Meet Gemma Worrall, the latest unlikely worldwide star produced by social media. She is a 20-year-old beautician from Blackpool, now famous for tweeting ‘Why is our president Barraco Barner getting involved with Russia, scary.’ Cue 7,000 retweets, publicity from Australia to Brazil, and the inevitable vicious attacks. Haters have come thick and fast, she says, describing her as an ‘oxygen thief’ and worse. This morning’s press gets stuck in too. ‘Tweet about the Ukraine/Russia crisis is branded a new low for “dumb Britain”‘ sneers the Daily Mirror.
Really? It can be argued that this is a new high. I’d like to cite, in my defence, Ed Miliband. The sole redeeming feature of his confused Hugo Young lecture was his quoting a lesser-known Walt Whitman poem, The Prairie Grass Dividing:
‘Whitman talks about what makes for a successful democracy and says it is about a country where people can “look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and Governors, as to say, Who are you?”‘
Or, to put it another way, a successful democracy is one where a socially-engaged beautician in Blackpool can refer to “Barraco Barner” as “our president”. In his poem, Whitman was arguing that politicians should, ideally, be as unimportant as possible. That, ideally, people would not have cause to know who they are. That he who governs least governs best.
In that poem, Whitman saluted:-
Those that go their own gait,
Erect, stepping with freedom and command
Leading, not following,
Those with a never-quell’d audacity
Those with sweet and lusty flesh, clear of taint…
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and Governors, as to say, Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never-constrain’d, never obedient,
Those of inland America.
Had Whitman been in Britain today, these words might well have been written not for inland America but for coastal England – and the likes of Ms Worrall.