Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Welcome Boris!

I can't get over this. Shit happens on Twitter, especially when you're using a phone, and nobody proofreads everything they emit, but the particular stupidity of it is so irresistible. Via Kyle Griffin, who got the screenshot in time.

He's not going to be prime minister of the United Kingdom for long, some say (including UK journalist James Butler in an NYT op-ed), if Boris gets his way and lets the European separation work itself out on the no-deal plan, in which case Scotland really does become a lot more interested in independence from the 1707 union with England, and Northern Ireland could even be thinking about reuniting with the rest of the Irish island, both because Europe has done a lot more for them than England ever has, and people prefer to stay in it, so there won't be a United Kingdom any more. I can't speak to the United Kingston.

One of the less-known things Johnson has in common with Trump is a family history of pretending not to be German. As I was recalling a couple of weeks ago the Trumps, descended from the late 19th-century immigrant barber and Alaska brothelkeeper Friedrich Drumpf, started calling themselves Swedish after World War II, out of a sense that their many Jewish tenants would prefer not to have a German landlord, and Donald himself was still clinging to the story as late as 1990 ("My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . "). In the same way, Johnson's father's maternal grandmother was Baroness (or Freiin) Maria Luise von Pfeffel, renamed Marie Louise de Pfeffel around World War I because a French-looking name seemed nicer at the time.

You don't learn a lot bout the Pfeffels from this New York Post piece, but I liked the headline.

The Johnsons have the additional distinction of having pretended not to be Turkish, in that his grandfather, Wilfred Johnson, the Baroness's son-in-law, was born Osman Kemal, son of the Ottoman interior minister Ali Kemal, who was assassinated during the Turkish War of Independence in 1922.

It's a glitzier background than the Trumps had. I feel it's worth reminding people how Johnson earned his political stance as a "populist" and a scourge of untrammeled immigration.

I loved this:

Ever hear of a guy called Winston Churchill?

Johnson was, in fact, a significant journalist, reporting from Brussels for The Daily Telegraph in 1989-94, where he was perhaps the central creator of the myth of the European Union as an insane dictatorship determined to regulate every aspect of people's lives, largely through bald lies, as in this case recently remembered in The Guardian:
Under the headline “Italy fails to measure up on condoms”, Johnson revealed in the Daily Telegraph that “Brussels bureaucrats have shown their legendary attention to detail by rejecting new specifications for condom dimensions”, despite demands from the Italian rubber industry for a smaller minimum width. Readers were informed the decision had left “Italian egos smarting”, and he quoted an official spokesperson – Willy Hélin – who insisted “this is a very serious business”.
That was in 1991. Three decades later, Hélin, now retired, told the Guardian from his hospital bed he was still exasperated by the “load of bullshit” written by Johnson.
“We were not interested by sizes. We had had requests from medical institutions across Europe to check on the safety of condoms. That has nothing to do with the size of dicks. All the journalists went on about comparing the size of penises in Germany and France. It’s about safety, because so many doctors were interested to know about the risks for Aids patients,” he said.
Fabrication was an element from the very beginning of his journalistic career, as a trainee at The Times:
Despite being sent for training on the Wolverhampton Express & Star, he was sacked within months after fabricating quotes from his godfather Colin Lucas, a historian, in an attempt to get speculation about Edward II’s supposed lover Piers Gaveston into a front-page news story.
And of course it has continued into the present, as recently as last Thursday (Fleet Street Fox for The Daily Mirror, "The Many Lies of Boris Johnson"):
Yesterday he held a smoked fish aloft and told the final Tory leadership hustings : "This kipper, which has been presented to me just now by an editor of a national newspaper, who received it from a kipper smoker in the Isle of Man, who is utterly furious, because after decades of sending kippers like this through the post, he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats who have insisted that each kipper must be accompanied by this, a plastic ice pillow. Pointless, expensive, environmentally damaging, ‘elf and safety, ladies and gentlemen."
The Isle of Man is not in the EU. The EU does not regulate the temperature of smoked fish. It was Whitehall that made the rules in question. And whether he intends to Brexit with or without a deal, any future trading agreement with the EU would mean we have to follow its regulations on food imports, anyway.
It occurred to me that young David Brooks was in Brussels at the same time (1990-94), for the Wall Street Journal, contributing in his own modest way to the EU mythology, and I love to imagine him at alcoholic lunches where Boris holds forth, setting out on the path that would lead him to the Applebees salad bar.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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