Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday: A Quintessentially British Occasion?

Today is Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday, an event broadcast live to the nation by BBC Breakfast between 8.00 a.m. to 8.30 a.m.

Captain Tom really is the perfect media hero for our times, and the construction of ‘our national hero’ was levelled up this morning as it turns out Captain Tom seems to be a huge fan of many of the symbols which signify classic conservative ideas about ‘Britishness’.

Honestly, it was all there, crammed into a 30 minute slot on BBC breakfast this morning….

The Armed Forces and the Fly By…

We know him as Captain Tom, but he’s now been given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’, so take your pick (he doesn’t mind). He got a special fly by this morning, and really seemed to love it!

You can check out the fly-by and most of the rest of the BBC ”Tom show’ below…

The historical Link to World War II

There aren’t many WWII veterans alive, but Captain Tom is one of them, and WWII – that’s deep in the conservative idea of the nation!

I guess this link is even more popular because of the fake similarities with ‘fighting’ Coronavirus.

His love of the Royal Family

Captain Tom thanked the Royal Family (who he thinks are wonderful) for their letters of support.

This ‘deferral to authority’ goes along with being in the armed forces I guess. Very much part of Conservative Britishness.

The countryside village in which he lives

Ironically the only thing not British about the village is the name – Marston Moretaine, maybe that’s the result of a French twinning project?

But everything else about it seems quintissentially British – it’s bang in the middle of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper ‘home counties’, lovely fields and a church.

It’s basically a cross between ‘Midsommer Murders’ but without the murders, the Vicar of Dibley and Last of the Summer Wine, with the poor people hidden from site.

His Love of Cricket

Tom is a lifelong cricket fan, and he was today presented with an honorary membership of the England Cricket Club, and gifted a hat by Michael Vaughn, once captain of England.

Is there a sport that says ‘conservative England’ more than cricket?

You’ll Never Walk Alone

A number one in 1963, and Liverpool Football Club’s Anthem – you don’t get much more British than early 1960s pop music and one of our longstanding Premier League clubs!

The Grandchildren

Honestly, they seem to come across as perfect. His grandson’s got that ‘healthy rugby build’ about him, and his granddaughter just seems so perfectly sweet. Framed with Captain Tom’s daughter (presumably their mother) you get the impression of the perfect British nuclear family, albeit stretch out by one generation.

And let’s not forget the NHS

It was Captain Tom’s efforts to raise money for NHS that propelled him to media stardom, and the NHS is part of our ‘national identity’ too, especially recently!

What are we celebrating exactly?

This morning was a ‘pause for celebration’, and fair enough in some respects, but what are we celebrating?

I personally think I witnessed something extremely hyperreal on BBC Breakfast today. The media seems to have used Captain Tom’s 100th birthday as a chance to reinforce conservative ideals about Britishness, ideals that don’t really exist outside of the upper middle class echelons of society.

Maybe this is because Captain Tom (he went to a grammar school in the 1920s!) and media professionals are both of the upper middle class, that this kind of celebration of traditional British identity comes so naturally to them.

I also thought Captain Tom’s efforts were about raising money for the NHS and helping to tackle Coronavirus, but this seems to have just got lost somewhere along the way?

And let’s not forget that 1/7 NHS workers aren’t even British, but they’re risking their lives for us.

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A few sociological observations on England’s progress through the World Cup…

Sociological analysis of the World Cup as a media-construction and a bizarrely inclusive kind of nationalism…

I don’t care too much for football, and I’m most certainly not an English nationalist, and yet I’ve got thoroughly caught up in, and even enjoyed watching England’s progress through this 2018 World Cup (England-Colombia accepted, at least until the very final kick of the ball).

In this post I just present a few sociological musings on the World Cup 2018…..

Come on England

The World Cup is most definitely a media spectacle…

It strikes me that what I’m enjoying is not just the football, it’s the whole month-long media-spectacle surrounding the event: without the media-hype I just don’t think it would be the ‘World-Cup’…. I mean let’s face it, there’s at least 30 minutes ‘studio discussion’ before the group-stage games, and now England are the semi-finals, this pre-amble has increased to 90 minutes, not to mention all the coverage during the day, on T.V. and radio, not to mention social media.

And of course, this year, the ‘youngster’s in the squad have upped the media-integration even more, with (well-managed) use of social media and goal-celebration dances taken from Fortnite….

