You cannot possibly take Quillette seriously

Oh. My. God. They published a piece praising Boris Johnson that, I swear, reads like something from The Onion or McSweeney’s.

With his huge mop of blond hair, his tie askew and his shirt escaping from his trousers, he looked like an overgrown schoolboy. Yet with his imposing physical build, his thick neck and his broad, Germanic forehead, there was also something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him. You could imagine him in lederhosen, wandering through the Black Forest with an axe over his shoulder, looking for ogres to kill. This same combination—a state of advanced dishevelment and a sense of coiled strength, of an almost tangible will to power—was even more pronounced in his way of speaking.

It goes on and on interminably, saying nothing. It even quotes some of his more infamous racist lines, like this one, about the Congo:

No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.

That’s satire, don’t you know. They’re never clear about exactly what they’re satirizing, but like a troop of monkeys, they’ve learned that all they have to do is parrot the word “satire” to excuse their grossest impulses.

Which now makes me wonder…is this entire article by Toby Young, with all its hyperbole and bizarre imagery, also intended to be satire? Is it mocking Boris or praising him effusively? It’s impossible to tell. When two buffoons start mugging at each other, does it mean something, or is it meaningless?

What of Quillette itself? An ugly, tasteless joke, like Johnson’s disparagement of the people of the Congo, or an attempt to be serious by a gang of clowns?


  1. cartomancer says

    My money would be on the ogres. Maybe one of them would like to be our new king?

  2. specialffrog says

    If I had to choose between Johnson as PM and Toby Young as PM I would choose Johnson. Young is even more misogynist and classist than Johnson.

    So not surprised this piece is by him.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    there was also something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him.

    I’m picturing Benny Hill cast as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung, tripping over his scabbard as he shambles to his fate.

  4. ethicsgradient says

    @specialffrog is right – Toby Young is one of the few worse people in British public life than Johnson. A lot to read about him, but this is probably where to start:

    Young is a public troll, however, so it’s quite possible he wrote it thinking “this will infuriate the libs”. You can also look on it as “gizza job, Bozza”. Young has been prominent in the ‘Free Schools’ movement (equivalent of Charter Schools), as has Dominic Cummings – the organiser of the [a href=””]Vote Leave campaign[/a], and just appointed by Johnson as a key adviser. Young would love to be back in influence in Britain, and Johnson may be happy to ignore Young’s misogyny, homophobia and support for eugenics, which stopped his public appointment last time.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    I just googled Benny Hill Boris Johnson.
    I think you’re onto something.

  6. says

    @ davidnangle
    And of course ‘The Boris’ is a foreigner, born in the USA. But since that is where I currently reside please don’t send him back.

  7. PaulBC says

    My bet is on alien lizard men wearing cheap rubber masks. That has been the only theory of government that explains everything, and I mean their penchant for increasing the levels of atmospheric carbon along with everything else.

    That said, Boris Johnson comes across as more clever than Donald Trump, so we can expect to see a lot of columnists supporting him for the lulz if for no other reason.

  8. PaulBC says

    I knew who he was since my uncle Christopher was an ex-boyfriend of his mother’s and he had told me to keep an eye out for him, but I still wasn’t prepared for the sight (and sound) of him at the dispatch box of the Oxford Union.

    Two sentences in and I’m already at “bad Evelyn Waugh pastiche.” If it’s not satire, the writer is a pompous ass. Let me go light up a pipe, pour myself a scotch and read the rest of it by the fire.

  9. blf says

    Let me go light up a pipe, pour myself a scotch and read the rest of it by the fire.

    Heh. Minus the pipe, and the fire (it’s too hot!), I’ve slipping some scotch (Askaig Islay), listening to BBC’s TMS and reading the Grauniad’s OBO… First ever England–Ireland men’s cricket test match; England batted first and got skittled for 85 all-out before lunch. On the first day.

  10. PaulBC says

    I swear I did not get to the part where he alludes to Brideshead Revisited before posting the above. And yeah, there is definitely some self-conscious BR pastiching going on here:

    In Boris, though, it was as if I’d finally encountered the ‘real’ Oxford, the Platonic ideal. While the rest of us were works-in-progress, vainly trying on different personae, Boris was the finished article.

    On the subject of “those wacky Brits”, I had the dubious honor of watching a debate between Tory criminal Neil Hamilton and some Welsh university students in the mid-90s. It was a lot of fun, actually, and I wish we had that kind of thing in the US. Hamilton had the room going. He’s smart and funny. He’s also some kind of fascist, I’m pretty sure. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  11. PaulBC says

    The rational part of my brain is still full of doubts and uncertainties. What sensible person would look at Boris’s peripatetic career and rakish personality and conclude that he is the right man to lead Britain at this moment of maximum danger?

    So let’s see. The author has family connections to Boris Johnson, hung out in the same social circles, and is grateful to Johnson for his reaction to a farce he wrote that featured him:

    Boris took it on the chin. He didn’t demote us, didn’t withdraw any of our editorial privileges, didn’t stop inviting us to office parties.

    I’m just shocked that the “rational part” of his brain is not holding sway here. Like you’d almost think human social capital can override reason in some instances. I’ll need some time to wrap my head around that melon scratcher.

  12. bryanfeir says

    Let me go light up a pipe, pour myself a scotch and read the rest of it by toss the rest of it in the fire.

    I think that works better.

  13. microraptor says

    PaulBC @9: I think it’s really the combovers wearing cheap human costumes.

  14. bryanfeir says

    Fair enough. I was assuming reading on paper. Some things are better used as kindling than as reading material.

  15. unclefrogy says

    for all his populist antics as shown on America TV Boris is an old eatonian and not working class but right smack dab in the establishment hence a leader of the Torries. the only thing he shares with DT personal ambition. however it wont help him with the reality of the world he finds himself in
    things sure are getting interesting, if you wrote a TV series with all this in it, it would not get critical acclaim .
    uncle frogy

  16. blf says

    the only thing [johnson] shares with DT personal ambition.

    And lying, incompetence, more lying, raging narcissism, holding grudges, lies, fantasizing, blaming others, surrounding himself with lying incompetent fantasists, and basically being extremely toxic. Both hair furor’s thugs in the States, and Johnson’s nasty party in teh NKofE (N.Korea of Europe) depend on out-and-and facists (the N.Irish “D”UP in teh NKofE, and teh thugs themselves in the States). Both individuals were “elected” by a minority of voters.

  17. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Boris Johnson looks like a former beach bum who has inherited a job from his daddy. That’s Übermensch now?

  18. John Morales says


    Both individuals were “elected” by a minority of voters.

    Close enough for me.

    In the UK, the party determines who is the Prime Pinister.
    In the USA, the electoral college determines who is the President.

    (People’s vote? Pftui!)

  19. unclefrogy says

    well all that is true and most off that could be filed under ambition over all else.
    they are both disgusting pee-holes (thanks spell check)
    If they have any ideals I just doubt they are very similar their personal backgrounds are rather different, but to be honest I do not have a very strong interest in into their lives and thought, what they display readily for the cameras is too much already
    uncle frogy