Review of the Olympic Opening Ceremony

Note: I will avoid the opening ceremony set, I believe, for tomorrow. However, here is my review of the last one, in London. the last sentence may have been prophetic, so far as the grotesque and sinister pantomime laid on by our ruling class might have led, directly or indirectly, to the outcome of the EU Referendum. SIG

The London Olympics Opening Ceremony:
A Grotesque and Sinister Pantomime
By Sean Gabb
(First Published in VDare, 29th July 2012)

I am glad I made the effort to watch the opening of the London Olympics. It was a most interesting summary of what England has become.

The general purpose of the opening was to legitimise the current ruling class. English history was portrayed as a shameful nightmare. We had Victorian capitalists polluting the countryside and oppressing the working class. We had sexism and racism and war. From this, we were shown the gradual emergence of our caring, sharing, soft and loving new order of things. There was a long celebration of the National Health Service, with eight hundred dancing doctors and nurses, and dancing invalid children. There were joyous messages read out by the great and good. There was more dancing and music and comedy. At the culmination of all this, we saw a corner of the Olympic Flag carried by Doreen Lawrence – the mother of a black youth whose alleged murder in 1993 was made the opportunity to sweep away outmoded institutions like equality before the law and the protection against double jeopardy. Long before the Olympic Flame was lit, the world was supposed to believe that England was a country blessed with genius in every calling and essentially at peace with itself.

Was it a success? To what extent did the Olympic opening succeed in terms of ruling class legitimation? It cost £27 million. Did it deliver value for money? In one sense, it had to. Propaganda from the outside has two main functions. One is to persuade directly. Another is to alter the framework of assumptions within which ordinary people form their opinions. Ruling class propaganda has the additional function of reminding everyone who is in charge. For this, the technical quality of the propaganda hardly matters. The message I took from the Olympic opening was this:

We are in charge. We have unlimited power and unlimited money, and we are willing to use these however may be needed to stay in charge. You may despise us. You may hate us. You may sometimes dream of having us led, a dozen at a time, to the gallows. But look at what we can do, and bear in mind there is nothing you can do to stop us.

However, if an inevitable success in depressing opposition, the opening could not hide the truth about our new and happy life. Had the amplification once failed in the stadium, the spectators would have looked up from this Potemkin love feast to hear the omnipresent clatter of surveillance helicopters, and the maniac wailing of police cars. On their way to and from the stadium, they cannot have failed to notice the twenty thousand armed soldiers taken away from our incomprehensible and unwinnable wars, or the special lanes for the ruling class and its clients to make light of the traffic gridlock allowed for everyone else, or the ruthless harvesting of custom by the relevant business interests.

Nor did it show this country’s official culture as other than trashy or at best mediocre. When Hitler laid on his show in 1936, he had Richard Strauss and Carl Orff and Leni Riefenstahl. He had smart uniforms. Never mind what he was saying, he was himself quite entertaining to watch. I ignored the Moscow and Peking Olympics, but suspect their openings had a rather stodgy dignity. What did we have last Friday? We had boring and unmelodic rock groups with silly names. We had massed dancers cavorting about like excited children. We had Simon Rattle, a second rate interpreter of the German classics. We had Rowan Atkinson, a tiresome and elderly buffoon with just two comic turns to his name – one of them sneering at English history, the other sneering at the English character. We had Paul McCartney: whatever his talents may have been fifty years ago, he has plainly outlived his vocal cords.

Oh, and we had someone called “Tim” Berners Lee, who is famous in England – though nowhere else, I am informed – as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

As time passes, I think the most memorable image from this Olympic opening will be the look on the Queen’s face when exposed to a performance of the National Anthem with a simultaneous translation into sign language. Since she is responsible for the state of affairs in which this whole grotesque and sinister pantomime could take place, I will not pity her for being kept out of bed to watch it. But the look of horror we were allowed to see before the cameras were switched to something else must have spoken for millions.

If this is the best show our ruling class can put on for £27 million, England may not be so very far from deliverance.

20 thoughts on “Review of the Olympic Opening Ceremony

  1. Very insightful. Rather unkind to Rowan Atkinson I feel though. I was intrigued to see Simon Rattle’s name in your article. I’m not sure why you describe him as a second rate conductor. In my opinion he is a perfectly good conductor – just one of a number of excellent conductors on the world stage today – but I have long been fascinated as to why he is constantly singled out for such adulation – hero-worship almost. You do find that with certain people, especially on the BBC – they are promoted because their face ‘fits’, and for no obvious other reason. One of the finest living conductors in my opinion – and certainly the finest interpreter of Shostakovich in the world today – is someone most people will not have heard of – Mark Wigglesworth. Unlike Rattle, however, he is not a ‘celebrity’. Why not? What has Rattle got that Wigglesworth hasn’t (apart from bouffant hair that is)? I’d love to get to the bottom of it. Oh, and there’s
    that bloke Rieu or whatever his name is. What an @rse!

