When it comes to precedents of an old man inspiring hysterical fanaticism amongst the young, the omens aren’t great. The Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran from exile in 1979 was especially well-received by students, some of whom stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took 52 American citizens hostage, keeping them there for 444 days in the name of the Revolution. Just over a decade earlier, Mao Tse-tung decided the best way to neutralise his rivals within the Communist Party of China was to instigate a ruthless purge made possible by the personality cult of Mao himself, something that particularly appealed to teenagers in the absence of pop stars.

The Red Guards were fanatical student groups given Mao’s blessing to essentially run amok on a campaign of chaos throughout the country, denouncing anyone they regarded as traitors to the true Communist cause and destroying ancient shrines, temples and books; anyone either old or in a position of authority (such as university lecturers) was fair game and labelled ‘counter-revolutionaries’. Possessing vitriolic and violent contempt for anything that contradicted their twisted take on Communism, the Red Guards’ disregard for their nation’s heritage was as illogical and destructive as that seen in recent years via the likes of the Taliban and ISIS. But it was the human cost of this grim period in China’s history that marks it out as a remarkably gruesome and shameful stain on the country; public humiliation, persecution and imprisonment were for the lucky ones. Estimates vary, but some claim as many as 3 million died as a consequence of the Cultural Revolution.

Obviously, this is the most extreme example of how youth’s natural energy, anger and appetite for destruction can be harnessed by outside forces and used to promote a political career; but none of it could have happened had not Mao projected himself as the adolescent messiah for a generation denied the outlet of football hooliganism or Beatlemania. When one looks at Mao, however, one doesn’t see George Best or John Lennon, so the ability to inspire a devoted following clearly doesn’t depend on physical charisma. But it is a crucial element to the grip Mao had over his teenage storm-troopers that Chinese youth under the system that then operated in their country were deprived of the pop culture experience so prevalent in the west at that time. It seems youth requires such an experience in order to get youth out of its system.

Right here, right now, there is no pop cultural divide that youth can claim as their own like they did from the 50s through to the 90s, let alone the figureheads that these divides revolve around. Who the hell have they got – Harry Styles? Ed Sheeran? Sure, there’s an abundance of leisure industry distractions previous generations didn’t have, but very little the young today can attach the same intense importance and meaning to as they did their tribe of choice in the past. This is a generation worse off in cultural terms than any of its predecessors over the last half-century; it is also one armed with degrees not worth the paper they’re written on, knowing it will be saddled with debt for life, probably unlikely to buy a house until youth is a dim and distant memory, and presented with little that offers hope or salvation from the long slog ahead of it. And then…along comes Jezza.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn was on the cover of what passes for the NME today; those of us old enough will remember the same magazine featured Neil Kinnock as a cover star thirty years ago, something I greeted with similar cynicism then as I do the Jezza cover now, though I suspect there are fewer today who would react in such a way. The cult of Corbyn is a remarkable phenomenon that even the not-too dissimilar cult of Obama can’t compete with. It has a messianic quality to it way out of proportion to what the man himself actually represents, and Neil Kinnock was never invited to appear onstage at Glastonbury; the Welsh wonder preferred to hold his own festival in the environs of the Sheffield Arena. Aaaawright!

In a way, though, Jezza appearing at Glastonbury says a lot about him, about his audience, and about the festival itself. Glastonbury is a corporate shindig masquerading as a cutting-edge music event, albeit something it once was a very long time ago; even if I was seventeen in 2017, I’d instinctively detest it. I temporarily buried the hatchet to watch Radiohead on Friday night and was blown away by their performance; but I was able to buy their first hit on seven-inch single in my local Virgin Megastore at the time it charted; I didn’t download it. When they sang ‘Creep’, the camera kept focusing on faces who won’t have even been embryos when it reached No.7 in 1993; I was wondering why they were there to see a band whose members are the same age as me, and then I realised they don’t have a Radiohead of their own. They have Jezza.

