Beyond the blackpill
The advent of doomposting
A foreign visitor who returned to England after the Civil War found the people much changed – and not for the better.; ‘the people, whom he remembered as friendly and good-humoured, had become “melancholy, spiteful, as if bewitched.”
They had plenty of cause for their gloom. They had experienced near ten years of war, there had been no settled government for over half a decade and they were taxed – unfairly - to the hilt. Homelessness, begging and highway robbery was on the increase but trade and industry had declined, whilst three poor harvests meant the price of wheat, barley and oats were the highest of the century. ‘The mood of London by the winter of 1648 was one of glum and resentful endurance’ wrote C.V. Wedgwood;
and in so far as it is possible to generalise about a people this was the prevailing mood throughout the country. The Royalists, after their second defeat, were leaderless and hopeless... For anyone who reads the reads pamphlets, newspapers or letters written by the King's adherents at this time cannot but be struck by the discrepancy between the strengths of the emotions expressed and feebleness with which they were translated, or rather not translated, into action.
The situation is in complete contrast to our own; we’ve had settled government for over a decade.
We haven’t seen civil war rage either, of course, but much is the same; our taxes are high, yet borne strikingly unfairly. Highway robbery may have stopped, but crime is back - economic prosperity, meanwhile, is far from being so. Meanwhile every day, prices tick-tick-tick relentlessly upwards.
Whilst may not have Royalists anymore, we still have a whole swath of people who are leaderless and hopeless in the face of these recurring problems. So too is the pervasive sense of glum, resentful endurance. That’s reflected in what we read; regular articles in the right’s most popular outlets, whole careers in the commentariat and sections of Twitter large enough to form a field army are now given over to unafraid, eloquent, well informed doomposting. Their pamphlets may have been replaced by substack posts, but the discrepancy between the strengths of the emotions expressed and the feebleness of their translation is still there.
The phenomenon has become so widespread that Fred Skulthorp has started a fledgling Substack covering the ever-increasing sense of entropy;
Today’s discourse is saturated in the apocalypse... There are no obvious horsemen, this is not one marked not by a single defining event, but instead a sense of inaction, helplessness, a guilty complicity that sees us on a crash course with our own destiny.
Britain is uniquely susceptible to doomposting tendencies. Since the end of the Second World War, we’ve been searching for its grand narrative. In 1962, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that ‘Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role’. His comments caused outrage in Britain, likely because after the partition of India, the Suez Crisis and imperial withdrawal from Palestine, Malaya, Jordan, Libya, Oman, the Sudan, the Gold Coast, Burma, Singapore, Cyprus, Nigeria, Somaliland, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Kuwait, everyone knew they were true.
The war was both a high watermark for British power and a catafalque for Great Britain, capital G, capital B. Pre-war, Britain was the princeps amongst nations - no longer the unequalled global hegemon, but still retaining her pride, military strength and an unrivalled global reach. After the war came a precipitous decline to which Britons have still to acclimatise. Before the War, Britain was the author of history and global events. After the War, it was their victim. Doomposting speaks to a national psyche that’s never regained a sense of importance and a nation that’s still to successfully agree on a new role for itself.
The role doomposters play is important in politics (and vital to right-wingers). Some of them are highly erudite and amongst the best commentators we have; I always said I liked reading Matthew Parris, but it was depressing to see someone so articulate be so wrong so often. I like reading Ed West too, but it's depressing to see someone so articulate be so right so often. Having intelligent and articulate people expressing the same concerns as you makes it clear those concerns don’t arise from your warped perception of reality, but from a genuine problem. You aren’t the problem; it really is them.
But they are also unshrinking. Conservatives (especially the few remaining young ones) haven’t been particularly well-served by recent Conservative governments. A sense of hopelessness can be a great liberation; that’s why the pages of outlets like UnHerd, The Critic, IM-1776 and The Mallard (never mind Twitter) are full of doomposters questioning every conventional wisdom the establishment has, whether it’s bemoaning the inability of a Conservative government to enact conservative policies, addressing the boomer domination of the economy, asking whether immigration really benefits the economy or demanding that we actually build houses. Every establishment figure’s tweets, media appearances and articles are frenziedly scrutinised, and often exposed for what they are; outright lies in defence of a system that isn’t working for millions.
Doomposters are also very adept at showing just how large the structural problems we face are. In a breathlessly depressing paragraph, James Dickson writes in UnHerd;
After nearly two decades of stagnant wages, lethargic economic growth and public service atrophy... we are set to have the punitively high taxes of southern Europe, the leaden atmosphere of northern Europe, and the dire public services of the United States. All in the middle of a recession, a surge in inflation, the highest taxes in 70 years, and a cost-of-living crisis.
And that’s just doomposting the last Budget. The range of doomposting is vast, because the range of problems this country faces is equally so. Faced with a country that hasn’t worked in anyone’s favour but boomers and huge business for years, why not howl into the void about all of it? It would be arguably more productive than trying to pass reforms to build more houses.
But howling into the void can’t be an end unto itself. Doomposting is vital and urgent but it must lead somewhere; it can be a prelude to action, but not a substitute. And it needs to lead to the re-establishment of Britain’s future.
Doomposting, by its’ very nature, focus on the problems more than the opportunities. But voters are just as disillusioned as doomposters are. As I wrote in The Critic about ‘After the Fall’, a new report from Onward, the vast majority of the Conservative’s lost voters have simply drifted into “Don’t Know.” Doomposting is either (or both) reflecting and informing a level of political ennui shared by the majority of the population, who don’t particularly want to vote for either of the main parties either. Doomposting and voter apathy express a ‘glum and resentful endurance’ of managerial politics, but also a desire for a politics of meaning, a politics that wants to change Britain’s course, not merely mark time until the next election.
The only way we can get people to invest in our present is to restore their faith in the future; Doomposting isn’t just wailing that Britain’s challenges seem so great, but at the want of courage and ability to tackle them. People are ready for an ideological mission again, to be sold on a political project they can buy into. As Rashid Dar writes;
Political liberals, however—in their insistence that all people wanted was to be left alone as libertine individuals freed from “ideology”—failed to understand the degree of ennui, meaninglessness, and “spiritual confusion” that their own ideology had been leaving in its wake. Now realizing just how grave of a liability this was, they’ve been rudely awakened to a brave new world, one in active revolt. People the globe over are in rapture by the idea that politics could, once again, re-enchant the world with collective mission and purpose.
What that collective mission and purpose is is the question Doompoasters are really grappling with. Beyond the blackpill lies a compelling and uniting vision, one that explains what road people are travelling on, where it leads and how they got there. But Cassandra’s wailing never saved a nation.