Trump and Dominic Cummings: Caligula and Dr Strangelove

 For four years between 37 and 41 CE the Roman Empire was ruled by one Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. He is known both to history and infamy as Caligula, an emperor whose wanton cruelty, barbarity, caprice, sadism and perversity is immediately suggestive of a grotesquely disordered mind.
Among his more outlandish ideas was his plan to make his horse a consul — in other words a high official within his retinue of officials and advisers. Caligula, somewhat inevitably, was assassinated, hacked to pieces by his own Praetorian Guard in his own palace.

History repeats itself, Marx famously opined, the first as tragedy, then as farce. In the personage of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, tragedy and farce are both present. The tragedy was his election in 2016, which marked the nadir of this grand experiment in placing democratic lipstick on the pig of a state then empire forged in genocide, ethnic cleansing and human slavery. It was a victory for anti-intellectualism and mass ignorance, of which both prevail in large parts of this ill-starred land. They say that you can’t blame a mushroom for growing the dark, which is true, and the intellectual and cultural darkness in which millions of Americans exist is evidenced in a gun culture that connotes societal madness, along with a hatred and fear of the other that blows out of the water any vestige of social cohesion.

Within Trump we have embodied the Trail of Tears, the overseer’s whip, the Klu Klux Klan, the Pinkerton detectives sent to crush the Homestead strike, along with too many others to mention during the US Labor Wars of the late 19th and early 20th century. Within him, too, is embodied the police batons of Jim Crow, the slum landlordism of urban America, the electric chair and the gas chamber.

In other words, Donald Trump is the land of the free with its mask removed.

His daily press briefings have also left no doubt that he, like Caligula, carries all of the symptoms of a disordered mind. His assertion that disinfectant could be injected or ingested as a potential cure for Covid-19, as his advisers looked on with the po-faces of shuffling courtiers, was a moment of peak insanity and crack-pottery, even for him. We can only hope, metaphorically speaking, that the Praetorian Guards in Washington are now astir.

This having been said, we in Britain, we are obliged not to forget, have our own problems with disordered minds in our midst. With a clutch of fanatical ideologues at the helm, led by a prime minister whose practiced buffoonery and nuttiness has quite literally got more people killed in this past month than can be put down to events, we find ourselves cursed with the worst possible government upon whose lap has landed the worst possible crisis.

Dominic Cummings

Learning as we just have that Boris Johnson’s brain — the other-wordly and decidedly dangerous Dominic Cummings — has been sitting in on meetings of the government’s top scientific advisory panel should be grounds for public alarm. Firstly, it confirms that the medical and scientific advice that the country has been receiving has been politicised, and thereby compromised, throughout. Secondly, Cummings is a man who eclipses every Bond villain ever created in the sinister stakes, a malign character whose approach to politics is that of a mad scientist conducting mad experiments in a laboratory of the damned.

But have no fear, because Keir is here, what with his ‘constructive opposition’, ‘forensic’ questions, and the ‘functioning opposition’ to the government he’s leading. Indeed our centrist/Blairite chorus was in full orgasmic voice in response to this trusty knight of the realm’s debut at Prime Minister’s Questions.

It didn’t exactly hurt that facing him at the despatch box was a political pygmy in the shape of Dominic Raab. It likewise didn’t hurt that the newly elected leader of the opposition enjoys the full-throated support of the entire media class all the way from Guardianista liberal to Thatcher-loving right. Call me old fashioned, but when a former Tory chancellor such as Gideon Osborne — the man who injected the country with the anti-people poison of austerity — endorses the leader of the Labour Party, it’s a party headed at warp speed for perdition.

When it comes to the comparing of Keir Starmer and Dominic Raab at what was the first PMQs both men conducted, one is reminded of the sage words of Gore Vidal:

‘One does not bring a measuring rod to Lilliput’.


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