Smelly Little Orthodoxies


In a previous post, I wondered how likely people in the UK would be these day’s to rise up against fascism. Whilst I don’t know the answer, it seems to me that the political and social mood in the post-EU-referendum UK makes it increasingly unlikely. The dominant social and political driver seems to be the shaping of, and pandering to, popular will. There seems to be ever less tolerance of dissenting voices who speak against what George Orwell called “smelly little orthodoxies”.

Heresy in the UK

Anyone who is adjudged to be against Brexit (whether they actually are or not) is fair game for a public kicking:

  • Law Lords are deemed enemies of the people for performing their constitutional duties;
  • Senior civil servants are smeared as incompetent and have their impartiality questioned (by being labelled ‘pro EU’) by MP’s;
  • Unelected narcissists with an overblown sense of entitlement throw a public hissy fit when they are not given a job which is not vacant and for which they have no experience;
  • The Government shows utter disdain for parliamentary democracy by refusing to properly involve Parliament in the Brexit process and by fighting an utterly needless legal wrangle in the Supreme Court to keep Parliament excluded;
  • The Government shows utter contempt for the electorate and Parliament by refusing/failing to define what Brexit will mean and instead trumpeting meaningless platitudes (“taking back control, being sovereign again, Brexit means Brexit”);
  • The Government shows utter contempt for the devolved nations and seeming ignorance of the potential impact of Brexit on devolution legislation and important treaties such as the Good Friday Agreement;
  • The Lord Chancellor fails to meet the oath she swore to protect the independence of the judiciary;
  • ‘Foreigners’ are fair game to blame for every ill; even those from nations whose citizens fought and died in defence of the UK.

In general there is disdain and contempt for experts, ignorance of and ambivalence towards law and the constitution, a snarling mob mentality that insists that the will of the people must be obeyed and a ‘finger in the ear, la la la I’m not listening’ response to hard questions. To ask what Brexit means in reality, to voice an informed concern about the legal, practical and economic implications of Brexit, or to point out the harsh realities to be overcome is to be a ‘breamainer‘, a ‘bremoaner‘, a ‘traitor‘, an ‘out of touch member of the metropolitan elite‘: a heretic.

George Orwell coined the title I used for this post in his essay about Charles Dickens. In the below-expanded excerpt, Orwell describes the imaginary face he ascribed to the man behind the writing. It is a face we should strive to adopt.

He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.


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