  2. A very prescient and memorable essay by Dr. Gabb.
    I seldom watch the BBC nowadays but the recent BBC4 TV documentary “The Nazi Olympics” provided ample proof that the modern Olympics movement is deeply indebted to the Third Reich for much of its form and substance.
    Plus ca change.

  3. Both amusing and crushingly biting. I had forgotten all about the ceremony and the extent of the propaganda, but re-reading this brought it all back, a bit like being a little bit sick in the mouth!

  4. [quote]”As time passes, I think the most memorable image from this Olympic opening will be the look on the Queen’s face when exposed to a performance of the National Anthem with a simultaneous translation into sign language. Since she is responsible for the state of affairs in which this whole grotesque and sinister pantomime could take place, I will not pity her for being kept out of bed to watch it. But the look of horror we were allowed to see before the cameras were switched to something else must have spoken for millions.”[unquote]

    The sooner she goes, the better. Her son is no better, and might be worse. Her grandsons might be worse still – one of them (I can’t remember which, off-hand) has posed for a gay magazine. She is the worst monarch in this country’s history.

    • Absolutely right. Compare the country she inherited at the beginning of her reign with what she has allowed it to degenerate into She has repeatedly violated her Coronation Oath (to govern her peoples according to their laws and customs). Even as she was preparing to sign the Nice Treaty (handing more power to ‘foreign princes, prelates and potentates’ as I believe the phrase goes), she had the gall to enter Westminster Abbey to retake the very Coronation Oath she was preparing to break.
      And yet everybody thinks she’s bloody marvellous. Dare to criticise her for failing to do her job of safeguarding the Constitution and her supporters come at you with pikestaffs. I don’t get it – are people blind?
      And as for that wimp Charles – what a pompous waste of space that man is. He is such a loser. Ever since I was a young man I have predicted that he will never be king. Don’t know why – just intuition. I for one will never accept Camilla as Queen. Nothing against her personally, but there is just too much baggage.
      I don’t agree with you about William though – I think William and Kate are a fine young couple and are just the breath of fresh air this country needs.
      But ‘Elizabeth the Betrayer’ needs to be exposed for what she is.

      • The interesting thing about the Windsors is how the case against them as a reigning family also makes the case against the British Monarchy as an institution.

        In the past, we have had bad monarchs, but with the exception of Parliament’s quarrel with Charles I and the Commonwealth interregnum, nobody suggested that Royal malfeasance and negligence as to the national interest was proof or disproof of some systemic or philosophic flaw in Britain’s constitutional arrangements. A bad or lazy monarch would eventually die and could be tolerated and circumvented as necessary, and might even sometimes have served a useful purpose. I imagine in a less troubled era, Elizabeth Windsor’s personal qualities could have hit the right note, but as matters stand, she is a liability and represents a keystone of the mixed-racial, anti-British dispensation.

        Thus, the Windsors’ greatest contribution to Britain’s national story might just be that they have changed the equation and unintentionally instituted a Cromwellian revival.

        Harold lost England to the Norman invasion, which then led to the Norman Conquest and the best part of 1,000 years of this very unSaxon, Carolingian-type monarchy. But we shouldn’t resent Harold or hold him in bad esteemed. He remains a sympathetic figure, even perspicacious. He did mostly the right things and had the right strategy, and when he failed anyway, he took the fatal blow at the end without complaint, dying nobly in defence of his Realm and his people. He may have lost his kingdom – but he was still a great king.

        Is Elizabeth Windsor a ‘Harold’? Not in the slightest. She is a coward and a traitor, and she belongs in front of a firing squad.

        But it’s not just that Elizabeth Windsor herself is a bad and corrupt monarch (in my view, she is this country’s worst-ever), it’s also that her progeny offer us no improvement. Charles is very much his mother’s son, as are the grandsons. I see no difference across the generations.

        And so I think the institution itself has to go. We need to return to the Commonwealth arrangements under Cromwell and just have a Parliament.

