Written by Caitlin Johnstone; Originally appeared at her blog
There’s a wildly under-appreciated clip of news footage from Thursday’s general election in the UK that, now that everyone’s had some time to emotionally process the emotional fallout from that depressing night, needs more attention.
Labour MP and chronic left-puncher Jess Phillips appeared on Channel 4 to talk about how devastated she was about the news of exit polls showing her party’s crushing defeat, except the cameras switched on before she was prepared and caught her in the middle of a joyful chuckle. It took several seconds and the overt reminders from the show’s hosts to put on a “straight face” and act emotional before she could conceal her cheery mood as Corbyn’s Labour leadership was trampled underfoot by odious empire lackey Boris Johnson.
“Good evening Jess,” said the program’s host Krishnan Guru-Murthy. “How are you feeling as these results unfold?”
Watching the stumbling improvisation that came next feels like walking into a room full of awkward silence when your supposed friends had just been saying mean things about you, or seeing your spouse conspicuously jump away from an attractive coworker when you drop by the office.
Phillips, still unaware that the cameras were now rolling, did not interrupt the delighted guffaw she’d been enjoying.
“Can you hear me Jess Phillips?” the host asked over nervous tittering from the audience. “It’s Krishnan.”
“I can hear you, sorry,” Phillips said after a moment, literally putting her hand over her mouth for a few seconds to hide her giant shit-eating grin.
“Straight face,” said Guru-Murthy, who then apparently realized that this was a bizarre thing to say and added “Actually you don’t have to have a straight face, umm, on this show. Umm… what are you thinking?”
“Oh are you talking to me now? Sorry that wasn’t clear,” said Phillips after a pause, her face now finally somewhat straightened out. “Sorry, I’m really tired. What I’m thinking is… it’s, it’s just totally devastating isn’t it? It’s totally devastating that all the people that I see every day, they’re gonna have nowhere to turn. I mean, I should probably do that thing where we all pretend that we’re gonna wait and see if the results are better than we thought, but it feels like a kick in the stomach.”
Jess Phillips had not been acting like a woman who felt devastated, and she had certainly not been acting like a woman who felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach. Jess Phillips had been acting like a woman on her third strawberry daiquiri down at the pub with a couple of hilarious mates.
“I’m just waiting actually, I mean, for your thoughts,” Guru-Murthy said after an awkward pause. “I mean, you look emotional, and upset, and that’s understandable.”
Guru-Murthy was lying. At no time did Phillips look either emotional or upset.
“Jess it’s just that you look very emotional, and we know you, we know you’re a normal, sane person, so it’s very confusing,” host Katherine Ryan bullshitted when Phillips struggled to hear what Guru-Murthy had said.
“I am very emotional,” Phillips lied. “But not just for me or for the Labour Party. I’m emotional for the people that the Labour Party was invented to help.”
The audience, probably relieved to have a taste of something that isn’t intensely awkward and disturbing, erupted in applause.
"Enter Jess Phillips. She backs Trident, austerity and Israel. She hates Corbyn, Williamson and Leftists in general. She doesn’t believe in class politics or ideology, but she does talk about gender all the time, and says 'fuck' a lot…" https://t.co/oSj7kNytVm via @offguardian0
— Frank Owen's Legendary Paintbrush (@WarmongerHodges) March 16, 2019
For months the imperial media have been loudly anointing Phillips as the establishment choice to replace the unabashedly socialism-minded Corbyn, as Kit Knightly described for Off-Guardian back in March. This coronation-by-media continues today with outlets ranging from The Guardian to Daily Mail to Telegraph placing her on the short list to assume leadership of the Labour Party over the last couple of days.
After an anti-imperialist, pro-Palestinian socialist was magically thrown into role of Opposition leader by an extraordinary accident in 2015, Phillips leapt into her role as outspoken Corbyn critic by publicly telling him “I won’t knife you in the back, I’ll knife you in the front.” Despite this vow, Phillips proceeded to steadfastly knife Corbyn in the back by fanning the flames of incredibly disingenuous smears against his leadership, elevating the imaginary Labour antisemitism crisis to such a cartoonish extent that earlier this year she proclaimed that a tweet saying “Palestine Lives” from Young Labour “is antisemitic and it has to stop.” This malicious termiting continued into the final days before the general election, with Phillips criticizing Corbyn for not responding adequately to claims about antisemitism in the Labour Party by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
Phillips’ hot mic moment, and the mad scramble of the show’s perception-managing pundits to clean it up, provides us with a brief glimpse behind the phony persona that the empire’s political/media class put on for us. Should Bernie Sanders by some Corbyn-like miracle overcome the rigged primaries and receive the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, we may be absolutely certain we’ll see a campaign to sabotage his run and force a loss to Trump in the US elections next year. And we may be absolutely certain they’ll cackle about it just as Jess Phillips did when she thought the cameras were off.
These people aren’t like you and me. They don’t care about truth, and they don’t care about human beings. They rose to the positions they occupy within media and politics by consistently demonstrating that they’ll do whatever it takes to advance the interests of the oligarchic empire while giving the people the bare minimum possible to prevent an insurrection. They’re where they’re at precisely because they don’t care about truth or people. They care about their own dominance within our sick dominator culture, and when they achieve it, they smile, and they celebrate, and they laugh.
Sometimes the guardians of empire make little mistakes. Sometimes they accidentally allow an anti-imperialist to lead one of their major parties. Sometimes they accidentally get caught in mid-guffaw when they’re meant to be pretending to be heartbroken. Whenever those holes appear it’s important to pay attention to them, and to shove as many rays of light through them as possible before they are closed.