In 2011, Owen Jones, Guardian columnist and identitarian leftist, published Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. In the book Jones lays bare the chattering classes disdain for ordinary people. “It seems” he writes “as though working-class people are the one group in society that you can say practically anything about.” Chavs was lauded a significant work, The New York Times called it “a work of passion, sympathy and moral grace.”
But 2011 seems such a long, long time ago. So long ago that Jones appears to have forgotten he actually wrote it. Chavs belongs to a very different time and a very different place. It belongs to a land long forgotten, a land that existed BB -Before Brexit. For Jones, initially an advocate of Lexit (a ‘left wing’ campaign to leave the EU), Brexit was the game changer. Why? Because it allowed ordinary people, chavs included, an equal say in how the country should be governed.
A couple of years ago I reread Chavs. This time round I couldn’t help but feel that Jones’s “passion” for the ordinary classes was actually rather paper thin. Like so many of his ilk, Jones thinks ordinary people should be pitied and patronised, but perhaps more so, they should be kept firmly in their place. God forbid they should be given a say, let alone even listened to. Like many within the ‘liberal’ media and ‘creative’ industries, Brexit shattered Jones’s cosseted world view and exposed the Hameau de la Reineesque nature of his radicalism. Brexit allowed Jones to jump ship – he was never really onboard anyway, so it wasn’t much of a splash. He could now say what he really thought of the working-class, without fear of censure or admonishment. Low and behold they were chavs after all, and racist bigots to boot. And for the last 6 years Jones has been a dedicated foot soldier in the demonization of ordinary British Brexit voters.
So, it is hard to read Jones latest Guardian article on the coronavirus and social inequality without the cynicism it deserves. This is Jones at his best, the working-class put firmly back in their place – poor, pitiful and to be pitied.
Not only has Jones bought into the caricatures of ordinary people he once sought to expose, but it is pretty safe to say that over the last 9 years or so since the publication of Chavs, he has been at the forefront of the leftist demonization of the British working-class as unconscionable other.
Much of the criticism of the UK Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been shaped by ideological predisposition rather than balanced scientific evaluation. But Jones does take the biscuit. He writes:
“A decade of austerity, and a social order that deprives millions of citizens of a comfortable existence, will mean many more deaths in the coming weeks and months that could have been avoided.”
Given that he has spent the last 6 years attempting to deprive millions of British citizens their democratic rights, these are weasel words indeed. The absence of any modicum of self-reflection on Jones’s part is impressive, but not surprising.
Owen Jones belongs to what writer Douglas Murray has called the wokerati – a self-selecting, self-serving cabal of illiberal identitarian moralists. Not only has Jones bought into the caricatures of ordinary people he once sought to expose, but it is pretty safe to say that over the last 9 years or so since the publication of Chavs, he has been at the forefront of the leftist demonization of the British working-class as unconscionable other.
In 2014 Jones followed Chavs with The Establishment: And How They Get away With It. You’ll find it in the autobiography section.