‘I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Piers Morgan these days.’
‘I’m not a Piers Morgan fan but he’s really been on the money lately.’
‘I never thought I’d be Team Piers Morgan but here we are!’
Over the past few weeks, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic became an impossible-to-ignore scourge in Britain, I’ve seen a lot of people I know, people whose politics are typically much more left than center, make a lot of comments about Piers Morgan that verge on celebratory. The infamous former tabloid editor turned morning talk-show host and columnist has been something of a public joke in the U.K. for decades. As Stephen Fry famously joked: What’s the definition of ‘countryside?’ Killing Piers Morgan. This is, after all, the man who was fired from editing the Daily Mirror when he put fake images of Iraqi prisoners being abused by the British Army on the front page. This is the man who was front and center in the phone-hacking allegations that fully exposed the horrors of the British tabloids. He’s been the subject of thousands of complaints to Ofcom over his vile comments on Good Morning Britain and he once infamously claimed that he’d never met serial pedophile Jimmy Savile in his lifetime until it was pointed out that he had previously written about meeting Savile and him having been a fan of Morgan’s work in an old column. Suffice to say, he is a historically awful person.
So, why the sudden U-Turn in public opinion?
Morgan has always tried to sell himself as the populist voice of the British public, the supposed ‘voice of the silent minority’ which conveniently allowed him to never stop bellowing his uninformed dribble from the rooftops. The obvious problem with this political stance is that it is endlessly changing, going wherever the wind blows for no other reason than chasing the approval of this ceaselessly evolving and mostly fictional concept. Right now, that has taken shape with Morgan being much firmer in his interviews with Tory politicians than usual, holding them to task for the government’s ineptitude in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. This week, he garnered further praise for a frankly bizarre interview with Rudy Giuliani that was only two steps removed from a David Lynch movie in its nightmarish perplexity. Now, he’s urging Donald Trump, a man he formerly described as his friend, to listen to Meghan Markle on the issue of Black Lives Matter.
You may find all of this rabble-rousing rather disingenuous if you know the slightest information about Morgan’s rhetoric, from his endless transphobia to his near-weekly rants against Markle to his previous stance of ‘all lives matter.’ What a glowing voice of decency you are right now, eh Piers? Why the turn to the left after years of misogyny, transphobia, racism, and Trump-supporting? It’s almost like it’s not financially or personally beneficial for you to be so right now. Huh.
ALL lives matter. > RT @marclamonthill ALL black lives matter.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 21, 2015
Morgan is hardly unique in this regard. Indeed, a large portion of the talking-head-for-hire political commentator circuit would not exist if we expected some degree of consistency from its biggest players. We have seen time and time again how commercially beneficial it can be to be a bigot. Katie Hopkins became a household name for comparing refugees to vermin while Jeremy Clarkson is still beloved among the petrolhead white men for his ‘jokes’ about killing sex workers. Part of this is rooted in the ‘but both sides’ model of forced debate that thrives on talk shows and the modern cable news ecosystem, something British media has dishearteningly been eager to replicate. You’ve all seen the thing I’m talking about: News anchor interviews major bigot, a few gotcha questions are asked, the anchor gets in some good gif-ready reaction shots and both sides of the equation post the interview on YouTube with the claim that they ‘destroyed’ their opposition. The anchor and news organization get a boost of clout for ‘listening to the other side’ and ‘holding them to task’ while the bigot gets more platforms to spew their unchallenged hate to wider and more cash-heavy audiences. It doesn’t matter if there is nothing to truly debate; you just force an argument to happen, which is how we get Piers Morgan screaming over trans and nonbinary people that he now identifies as a penguin.
If Morgan could get points for still being Boris Johnson and Donald Trump’s goon right now then he would. If he felt that the overwhelming public opinion in Britain after George Floyd’s murder was one of pro-white and pro-cop rhetoric then he would still be screaming ‘all lives matter’ on Twitter. While it may be encouraging to see that basic human decency once in a while lines up with his agenda, let’s not confuse self-preservation for personal growth. Maybe his words will get through to some of his core audience and make a tangible difference but we shouldn’t see that as real growth or humility from a man who doesn’t seem to have done any work in examining his own past and the white supremacy he contributed to through it.
Piers Morgan risks nothing. He knows, like all of his media friends, that his position is secure regardless of what he says. He’s never faced any real punishment or offered sincere apologies or even a modicum of self-awareness for his decades of contrarianism. I highly doubt he’ll turn around tomorrow and talk about the importance of black trans lives in this movement because British media is so poisonously transphobic and he can still make money that way.
Morgan admitted that he voted Conservative in last year’s General Election, which saw Boris Johnson retain power in 10 Downing Street with a sizeable majority. He said he did so because he was a ‘fan of democracy’ and wanted the PM to honor the result of the 2016 Brexit vote. Now he’s claiming to be the true opposition to the Tory government’s failures, something he explicitly endorsed in the ballot box, and the lie of populism is exposed once more. Self-interest, not change. For Morgan, and nobody else. If the opinions of the white-majority British public begin to waver on the Black Lives Matter movement, you can bet that it’ll be Piers Morgan leading the charge.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.