Of course, Corbyn is old enough to be Thom Yorke’s dad, but this isn’t an impediment to his elevation to Che Guevara status in terms of the thinking teen’s pin-up. A generation too young to even have fallen for Blair’s con-trick in ’97 has only known the Cameron (public) school of politician, something Jezza is such an extreme contrast with that his enthusiastic embrace of traditional socialist rhetoric not only chimes with the standard lefty leanings of youth, but he’s an actual veteran of the ideological wars of the 80s; he was there, man. Respect!

Yes, the Corbyn cult may have utilised youth in a far more positive way than Mao or the Ayatollah did, but it still wasn’t enough to win the General Election. Unless Theresa May’s Queen’s Speech is voted down and Jezza is offered the crown, we’re going to have to wait a while until the Coronation; but this doesn’t matter to the Corbynistas under-21. As far as they’re concerned, he’s the People’s Prime Minister, conveniently free from the compromises that come with the actual job and sever the link between electorate and leader in the process. He can do no wrong in their eyes, but their adoration is also something some of their elders share, those I’d probably regard as old enough to know better. I can see his appeal as an alternative to the production-line politicians, but as a youth icon I would’ve hoped youth could do better.

© The Editor

20 thoughts on “SILLY CULT

  1. Mao – Khomeini – Radio Head…. these comparisons are more tenuous than seems necessary to make your point here which is a valid one at least. Yes they swept in through student revolts but they were very different politicians in very different times supported for very different reasons. You even acknowledge these are extreme comparisons so on that basis I’m not sure why you bother.
    Similarly, these young people aren’t looking for a new Radiohead or a new Bob Dylan – they’re looking for some hope about the future. Again I don’t think it’s a valid comparison to say he’s filling that void.
    I agree the fervour for Corbyn seems a bit mad and will almost definitely set him up for a fall when the realities set in, but most of this article seems like a sneering critique of today’s youth culture – which for the first time in a long while shows signs of political engagement. Yes music is shit now, and no, Jez isn’t the messiah – but he’s also not about to lock up the opposition, starve the population, and kill freedom of speech. The youth of today dont deserve this patronising garb about not being born when Thom Yorke was in his heyday. What has that, or Mao, or Khomeini, got to do with anything?


    1. It struck me as a point worth making when watching the OTT worship of Corbyn by the young that the fanaticism they traditionally reserved for pop icons was being lavished on him; the parallels are glaringly evident. It also struck me that perhaps this fanaticism had no real tribal or cultural outlet as it had in the past, which has probably played its part in this curious cult. Equally, when it comes to politicians, it’s hard to think of one received in the same way other than when one sees footage of Mao addressing a huge crowd of hysterical students; ditto the Ayatollah. Of course, as I say (and as you acknowledge), those two historical figures did the kind of damage that Jezza neither craves nor will inspire; but I thought the cult of Corbyn worth looking at because it’s so unprecedented in this country; and I regularly see its most ludicrous extremes on Facebook.

      Posts were written on here during the election that saw me persistently state how impressed I was with JC as a campaigner and I also observed his successful and admirable galvanising of the youth vote. But no other policitian in my living memory has provoked the kind of fanaticism Corbyn does and I wondered where it came from. The fact you regard my conclusions as ‘patronising’ to The Kids implies they are above and beyond any criticism, which is how Corbyn’s most devoted disciples perceive him. I think I have the right to critcise if I so wish and I also have a habit of letting my tongue linger in my cheek, which regular readers will be aware of.


    2. I agree, except that not all modern music is shit. Moderat at the Brixton Academy were tremendous last year.

      And I’m tired of old people whose only answer to everything is cynicism and world-weary ennui. It has been a common complaint that young people did not politically engage and because of that, jad no one but themselves to blame for their ills. Now they are being blamed for being enthusiastic about someone who is offering a positive change to the status quo. That’s a no win situation.