        • I’m not sure I agree with your reasoning entirely. The institution of the Monarchy has become greatly weakened since the days of King Harold. There is very little that our present queen can do to halt the tide – but there is enough; certainly she should have refused her assent to Maastricht. There was one word that ran through this Treaty that caught my attention, and that word was ‘irrevocable’. The Maastricht Treaty made Her Majesty an EU citizen, subservient to the EU and subject to EU laws just like you and I. Maastricht was a clear violation of our Constitution, and the queen is guardian of our Constitution or she is nothing. She could of course argue that her subjects have consistently voted for pro-EU governments, and of course she can’t go interfering with her governments every five minutes, but there must come a point where she says enough is enough. If that point was not reached with Maastricht, then it certainly was with all the other surrenders of sovereignty she has agreed to since then.
          Technically, I don’t think the queen can be a traitor, but I do wish people would just take a step back and look at her actions in an objective light, rather than heaping mindless eulogies on her.

          • [quote]”Technically, I don’t think the queen can be a traitor…”[unquote]

            This is not true. The main charge of the bill of indictment of Charles I was that he had committed treason against the people of England.

            [quote]”There is very little that our present queen can do to halt the tide – “[unquote]

            She could have sacrificed herself. That may have resulted in abdication and disgrace, but it would have meant something. That was my point with the analogy of Harold. She didn’t. She put herself, her own family and her little vanities first, which is understandable but unregal, and in my view amounts to treason.

            That she has acted in a way that most people would act does not lesson the crime. A Monarch is not ‘most people’. Her station in life is a burden. She is our servant. I for one would not swop places with her, but since she has this burden, and since I am being told it’s a good thing that we have this rather queer institution, then something must be done when she fails to live up to her duties and responsibilities, which is manifestly the case. Otherwise, her existence, which is entwined with her role, becomes like a cancer, attacking us with each year that passes. She is using her position to remain silent and acquiesce in the destruction of her own people, as long as she and her own family aren’t touched.

            I am not a natural monarchist, but if we are going to have such an institution, then the Monarch is to be regarded as the embodiment of the People, and must always put the People first – no matter what, even on pain of her own death. That is central to the legitimacy of the institution. If this cannot be agreed on, then why have the institution at all? Why not just have Parliament and be done with it?

            • I agree. Except that I’m not sure of her motives. It may be that, having watched her extended family literally destroy itself during the twentieth century, she sees ‘Europe’ as a means of preventing any future such conflagrations. I don’t know. I’ve even heard it said that she is being blackmailed (I am told that Prince Andrew bears a striking resemblance to her majesty’s racehorse trainer. At any rate, he no more resembles Philip than Harry resembles Charles).
              But you’re right – if I had had been in her position, I would have regarded it my solemn duty to lay down my life (constitutionally at any rate) rather than succumb to the destruction of my country’s constitution.
              I’m still not convinced about the treason bit though (a rose by any other name of course) for the simple reason that Her Majesty would have to be tried in Her Majesty’s own courts. The charge would read R v R I presume. Or maybe we should just chop off her head and be done with it.

        • It’s difficult to regard the past thousand years of English history as a wrong turn brought about by the Battle of Hastings. We are what we are, and have at least the right to take pride in it.

          As for a Cromwellian republic, the last one was hardly a success. All that can be said in its favour is that it kept the lid on the worst kinds of religious mania.

          I suggest we need a decent hereditary monarch to preside over a rebalanced constitution. That probably means an oligarchy able to make everyone behave for a few generations.

      • I don’t know how he posed, and since I’m not gay (though sometimes I wish I was, given the problems women have caused me), I have no intention of finding out.

        I think it was William – it was all over the news media at the time.

  5. I can’t see the monarchy lasting. I think the pace and scale of the transformation of Britain will one day render them obsolete, being even more irrelevant in the process leading up to that point, or be forced into some dumbed down version of itself to mesh into the society that will at that point surround it.

    It may linger as a quaint institution for quite a while, just out of habit and as a “force for identity” and all that jive…… but I think 100 years from now it will pretty much be gone or at the least subdued so much into the transformation that it would a laughable shell of its former self anyway.

    The latest royal child was born as an ethnic minority in its city of birth. I just can’t see it as being feasible that this family can continue on in a country that will be ever different from it and the bonds established over centuries between us ancient Britons and the royalty.

    The combination of change plus more radical socialism and “equality” etc may just cause a problem and strain the ability of it to continue. Then again, I may well be being far too cynical.

    • “The latest royal child was born as an ethnic minority in its city of birth.” Good point. The last two royal children I should think. In other words the third (?) in line to the throne.

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