Paul Joseph Watson, Count Dankula and Sargon of Akkad have joined Ukip. Let that sink in. This is an in-joke which you’ll only appreciate if you’ve pretty much given up on the mainstream media and you prefer to fight all your culture wars battles online. Because, unusually, I happen to straddle both worlds — it’s an age and job thing — allow me to explain who these people are and why their support of Ukip suggests it might be on the verge of a major comeback.
Watson is a brilliant polemicist (his day job is to work for Alex Jones, the crazy host of America’s InfoWars) whose funny, angry, disgusted daily rants, delivered with his trademark northern-accented snark in front of his map of the world backdrop with his catchphrase ‘let that sink in’ have lured 1.3 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. You won’t see him on mainstream TV or in newspapers because he won’t go there. He sees the legacy media as the enemy.
Count Dankula — aka Mark Meechan, 30 — is the bearded, internet shitposter from Glasgow best known for the ‘Nazi pug’ video he made to annoy his girlfriend. It purported to show the pug giving Nazi salutes to commands like ‘Sieg Heil’ and ‘Gas the Jews’. After being prosecuted by Scottish police, he was fined £800 by the courts (for a long, worrying period it looked as if he might face jail: for a bad taste joke) for posting ‘grossly offensive’ material. In real life he is mild-mannered, amiable, not at all anti-Semitic.
Sargon of Akkad is the pseudonym of vlogger Carl Benjamin, whose lengthy, patient, reasoned YouTube commentaries have garnered more than 800,000 subscribers. He’s like a more erudite and polite, long-distance version of Watson. His targets are much the same: identity politics; Social Justice Warriors; third-wave feminism. He rose to prominence during Gamergate — the revolution in which ordinary video-gamers fought back against an attempted takeover of their hobby by politically correct commissars and cry-bullies.
None of them is remotely ‘alt-right’, but this hasn’t stopped their enemies on the left trying to tar them with that brush. It’s how they were billed in a Mirror story headlined: ‘Meet the new face of Ukip: the free speech extremists who could make Ukip dangerous again.’ And also in a New Statesman article by ex-BBC journalist Paul Mason, which accused Ukip of ‘pandering to right-wing nationalism and xenophobia’.
This is because ‘alt-right’ (in fact, a tiny, minority movement with no relevance except as a bugbear) has become the left’s preferred euphemism for ‘fascist’, ‘Nazi’, ‘people we can safely dismiss without taking the trouble to listen to what they are saying’.
In fact, what Watson, Meechan, Benjamin and their ilk are saying is eminently reasonable, well thought through, logical and compelling. Their main beef is that free speech — the bedrock of any advanced, liberal democracy — is under threat. And that none of the three biggest parties is doing the damnedest thing to preserve it.
‘Why did I join Ukip? Because it’s the only major political party that supports free speech,’ declared Watson in one of his videos. And unlike an odd piece I read the other day which averred that ‘free speech’ was a non-issue of interest only to ‘grade-A chocolate-coated plonkers’, Watson supported his case with a few facts: people (such as the conservative activist Lauren Southern) ‘banned from the country for having the wrong opinions’; people being ‘convicted for jokes’; thousands of people ‘being arrested for mean tweets while actual violent crime soars across the country’.
What I love about Watson is that he tells it exactly as he sees it. There’s none of that mealy-mouthedness you find among that older generation of journalists who’ve spent years having to temper their polemic in order not to sound too extreme. Watson, like many of his peers, has never had to do a proper job, so he is untainted and untrammelled and takes no prisoners.
I wonder — had he watched, which I’m sure he didn’t — what he would have made, say, of Michael Gove’s defence of Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plans on last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show. To many of us — me, at any rate — it was a bravura performance by a brilliant politician at the top of his game. One could (as I did) abhor the nauseating sell-out compromise, while simultaneously admiring the skill, the mental agility, the brutal application of realpolitik by a potential future great prime minister.
But I’ll bet Watson wouldn’t have given this charade more than ten seconds. He would have seen straight through it for what it was: the political class betraying the
17.4 million people who voted Brexit. And he would have been dead right.
None of which, of course, would matter a toss if Watson had no influence or significance. But that isn’t the case. Like Sargon, like Dankula, like Milo Yiannopoulos — who also joined Ukip — he is the voice of a smart, sassy, meme-literate generation who are sick to death of the double dealings and manoeuvring and evasiveness that brought us to our current Brexit impasse. They want action not words; Trump (or something akin), not Theresa May.
By welcoming these new voices, Ukip has suddenly — if, probably, inadvertently — transformed itself from a deeply embarrassing party of irrelevant, funny old men in terrible purple ties into a potent force of revolution. Like Germany’s AfD or its populist equivalents from Italy to Sweden, Ukip could now become the party of rebels too intelligent to vote socialist, too jaded and betrayed to vote for the mainstream again. I don’t blame Nigel Farage for being tempted to rejoin this revitalised force as leader.
What happens next will depend on how the Conservatives handle this leadership crisis. If their past form is anything to go by, I’d say Ukip is a buy.