Andy and Dom
by Alexander McGregor
Prince Andrew and Dominic Cummings would likely not get along. Perhaps they might concord to share some garlic doughballs in Pizza Express if it were in the interests of their mutual agenda, but it is hard to imagine them finding common ground.
On the one hand, we have the bestest taker backer of control, who clothed himself in an anti-establishment identity. On the other, we have the compromised, blue-blooded sailor, who is insulated from the reality of his Mother’s subjects by a protective smegma of royalty. Dom the Disrupter couldn’t be more distinct from Randy Andy, surely? However, they have both, in the space of six months, conspired to damage the integrity of the two things they supposedly care most about, specifically the ‘will of the people’ in Dom’s case and the ‘national dignity’ in Andy’s.
What unholy Venn diagram is this? Let me answer that by posing another question. What is it about overprivileged, unaccountable men of power that when caught with their hand in the till, they assume that the most effective solution to their travails is to go on television? It takes a special sort of hubris to assume people are only upset with you because you haven’t yet told them not to be.
That being said, there is something almost naive about their respective TV appearances. There is perhaps an interpretation of Andy’s Newsnight interview from November last year and Dom’s press conference last month that suggests they sought to trust in the good faith, common sense of the British people. This argument would be more persuasive if one of this dyad had not spent much of the last decade deliberately undermining the concept of good faith, common sense, while the other one had undermined it accidentally. Indeed, if you didn’t see anything wrong with the presence of underage massage artists on your chum’s private island then you might want to take a drive to Barnard Castle to test your eye sight.
No, there’s something more insidious at play here. Everyone to some extent sees themselves as the hero of their own story. It takes real, life-long work to learn how to take responsibility for your own actions with humility, grace and honesty. It is a road of missteps, mistakes and occasional regression, and that’s when we try as hard as we can. In that regard, on a flawed Hobbesian level, Andy and Dom’s telly debacles were predictable if not understandable. After all, we live in a moment where we have institutionalised moral righteousness into a pathocracy: rule by sociopaths. That Boris Johnson can tell the UK that Cummings acted as any good father would, whilst his own efficacy as a father is a notorious point of discussion, is evidence enough of this.
So we find ourselves now at a stage of history where thanks to the Andys and the Doms of the world, we’ve become lazily drunk on binary ideas of good and evil, us and them, in which our expectations for human behaviour are lower than the UK’s current COVID-19 testing capacity. Into that milieu, Andy and Dom seemed to believe that if they merely tell ‘their story’ to the public then we’d all clap our bovine hooves in approval. They seemed convinced (probably for separate reasons) that their natural right to power would make them naturally right. It’s really quite something to balls up this badly and still puff out your chest in indignation.
Their strategy, such as it was, was based on the premise that all fibres of the public’s critical faculties have been successfully eroded. It is fair to say that this strategy was spectacularly misjudged. We may now be a collection of hurt, divided, angry tribes living under the banner of a failed state but our brains throb yet, however meekly. And our meek but throbbing brains told us that both Andy and Dom failed to understand why anyone would be upset with them. Our brains told us that both Andy and Dom failed to offer any contrition. Our brains told us that both Andy and Dom failed to express any compassion for others less privileged than them. Our brains told us that both Andy and Dom failed to understand the basic idea of the social contract: it’s not rights or responsibilities. “Their simulacrum of human behaviour succeeded only in triggering the public’s ‘uncanny valley’ response. That is to say, even if you didn’t know why, on some innate, evolutionary level their TV appearances likely repulsed you (even just a little bit).”
Andy and Dom’s true characters emerged as their televised moments of expected glory, or at least exoneration, started to slip away from them. They grew tetchy at scrutiny, and seemed baffled when thoroughly predictable questions came their way.
Indeed, power reveals character. And the characters revealed by the cameras—cameras they apparently invited—showed two men who thought a reasonable tone would be mistaken for a reasonable argument; who thought accessibility would be mistaken for accountability; and who thought that giving an explanation would be mistaken for being excused. They took this stance because fundamentally they did not wish to atone or to help others to heal or even to simply resolve the matter. No, they just wanted it all to go away so they could get back to enjoying their normal.
We’ll see what happens next. The consequences for Andy seemed to stop at the shores of public disgrace and enforced retirement. These are consequences in the sense that a sequence of things happened and then the public feels conned. Unlike Andy, Dom has a cabal of sock puppets he can coral into defending him. I expect Russian bots and the Tory cabinet to start trending the hashtags #justice4dom and #FreeDom any moment now. If only his spiritual brother Julian Assange could ride to the rescue with a distracting, disrupting data dump.
Perhaps though, the time is soon approaching for us to review the male privilege of birthright and appointment that has led us so blithely to a place of ruin and bankruptcy. Maybe we could send someone on the telly, preferably a woman, to ask New Zealand or Taiwan for some help.
Dominic Cummings gets on rollercoaster.
Refuses to buckle seatbelt.
Claims not wearing seatbelt is in best interest of his son.
Doesn’t bother checking with funfair security.
Despite working for the funfair.
Despite approving the seatbelts.
Falls out of rollercoaster during loop the loop.
Lands on bouncy castle.
Puncturing bouncy castle.
Endangering safety of bouncy castle patrons.
Claims repeat necessary to check on his physical fitness.
Boris Johnson says not wearing seatbelt is what any good father would do.
Boris Johnson says seatbelts are lies.
Boris Johnson says we should move on from seatbelts.
We voted to leave.
Essay corrected for clarity on June 11, 2020.
About the Author:
Alexander McGregor was awarded his Ph.D from the University of East Anglia. His research interests include cultural theory, ideology, propaganda and education. He has published on topics such as Stalinist art and culture, religion and cinema, anti-semitism in the US, culture in the Cuban revolution, ideology in Japan and the nature of History.