The Culture War Report - 2020
What passing-bells for those who tweet as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the trolls.
Only the stuttering fact-checkers’ rapid rebuttal
Can tap out their hasty orisons.
It has been another tough year in the trenches of Britain’s culture war. After the stunning advances of Christmas 2019, when Gen. Boris “Boris” Johnson’s Tory Irregulars broke through the Labour lines and secured a series of audacious victories, troops have found themselves bogged down, unable to leave their shelters for weeks at a time, laid low by disease and running short of hot takes.
“Good old Boris!” the troops on the line still tell you. “Boris will see us through!” But does this correspondent imagine a note of doubt in their voices? In the dugouts and WhatsApp groups where these hardy soldiers seek shelter, there is mutinous talk. The general has been sick, they mutter, rarely seen outside the chateau that doubles as his headquarters. He has lost his nerve, they fear. A purge of his staff officers – Col. Dominic “Dom” Cummings, rumoured to be obsessed with predicting the future, was shot at dawn last month – has done little to calm things.
The year began with Johnson’s troops still celebrating their triumph. Drunk on success, they went to war with an inanimate object, demanding to know why Big Ben was not as pleased about Brexit as they were. Although innovative, the campaign was largely a failure: the bell neither rang nor resigned.
Licking their wounds after the previous year’s defeats, supporters of the Red Army’s troubled Marshal Jeremy Corbyn launched a final desperate assault, shouting at Yorkshire Tea for being too popular with Conservatives. C’était magnifique, mais ce n’était pas la guerre culturelle.
War and pestilence ride side-by-side, and the dirty, cramped conditions of Westminster were an ideal breeding ground for disease. So it was little surprise that Covid swept across the battlefield faster than a gif of Theresa May laughing. Johnson’s initial response was to engage the enemy head-on, shaking hands with as many people as possible in order to show the virus that he wasn’t scared of it.
On the other side of the lines, change was afoot. A counter-revolution within the Red Army saw Marshal Corbyn replaced with the Menshevik lawyer Keir Starmer. By the end of the year, Corbyn would be in exile, recording a samizdat edition of Desert Island Discs, and issuing instructions to his remaining supporters via his wife’s phone.
Meanwhile a split was emerging within Johnson’s forces, between those who favoured taking cover from the virus, and those who saw in its arrival the opportunity to open another front. Some junior officers mutinied: two lieutenants, T. Young and Loz. Fox, led small groups of followers into No Man’s Land, challenging people to cough at them.
The summer was dominated by the Great Battle of The Statues. An angry crowd captured and drowned a statue in Bristol. How many more would suffer the same fate? A counter-insurgency became convinced that if the statues were removed, Britain would turn out to have lost all the wars. Cpt. B. Bradley (53rd Notts Shouters) led a troop of Tory MPs determined to protect statues from all threats, real or imagined.
Plucky Pvt. D. Grimes, attempting to storm the Black Lives Matter trench alongside maverick Maj. D. Starkey, instead dropped his grenade and blew up himself and his comrade. Their names liveth for evermore.
The month saw a series of hot, messy skirmishes. Ben & Jerry’s Company of Virtue Signallers launched a surprise attack on government asylum policy, but Old Cleverly’s Faithful Price-Watchers held their ground against the ice-cream.
A rumour reached the front that, somewhere upriver, Lt. Fox had now proclaimed himself God-King of the independent state of Lozzaville.
Desperate to show that he still had what it took to lead culture warriors, Gen. Johnson announced a series of attempts to capture the commanding ground of British culture by attempting to appoint Col C. Moore to run the BBC, a flanking manoeuvre that ground to a halt in the mud because Moore didn’t want the job. Meanwhile, Lt Fox decreed that Lozzaville was now at war with Sainsbury’s.
In a sign the culture war was eating itself, a surprise front opened at Eton, which has educated many of Britain’s prime ministers and some of its cads, occasionally at the same time.
Will this madness ever end? Must the flower of a generation destroy each other in wilful misunderstanding? If you had witnessed it, you would not tell with such high zest the old lie: Dulce et decorum est, pro cultura tweeti.