Vicious, arrogant, obnoxious and possibly evil. These were the words Donald Trump used to describe Piers Morgan, when he won the first series of Celebrity Apprentice. That’s right: even the man they say is Hitler’s second coming is wary of Britain’s most insipid TV export.
The combination made last night’s exclusive ITV interview, between Morgan and The Donald himself, a recipe for outrage. Twitterers compared it to Alien vs Predator. Or Jeremy Kyle meets Frost/Nixon. Alan Sugar told Morgan to climb out of Trump’s arse. And 140-character bilge did fly.
But the chummy, half-hour chat, filmed in Trump Tower, wasn’t anything to write home about. Touching on Princess Diana, terrorism and his beef with Sadiq Khan (he suggested the mayor get an IQ test), Trump kept up a tough front while reining in some of his previous pronouncements - in order to appease the Republican establishment. (That banning Muslims business, he said, was ‘just a suggestion’. ‘It got people thinking.’)
Piers Morgan, however, was more stomach-turning than usual. His two-factory-setting approach – sycophant and moralist – is what meant his CNN show was so mercifully short-lived. But this took the biscuit. He was nodding and giggling – lobbing soft-ball questions. He might as well have been hanging off Trump’s jowls.
Since Trump’s candidacy began to take off, Morgan has caught flak for sticking up for the billionaire underdog. He’s said Trump is ‘single-handedly destroying the modern cult of political correctness’. He’s said Trump is the only person with the balls to talk tough on Islamist extremism. He’s even likened Trump to Leicester City.
And Morgan’s not alone. Trump now has a brimming media fan club full of professional provocateurs. Right-wing troublemaker Ann Coulter called a recent Trump performance the ‘GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH SINCE WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS’ (her caps). Meanwhile, the anti-PC nutters of the ‘alt-right’, a loose coalition of journalists, bloggers and weirdos, have taken to calling Trump ‘daddy’.
Over the course of the campaign, the Trump-bashing has become incredibly tiresome. Whether it's British politicians calling for Trump to be banned from the country, or the proliferation of trendy bar tip-jars labelled ‘Donald Trump Assassination Fund’, this is low-effort virtue signalling that is often just an expression of disgust for America’s redneck masses.
But his cheerleaders are just as bad. Trump is a response to political correctness; he’s not the solution to it. He’s just trying to ride the anti-establishment, fed-up mood of modern politics all the way into the White House. But he doesn’t stand for anything. Trump and his media fanboys aren’t trying to prick the consensus; they’re just playing in the rubble of the old establishment.
This is how shallow politics has become. With no big ideas on the table, where you stand on Donald Trump has become a defining political question. He’s either a piñata or a parade float, depending on your preference; you bash him to show you’re a good person or you hold him up to burnish your anti-establishment cred.
If you want to get rid of Trump, you need to challenge his ideas – not just smear him and his supporters. And if you want to get rid of the censorious status quo, get your own ideas straight. We need a battle of ideas, not a pissing contest.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked.