’t agree with them. For example, The Iraq War would’ve worked out a lot better if we’d listened more to the gradient of voices that he represents the extreme end of. So the sooner we can stop smearing those voices and putting our fingers in our ears and going “LALALA”, the healthier our democracy will be.

  2. …And that by extension, for most people, it is just another product to be sold to them, by clever marketing, when it’s time to ‘buy’ again?

    Don’t really understand what you mean here… An interest is defined as a product that’s sold to people?

    I think your second paragraph is more sensible. We are indeed in an oligarchy. That’s probably inevitable in a representative democracy. Indeed, it is probably the oligarchic nature of our democracy that turns people off politics. And who can blame them?

    Yesterday — if I wasn’t imagining it — when I was flicking through the channels I saw George Galloway pretending he was a cat. I really don’t see how anybody can possibly defend this as being some how good for politics.

    All the time he is in there alongside a bunch of total nutcases, of whom he is one, and he isn’t doing the job that the voters elected him for and the taxpayers pay him for. Not that this makes a change: as the residents of Glasgow Kelvin were completely forgotten about in the middle of the last Parliament so that he could practice his Muslim impersonation and go down to Bethnal Green and Bow.

    And when he missed a crucial vote on anti-terror legislation — when there were just two votes in it — he was away making money on his lecture tour. He’s the perfect capitalist, you see? Making money comes before parliamentary duties.

    I think a lot of shit is being spoken, from both sides. But Galloway deserves this vilification. Imagine what the left would be saying if a Blairite or a Tory MP decided to go into the Big Brother house?! They’d never stop complaining about it — and quite rightly.

    And I absolutely hate it when anybody brings up Donald Rumsfeld’s meetings with Saddam Hussein — as if it excuses George Galloway’s. Both were deplorable. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  3. Sorry I wasn’t clearer – by “it” in that paragraph, I meant politics as an object, and the ‘purchase’ as the act of voting at an election time.

    As for Galloway, I hadn’t realised he was being quite *that* bad in the house. But then I haven’t been watching the series – I just occasionally check out a tabloid website to see what cultural memes are being spread about from it. I can’t help but get the feeling that the editorial theme for this series is “aren’t celebrities fucking strange”, so he’ll probably come off that way whether he wants to or not.

    So BB aside (since as I say, I’m not really qualified to say much more on it), I would agree that there is a lot awful to be said about him. While I take your points, I can’t help but feel that people are more strongly motivated to dig up the dirt on people whose politics they disagree with, so it’s hard to totally condemn his conduct as shameful in comparison to others.

    (A quick example that may or may not hold up: Why don’t people bitch at Boris Johnson just as loudly for putting money before politics? I’m sure someone could dig through his Spectator editorship vs his voting record and find one or two discrepancies.)

    Lastly, on the subject of Rumsfeld/Hussein/etc, I don’t make that point because I see it as two wrongs making a right. Rumsfeld’s trip to Iraq pulls the blanket off the shitty, ugly reality of world politics – that “this person/country is good” and “this person/country is evil” are relativisms wielded by politicians to keep the rest of us in line with where they want to take their policies – they are lies.
    By contrast, I comprehend (though perhaps I am false in this) Galloway’s trip as an effort to go and understand the perspective of our enemy. One of the great truths of our current political circumstances is that we have gotten ourselves repeatedly into trouble by deciding we know what our enemies think and then acting according to that. If we put more effort into figuring out the thinking of our enemies, rather than just assuming we know, then we would be able to come up with more intelligent ways of countering them.
    Understood in those terms, Galloway’s trip is far more honourable than Rumsfeld’s trip, but yet he is always the one to get shit flinged at him for it.

    This comment is already stupidly long, so I’ll stop there.

  4. Good points, I agree with you mostly. Although I think, “Sir, I salute your strength, your courage, and your indefatigability,” is a bit of a silly thing to say to a murderous dictator.

  5. It’s an absolute joke that Big Brother is more popular than ‘politics’ – whatever politics is these days. Then again, when all of the ‘Big Three’ political parties in the UK are centralist and it doesn’t really matter who you vote for, why the hell wouldn’t it create apathy?