Ste­wart Lee on Boris John­son and WH Smith

The Observer - The New Review - - Agenda - Ste­wart Lee Ste­wart Lee is open­ing for blue-col­lar Beef­heartian post-punks the Nightin­gales in Septem­ber at Ox­ford Cel­lar (20), Bris­tol Ex­change (21), and Portsmouth Wedge­wood Rooms (22)

It is very easy to sneer and crit­i­cise with­out of­fer­ing any vi­able so­lu­tions your­self. And I should know. I have been do­ing it for the best part of three decades now my­self, across a va­ri­ety of me­dia, to dead­lines, for money, like a snowflake Clark­son. But I am a shal­low and cyn­i­cal en­ter­tainer, not a politi­cian who is sup­posed to be­lieve in any­thing. And so, I sus­pect, when all is said and done, is Boris Pic­caninny Wa­ter­melon Let­ter­box John­son. And why not? It worked for Don­ald Trump.

Each morn­ing in the small hours, Don­ald Trump’s blad­der slowly fills with urine. The pres­i­dent wakes and looks at his phone in the bath­room while fum­bling in his silken sleep­ing pants for the flesh pyra­can­tha of his gen­i­tal. He sees some­thing true on­line and in­stantly sends off a com­bat­ive Tweet. Sad! Bleary jour­nal­ists panic and the fairy tin­kling of Don­ald Trump’s cold night pe­nis dom­i­nates the daily Amer­i­can news cy­cle once more.

Boris Pic­caninny Wa­ter­melon Let­ter­box John­son ob­vi­ously aims to surf the Bri­tish news wave in a sim­i­lar fashion to the or­ange goblin. But un­like the in­stan­ta­neous noc­tur­nal pee pee spat­ter­ings of Trump, the mas­sive fae­cal log of Wa­ter­melon’s weekly col­umn in the Daily Tele­graph takes a full seven days to bake.

Strain­ing his hand­bag-pug face into a pur­ple Eton mess each Mon­day morn­ing, Wa­ter­melon tem­po­rar­ily blocks the U-bend of the Bri­tish news bog with his lat­est stink­ing of­fer­ing, be­fore stand­ing next to the bowl, and ges­tur­ing at his pro­duce, like a de­lighted tod­dler ex­pect­ing parental praise for his mas­tery of ba­sic bowel func­tions.

The Daily Tele­graph click­bait trap is set, Wa­ter­melon its mouse-mur­der­ing cheese, and the pa­per’s front­page news head­lines duly retrum­pet the con­tro­versy that the false­hoods of the Boris Pic­caninny Wa­ter­melon Let­ter­box John­son col­umn its own ed­i­tor chose to run in­side have ig­nited, in an end­less loop of lies.

In the 1997 James Bond film To­mor­row Never Dies, the state-spon­sored as­sas­sin-rapist 007 thwarts an evil global multi-plat­form news agency that uses covert ac­tions to gen­er­ate news­wor­thy crises, which it then prof­its from cov­er­ing. Twenty-one years ago, this plot­line seemed as im­plau­si­ble as Roger Moore’s third nip­ple. But it now ap­pears to be the ac­tual modus operandi of the Daily Tele­graph.

And who can blame the pa­per for pay­ing Wa­ter­melon £275,000 a year to dis­sem­i­nate lies, to drive the sewage of its read­er­ship through the sluice gates of both its print and on­line edi­tions. Th­ese are tough times for news­pa­pers, and be­fore the Daily Tele­graph re-em­ployed Wa­ter­melon as a life­line it was pin­ning all its sales hopes on our hum­ble friend… wa­ter.

For years, it seemed, when­ever I tried to buy a bot­tle of wa­ter in a rail­way sta­tion WH Smith, the cashier would sug­gest I bought a copy of the Daily Tele­graph in­stead, which cost less than the wa­ter and came with free wa­ter. But tak­ing the free wa­ter while buy­ing a copy of the Daily Tele­graph in­creases the ap­par­ent cir­cu­la­tion fig­ures of the Daily Tele­graph, and by as­so­ci­a­tion its fi­nan­cial clout, and its power to in­flu­ence and ma­nip­u­late the ver­min that read it.

As some­one who has suf­fered per­son­ally as a re­sult of the Daily Tele­graph’s half-truths, I al­ways in­sisted on pay­ing for the wa­ter and not tak­ing the Daily Tele­graph with the free wa­ter gift in­stead. Even though, as the con­fused WH Smith as­sis­tant al­ways in­sisted, as if recit­ing a script she was forced to learn at gun­point by Charles Moore, buy­ing the Daily Tele­graph and get­ting the wa­ter free was less costly than buy­ing the wa­ter alone and not hav­ing the Daily Tele­graph with it.

When I fi­nally cracked and de­manded, at Padding­ton’s WH Smith in Oc­to­ber 2016, to take only the wa­ter and not the Daily Tele­graph also, the poor as­sis­tant, an in­no­cent vic­tim here too, let’s not for­get, had to call her man­ager over. She ex­plained to him that she had tried to sell me the Daily Tele­graph, as in­structed, but that I would only take the wa­ter, as he looked on dis­ap­prov­ingly, an un­wanted copy of the Daily Tele­graph flap­ping on the counter, like a dy­ing and poi­sonous fish.

It was a Kafkaesque sit­u­a­tion. Much of what I write in th­ese col­umns is ex­ag­ger­ated for comic ef­fect (I am not, for ex­am­ple, a con­fi­dante of a Dan­ish man who sup­plies 85% of the se­men im­ported into Bri­tain, as I claimed last week), but this went down just as de­scribed. The fright­ened young girl was even­tu­ally ab­solved by the man­ager and I was al­lowed to refuse my com­pul­sory Daily Tele­graph pur­chase. But surely a world where in­no­cent chil­dren are forced to buy the Daily Tele­graph, when all they wanted was wa­ter, is ex­actly the kind of au­thor­i­tar­ian, an­ti­in­di­vid­ual so­ci­ety the lib­er­tar­ian think-mon­keys of the Daily Tele­graph don’t want? Take back con­trol!

Trag­i­cally, the un­sus­tain­able ma­nia for mar­ket­ing bot­tled wa­ter that the Daily Tele­graph ex­ploited to ped­dle its lies is one fac­tor driv­ing the planet to­wards be­ing a life­less, arid waste­land. One day the only way you will be able to get wa­ter will be by buy­ing a copy of the Daily Tele­graph, which, after the cock­roach and the com­pa­ra­bly re­silient Boris Pic­caninny Wa­ter­melon Let­ter­box John­son, may be the last recog­nis­able traces of the world we knew. It’s typ­i­cal of the strange con­tra­dic­tions of Brexit Bri­tain that the Daily Mail’s an­tiplas­tic straw cam­paign makes it a de­fin­able de­fender of the very world the Daily Tele­graph seems de­ter­mined to de­stroy.

But the tide may yet be turn­ing against the plan­et­mur­der­ing, ly­ing Daily Tele­graph and its ly­ing pub­lic face, as the Over­ton win­dow of Boris Pic­caninny Wa­ter­melon Let­ter­box John­son’s ac­ces­sion to the throne of bro­ken Brexit Bri­tain nar­rows. Last Mon­day, Wa­ter­melon’s lat­est empty anti-EU Daily Tele­graph mis­sive barely even pro­voked out­rage, just looks of tired de­spair in the faces of those charged with de­liv­er­ing the im­pos­si­ble Brexit Wa­ter­melon him­self once promised.

Like a tod­dler, John­son ex­pects parental praise for his mas­tery of ba­sic bowel func­tions

Illustration by David Fold­vari

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