      No, Jeremy Corbyn will not be the answer to all our problems. But if he wrests control of the national car long enough to change it’s direction of travel (currently, neo-feudalism under a corporate aristocracy), I won’t be sorry.


      1. He may not like it, but Corbyn may soon become an echo of Nigel Farage – not achieving power, but nevertheless exercising game-changing influence on the politics and state of the nation.

        As the other parties wake up to how his message engages with previous non-voters, like the young, they will either have to move towards him or move out. History suggests that their survival instinct will propel them just far enough to get by and then, as with Farage before him, the nation will offer Corbyn no thanks for what he achieved by his evident charisma and timing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The major difference, Mudplugger, is that Corbyn is the leader of a party with about 260 seats in Parliament. Farage couldn’t get elected.

        Any move to “centre ground” by the Tories will be seen for what it is – another bid to retain power with lies. Why vote for pretend leftism when you can have the real thing?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You may be conveniently forgetting the latest Euro elections, which UKIP (aka Farage) won outright, taking more seats than any other party in the UK – and what’s more, that was on a ‘fair’ PR voting system, as favoured by those of a ‘liberal’ disposition (but only when it suits them, of course).
        This ‘winning a national election’ trick is something which Mr Corbyn so clearly failed to do (i.e. 20% fewer seats that the ‘winners’) – and something which the post-match rhetoric, fawning disciples and many others blinded by the moment seem to have overlooked.
        No reason to let grubby facts get in the way of the message, I suppose.


      4. Mudplugger… You are better than that. Each party knows under whch system it is fighting each election… I don’t think we’ll be having any more gravy train Euro elections but I’d love them just to see the results… they would be fascinating.

        And no, Jeremy Corbyn did not win the election, obviously. But he most definitely won the battle of expectations, which sets him up well for next time.

        From a non fawning, non disciple, who hasn’t ever voted for him in any election. But who does quite admire him and his cussedness. Grubby facts and all that…

        Liked by 1 person

    3. FWIW, my recollection is that I read somewhere that the average age of this year’s Glastonbury attendee was 37, so even if Jeremy were a dinosaur, assuming that this is all a ‘yoof’ thing might be a bit askew.

      Or maybe just jealousy on the part of the aged author and those commenting


      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – it was only the weight of his personality that garnered and maintained the media attention for so long – the timing of ‘forcing’ Cameron to grant to referendum, knowing the growing undercurrent of EU opposition amongst the ‘ignored classes’, then adding the ‘immigration grenade’ to the mix specifically to target them, was exquisite timing.
      For someone without a competent party machine, with no representation in Parliament and being a ‘hate figure’ to all the established politicos, it takes a bucket-load of charisma and an acute sense of timing to achieve the improbable, which is exactly what he did. QED.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The irony of all this Jezzamania is that a year ago a lot of the millennials despised him, because they suspected – correctly – that he undermined the ‘Remain’ camp from within, due to his obvious lack of enthusiasm for a ‘European Union’ that he had never supported. I have a sneaking admiration for the old codger for the same reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could maybe summon up the same sneaking admiration if I was more convinced that he did it solely on his own merit, rather than, in some part, maybe just being Seamus Milne’s finger puppet

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You may wish to add John Mcdonnell as the second puppet-master – he’s the sort of bloke who makes Peter Mandelson seem trustworthy.
        And now with a two-finger puppet taking the pyramid stage, that highlights the message to those with eyes to see.


  3. I suspect you underestimate the influence of the BBC (and various national dailies) bigging up their favoured son / granddad. When one lacks feedback from the workplace (as most students on campus do, exposed to and hearing only a leftist echo chamber), and Auntie is uncritical about how realistic Mr Corbyn’s promises of freebies are, but instead bangs on about “Evil Tories and their austerity”, then why wouldn’t they cheer him?

    Not a Socialist at twenty? Heartless. Still A socialist at thirty? Riding the EU / SJW gravy train.


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