Metaphors, Silicon Sultans and salivating idiots – another fine mess

We haven’t quite “sent it packing” yet, however once COVID-19 has finally been “wrestled to the ground” – mid next year, perhaps; or, maybe never – clearly we will “bounce back stronger than ever before”, according to the strictly non-hyperbolic musings of Prime Minister Demonic Goings Boris Johnson.

Aftermath of World War I? World War II? Bibble babble, donnez-moi un break, mate, as the wily wordsmith would have it.

In his seminal 1995 paper on “Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust”, cognitive linguist and philosopher George Lakoff explained that “While conservatives understand that all of their policies have a single unified origin, liberals understand their own political conceptual universe so badly that they still think of it in terms coalitions of interest.”

He concluded that “Liberals need to go beyond coalitions of interest groups to consciously construct a unified language and imagery to convey their worldview. This will not be easy, and they are thirty years behind.” Make that about 55 years by now.

Metaphors of Brexit

My co-podder Sam likes a good metaphor as much as any humanist-classicist, and indeed the How to Be Insightful STEP Prism is a metaphor and a framework – to help us think about how we think. He still smarts over Demonic Goings’s undermining lockdown unity with his travel antics – now proven by an official report, no less.

Metaphors matter a great deal, and as metaphorical imperatives we know they make for wining formulae from “take back control” to “make America great again.” So what if they then don’t live up to expectations? Piffle paffle. Fake news. “No you’re fake news.” In his 2019 book “Metaphors of Brexit”, Jonathan Charteris-Black quotes Boris Johnson’s policy on cake as “pro having it and pro eating it.”

Now that’s an interesting one, especially in light of the Prime Minister now advocating shedding the odd excess calory – not in a nannying way, mind you, and of course we wouldn’t want to curb the advertorial enthusiasm of the food and drink industry too much. The poor petals are suffering enough already from the global crisis.

Sam know this industry bleating only too well, having been a practising insider for many years.


But back to the Prime Minister – a near-death experience can knock some sense into the most rabid hedonist. Never at risk of being labelled a “great big quivering gelatinous invertebrate jelly of indecision”, the less-than-optimally BMI’d Johnson has now announced, according to the BBC, an “obesity crackdown. ” Spun differently, Bloomberg calls it a “desperate change of direction”. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

Neville, who is deeply sceptical about pretty much all things journalism these days, has several axes to grind with COVID coverage and offer this piece of advice: “Never, ever, read the Daily Mail on topics like this.” Or any topic.

The link between being overweight and COVID-19 impact is highlighting a global public health crisis that me and my colleagues at Dot I/O Health have been talking and writing about for a good while, and perhaps this is the time when the “diabesity epidemic” will be addressed in more than a metaphorical sense. Perhaps now is the time for a sugar tax rush which would also impact non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH), yet another silent epidemic that didn’t get nearly enough attention pre-COVID19 (so what are the chances now).

There’s plenty more in this episode, from the congressional beatings meted out on the modern Robber Barons (labelled the Silicon Sultans in the Economist in January 2015), to the impending launch of Calling Bullshit in book format – much anticipated.

There’s also plenty about the psychopathologies of DJT, not least through the professional, literal and literary highlighting of his niece, clinical psychologist Mary Trump. She doesn’t quite label Potus 45 a “salivating idiot” (those are my words, not minced as Sam suggested). Hers is more the calmly eviscerating style, and all the more impactful for it.

This was a long episode, and definitely short of dull moments. In about a month, we’re back, and perhaps then with more culinary perspective.

On the theme of metaphors, there’s lots more to unpick, explore and unravel – not least in the never-ending funnies of our classicist PM who sees himself and his ilk as “pro-secco but by no means anti-pasto” (from a Sun interview on 30th September 2016).

Perhaps a bit more pro-motion re NHS and a bit less anti-social “one rule for them” exceptionalism would go down well. Just a thought.

Listen to Episode 38:

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