Monday 4 January 2016

Simon Danczuk and Narcissism

Hand on heart, I'm not Simon Danczuk's biggest fan. Of all the Labour MPs of this Parliament and the last, his record has been downright appalling. At times when UKIP were surging, he courted will-he won't-he defection rumours in the gutter press. He's taken to the airwaves to attack socialists as the equivalents of the BNP, and we shall not forget that Danczuk was paid handsomely by the two most right-wing rags in the land to dump all over Labour's general election efforts, and then use those same pages to say oh-so provocative things about the party that has provided him a damn good living. As far as I'm concerned, he's no better than a scab, a Westminster equivalent of a working miner who taunted pickets with wads of fives and tens. He brought himself and his office into disrepute a long time ago, and it's a miracle it's taken this long for him to get his comeuppance.

Better late then never, I suppose. And it's fitting his former employers The Sun and The Mail are the ones to stab him in the front, to borrow a popular Westminster phrase. I'm sure readers know the allegations made about him by now, and seeing as he's owned up we can treat them as established fact. Let's just be clear though, what any MP or anyone in the public eye does in their private lives is matter for them. It only becomes a topic of concern and therefore the party's, and possibly Parliamentary standards, when moral transgression puts them on the wrong side of political norms, rules, and perhaps the law. It is therefore right the party have swiftly suspended him pending an investigation. It's exactly what has happened in dozens of cases involving lesser known party representatives over the years. Please take note, Jacqui Smith. Nevertheless, I agree with Jon Lansman: Danczuk is entitled to fair treatment and a fair hearing by the party.

I want to move on to something more substantial, what you might call the figure or person of Simon Danczuk. Or, more properly, his narcissism. The last time this blog looked into narcissism was - ironically - in the case of the paedophile rock star, Ian Watkins. While Danczuk has not plunged into the depths of criminal depravity, framing him in terms of a sociological understanding of narcissism makes a lot of sense of his behaviour. Starting with Danczuk's own account of his actions, he's variously described his behaviour in terms of suffering depression, having a drinking problem, and possessing a "weakness" for young women. While he does deserve a smidgen of credit for avoiding a non-apology, we are being invited by him and those who alibi him to view his behaviour as the playthings of characteristics somehow external to his character, a bit like Nigel Farage blaming his own xenophobic comments about Romanians on tiredness. Now, of course, none of us are prisoners of our problems and our desires. We, as social beings, are a culmination of all the relations that have ever bared down on us since before we were born. These however do not determine who we are, but they condition our existence, our thoughts, our decision-making. The same is true of one's addiction to the bottle, one's mental health, one's sexual predilections. But what they cannot do is excuse our actions. That we are conditioned by our social being does not alter the fact we choose what we do. Social structures structure our agency, but they do not determine it. The same applies to mental health conditions. The fact of the matter is that the self-important, self-publicising Simon Danczuk we know and loathe is a creature of his own concoction. In her series of interviews over the new year, his recent ex-partner Claire Hamilton portrays a man prepared to do anything to get his name in the press, and say anything to inflate his already swollen bank account. A typical exhibit is his recent call for overseas aid to be scrapped and spent on flood defences instead. Effectively, he's Westminster's own Katie Hopkins and it's unsurprising that they would have a long-running coverage-generating feud with one another.

We all know that Westminster is pathologically self-referential. As the seat of government power its comings and goings receive a great deal of media attention. There are people paid to write about it, film it, interrogate it. There are even absurd hobbyists providing comment about it off their own bat. And, as we know, if you're lucky (and wily) enough to become one of its inhabitants, a gilded existence can await: £74,000/annum, staff, living costs, power, a profile and, for some, a certain aura that attaches itself to the office. All of these are very attractive to prospective MPs, and helps explain why everyone who was anyone in my local party flung their keys into the fruit bowl when the constituency became vacant in early 2010. Okay, you do have to fancy yourself a bit to take on the responsibility of being an MP, but for people of a certain personality type it's easy to get seduced by the conceit attached to the position, that to have got through a selection and bested an election requires something lesser folk haven't got. A bit like a business owner who thinks their success has nothing to do with the work and ingenuity of the staff they employ. This is Danczuk down to a tee. Over 20 years he's time-served as a councillor, a regional board member, a campaign manager; so having dragged himself through the structures of the party and having seen many a selection, election, and career fall by the wayside it;s understandable why he thinks himself a bit special and therefore entitled to behave as he does. His Parliamentary position flatters his ego, and what flows from that - the press attention, the telly appearances, the selfie-loving Karen, and, of course, sexting with a young women 32 years his junior all flatter his ego. And his political interventions, if they can be called that, around the floods, around Jeremy's leadership, around Ed Miliband before him, even with regard to the late and unlamented Cyril Smith, are each ostensibly about other matters but ultimately it is Danczuk who is at the centre. This is Danczuk the courageous naysayer and campaigner, or rather Danczuk inviting people who follow such things to see him in this light. In the most self-referential of locales, he is the most self-referential of its citizens.

