With our newfangled culture wars reaching fever pitch after a summer of tumultuous protests induced by the death of George Floyd, there is an increasing chance for Z-list celebrities to reinvent themselves as progressive warriors in the new cultural battlefield. Whether we want it or not, Ireland is doomed to be plugged into American-style culture wars for the foreseeable future, with each new iteration more exhausting than the last.
In the year that saw Imelda May re-emerge with strength using slam poetry to front a Bank of America funded postering campaign against essentialist concepts of Irishness, it now appears that Jedward is stepping up to bat in the defence of face masks, racial minorities and against trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). Garnering approval from the liberal Twitter mob with denouncements of JK Rowling for transphobia, as well as criticising anti-lockdown protests, the twin Grimes brothers have catapulted themselves back into semi-relevance after a half-decade long lull.
To summarise in the last week the duo who haunted your secondary schooling with their screeching have established themselves as moral arbiters among liberal Irish opinion making.
If the much maligned concept of virtue signalling wasn’t used cynically before, it certainly is now. The past few months has seen the left hit the accelerator on diversity politics, with eager celebs aiming to re-invigorate crestfallen careers. The mandatory rite of passage for anyone in the public sphere is to genuflect towards liberal opinion for fear of being canceled, with more strategic chancers like Jedward consciously playing to the rafters.
While the two themselves publicly and unashamedly marched in Black Lives Matters protests earlier this year, they have granted themselves the moral authority to preach against the wave of anti-lockdown protests hitting Irish streets recently, crossing swords with The Corrs member Jim Corr, among other lockdown objectors. What perhaps attracted the most notoriety however were statements by the pair in relation to burning the works of JK Rowling of the latter’s transphobia.
Rowling, as the more fortunate of readers are unaware, has made herself a consummate public enemy over statements in favour of gender essentialism, as well as defending a woman dismissed over alleged transphobic remarks. If you want to get an insight about how feral these cultural dogfights are getting you should take a step back and apprehend that we are at a stage where effectively proscribing the author of Harry Potter is the social norm among cultural elites.
Originally thought to have been driven down a path of performing at children’s discos, the Jedward duo have attained a certain degree of prominence trumpeting progressive causes; from the denunciation of mask protests, to appearing to want to burn JK Rowling novels for the authors alleged transphobia. Lapped up by a cyber peanut gallery that lauds anything with a Twitter blue checkmark, the Grimes brothers have attained a considerable degree of social capital through their stances alone.
Coming to prominence during the 2009 series of the British singing competition, the X Factor, John and Edward Grimes lived out a semi-successful career under the tutelage of their manager Louis Walsh, becoming infamous for their gawdy performances and equally ostentatious hairdos. With a few tours, albums and TV appearances under their belt it originally appeared the two would fade into the sunset with their money made.
Not content to be confined to the intellectual charnel house that is TV, Jedward’s Pauline conversion to the banner of progressivism has been covered favourably by both the state broadcaster, as well as respectable broadsheet opinion in the form of Finn McRedmond writing in the Irish Times.
While Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill bemoans their book burning utterations as being a harbinger of neo-fascist identity politics, this perhaps only gives this social puritanism graces it doesn’t deserve. While enemies of the new cultural order face professional consequences, it is unlikely we will see Jedward actually igniting any JK Rowling novel beyond their Twitter account.
The form of celebrity culture inaugurated during the advent of pop, where otherwise low intelligent and low interest characters came to prominence on the back of TV and later the Internet, was to my mind thought to be waning in an era of lockdown. Not so, as a whole generation of junk performers seek to cash in amid the cultural zeitgeist, and a culture industry seeking to promote any progressive fad.
While they may be Twitter’s flavour of the month today, who is to say the outrage mob won’t eventually turn on the two performers. Progressive court opinion is practically Robespierrean, with many who have ridden the lightning on liberal social causes being consumed by the baying crowds that buoyed them on. JK Rowling herself, whom the two have directed fire on, was firmly part of the liberal literary canon before she began to stray from the pack on the transgender question.
It is merely a matter of time before the Twitter mob charge the brothers with appropiating, or at least parodying, gay stereotypes and the two will be torn to shreds like many before.
In both their recent metamorphosis from car-crash TV entertainers to woke warriors, one repeating theme stays constant; a need for artificial performance. Ultimately their pontificating on the causes of racial equality and lockdown advice carry as much as when they were pronouncing around in Spandex and Brylcreem at the beginning of the last decade.
On both issues of the transgender cult overstepping the line into social puritanism as well as extremities of lockdown, progressives are increasingly finding themselves on the wrong side of history despite their increasing authoritarianism. How much of this rush to attain celebrity endorsement is a coping strategy is another question.
Whether it be the cult of hypochondria that has overcome the country and resulted in the current schizophrenic lockdown, or the transgender lobby hacking away at child welfare with underage gender transitions, progressives will lose these arguments eventually when the damage becomes too transparent for society to bear, Jedward or no Jedward.
Considering we live in an epoch where Blindboy has passed himself off as a public intellectual for a decade, or where a Game of Thrones actor spends half his time lecturing the Irish public on accepting refugees, expect the second coming of Jedward to last a while.
The limitations of this form of left-wing celebrity population was illustrated in the now forgotten Russell Brand craze of 2014, arguably impairing the British Labour Party who flirted with the actor turned pseudo-Messianic political activist.
Expect more and more of these celebrity resurrections incentivised by their conceited need to be in the public square, as technocracy becomes more and more discredited about botched covid responses liberalism will avenues to cajole an increasingly disquieted Irish population.