There’s even instructions out on how to do it… as in this Guardian article

Celebrities co-opting the World-Cup?

Then of course there’s the inevitable celebrities and their ‘support messages’…as in this BBC 1 minute long trailer… I do wonder how many of these celebs even like football?

Celebrities world cup

In fairness, I do know that Russel Brand is a genuine ‘fan’ so fair play, he’s ‘earned’ his place in video, but the rest of the them… this might just be a vessel for self-promotion?

The role of the BBC in constructing ‘World Cup Fever’ ?

Is it just me, or is ITV coverage just a bit ‘wrong’? I don’t actually even regard ITV as a legitimate part of the process of World Cup construction… it’s more of a passenger IMO, it’s just not the same as the BBC.

I mean Gary Lineker is about as ‘England in the World Cup’ as you can get (at least in the last three decades), and there’s no adverts, so you just get to soak up more the atmosphere, and it’s not just Garry: Breakfast Time does a pretty good job hyping up the event too.

BBC world cup
Would it even be a World Cup without Gary ‘crisp-muncher’ Lineker’?

And yet it’s not quite hyperreality!

For all the media-construction, and even talk of ‘hyping it up’, I can’t quite bring myself to call this a truly hyperreal event (as some postmodernists might argue) … because the games take place, well, in place, and there’s clear rules and a time-limit, and I can pop out there for myself if I want to!.

England in the World Cup: A ‘friendlier’ sort of nationalism?

Of course the number of England flags draped out of people’s windows increases during the World Cup, as do the number of on-display beer-belly and football-tattoo combos, but this isn’t a small-minded, intolerant, closed kind of nationalism, it’s a ‘liminal’ type of sports-specific nationalism that’s maybe a little less angry and a little more vulnerable than your Brexit nationalism?

England flags world cup

I definitely think there’s something nationalist about the event: I mean being taken back through our nation’s footballing history is a mainstay of the narrative in the media-coverage, it’s even takes ‘solid form’ in our ex-England players fronting BBC’s coverage, and then of course… ‘football’s coming home’. OK, going down the home homeland route of analysis maybe a bit strong, but then again?!

Certainly the way the World-Cup is constructed in the media, it’s a very inclusive, multicultural, open to all ages, and family-friendly event. A ‘soft-brexit’ kind of nationalism if you like, having said that, I’m sure there are plenty of places and pubs in the UK where those England flags and those tattoos are most definitely not expressing an open and tolerant idea of England!

Anywhere, I’ll leave it there for today, just a few sociological ramblings….

Come on England!

Who are the alt-right?

The Unite the Right Ralley in Charlotsville back in August 2017 was attended by various right wing groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Skin heads, Neo-Nazis and various Militias, but the most newly formed in attendance, the so-called ‘alt right’, a disparate group of clean cut, smartly dressed, young white men, the latest ‘wave’ of white U.S. white nationalists who are unafraid to express their racist views.

The alt-right is an eclectic, decentralized movement of extreme-conservative, who want a white-only ethno-state: they mainly operate online, via forums such as Reddit and 4chan, sharing memes which support Donald Trump and Hitler, as well as those disparaging Barrack Obama.

But who are these young men, and how do they develop their racist views?

This article in the Washington Post is based on interviews with six young men, tracing their trajectories as members of the alt-right. The following themes stand out:

  1. Many self-radicalised on the internet, finding others with similar views, and they went through stages of meeting others at local and regional meetings and gradually learnt not be ashamed of their racist views.
  2. Thought most members don’t blame impersonal economic factors, many feel that there are no jobs for white people any more – they go to Walmart and McDonalds and see mainly ethnic minorities working in such places.
  3. There are also deeper ‘structural reasons’ – the decline of factor jobs, and the feeling of being left behind, having had the ladder kicked away, and feelings of loneliness and alienation.

NB – these are just the stand-out factors, there are also middle-class people in the movement.

The Charlotsville Rally represented a culmination of a movement that’s been brewing for years online, many drove hundreds, some thousands of miles to get there, possibly emboldened by Donald Trump, they came armed for violence, and of course were met by it.

Whatever you think of the alt-right, the underlying causes which have given rise to it, and the communications networks which maintain it aren’t going anywhere, so I think we can expect this to be a potent force in US politics for years to come.

NB – It reminds me of the kind of white nationalism expressed by the BNP, but just a step-up!