That in mind, I'm afraid anyone hoping that Danczuk will do the decent thing and resign his seat are going to be disappointed. If he gets expelled by the party (which is likely) but the police and the Commons take no action against him (which I also think is likely), he'll soldier on as an independent. There is no job with a nice salary waiting on the outside, and no one that would give him a serious media gig. His bankability with the gutter press is dependent on remaining a Labour MP. Once gone, no one will care for his anti-Jeremy and anti-party ranting. Though some might shell out for a well-publicised journey through rehab, and he has the right kind of tarnish attractive to producers of Celebrity Big Brother. Either way, the time is soon when Danczuk and his galloping narcissism shall disappear from our political horizon. Let us hope no one fills the huge gap his ego leaves behind.


BCFG said...

Many many men can have problems resisting young women. I wouldn't call this particularly depraved, more a perfectly and natural desire.

Still, for cultural reasons all of their own and which could be subjected to analysis, it doesn't impress the parents when the apple of their eye brings home a randy Granddad. It does make me think why we analyse 'deviants' but not the common sense view? Or in other words we think we should analyse Danczuk and not the reaction to his actions. I guess criticism of the majority became unpopular after Socrates demise! So we concentrate on the 'deviants' as this provides a nice warm feeling inside. Like a war at the other end of the Earth.

In order to suppress these natural and perfectly reasonable desires I would recommend thinking beyond the underpants. Look at the object of your desire and imagine having to listen to one direction or having to watch ITVbe all evening. Or imagine her saying, "Who are Mike and the Mechanics?". Nothing can be worth that, well not the first 2 anyway!

Still, if we can use this as an excuse to get rid of a Blairite then for gods sake do it.

Speedy said...

"That we are conditioned by our social being does not alter the fact we choose what we do. Social structures structure our agency, but they do not determine it."

I think you are conflating two separate concepts here.

You are commenting on a psychological, not sociological phenomenon. Narcissists should indeed be held accountable for their actions, because it is the only way to control them (if controlling is what they require) but within the prism of Narcissism they are slaves to their Complex (as Jung would put it) so therefore not able to understand they are acting unacceptably. They essentially ARE their complex, so don't have much choice in the matter. Much opinion holds that true Narcissists cannot be cured. I don't like to believe that is true, but it does appear to be very difficult to "fix" genuine Narcissists.

Of course, we all have a Narcissism within us. This is one reason why extremist causes, from Nazism to ISIS, have so much appeal among certain people at the far end of this spectrum - it embodies their belief in themselves as kind of supreme beings, almost Gods in the Greek sense, and makes them capable of the full range of horrors. It tends to spring from an inflated sense of powerlessness, which is over-compensated for by an inflated sense of powerfulness. This could be an interesting thing to explore from a sociological perspective: how social movements are both created by and become a vessel for Narcissism.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that he has narcisistic tendencies or Narcisistic Personality Disorder?

Speedy said...

Precisely, Yvonne, and that's why I believe he is confused: Phil is conflating the singular (psychology) with the plural (sociology) which is why I do not think his analysis works.

Phil said...

I'm not confused at all. Narcissism is running rampant in our culture. What the psychologists call the narcissistic personality is a sociological phenomenon ...

Speedy said...

I agree ours is a narcissistic culture, Phil, and that is a sociological term.

However, my point of disagreement was where you inferred narcissistic individuals had a choice.

Thinking it through, I have to understand that you regard Danczuck as acting narcistically, rather than being a narcissist? Ie, he is acting within the social norm? In which case he has a choice to act otherwise, whereas a true narcissist, arguably, does not.

Another example might be - I could be a Roman and a slave owner, indeed a slave dealer. This is the social norm of my society. Dealing in slaves does not make me a bad person, but treating them poorly judged by the standards of the time does. Within this context I have the choice.