Glastonbury has exposed the fake virtue of the elites

Few events highlight the hypocrisy of the woke as much as ‘Glasto’.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics UK

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Virtue-signalling reached its nadir on Friday night. It was at the Glastonbury music festival. Of course it was. A swaying crowd of the time-rich, turbo-smug thirtysomethings who make up Glasto’s clientele passed around an inflatable dinghy filled with dummies designed to look like migrants crossing the English Channel. As some band you’ve never heard of sang a song about ‘beautiful immigrants’, the audience hoisted the blow-up boat above their heads and basically crowd-surfed it. What a gauche display of phoney virtue. What an orgy of hollow vanity. Surely it would have been cheaper to rustle up a banner saying, ‘Aren’t we fucking wonderful?’.

It will surprise not a living soul that the boat was the handiwork of Banksy, every posh twat’s favourite graffiti artist. Banksy has never once seen a moneyed, mostly white audience that he didn’t want to titillate with platitudes about Tory scum and cruel capitalism, so it was only natural he would gravitate towards Glastonbury. He knows it’s rammed with people called Archie and Poppy who lap up his unsubtle stencils about the rat race that is neoliberal society and how dreadfully frightful war can be. So who better to dragoon into his boat stunt than these folk who likewise love advertising to the world how much they care about migrants and stuff?

Let’s leave to one side how unbelievably crude it is for a rich graffitist and Brits who can afford to fork out £355 to listen to crap music for five days to celebrate boat journeys that often end in death. One wonders if any of the audience members who cheered illegal immigration later retired to one of Glasto’s luxury yurts, which contain not only ‘proper flushing toilets’ but also toilet attendants. You can hire one for £5,000, which, ironically, is around the same amount of money dirt-poor migrants are forced to stump up to criminal gangs for a seat on one of their perilous crossings that the righteous of Glasto think it’s a hoot to sanctify.

No, even worse than the sight of the well-off of Worthy Farm using the wretched of the Earth to burnish their moral credentials is the fact that if any Channel-crossing migrant were to rock up to Glastonbury they’d be cuffed and shoved in the back of a paddy wagon faster than you could say ‘What time’s Dua Lipa on?’. Glastonbury is one of the most fortified zones in Britain. It is surrounded by a fence that is 4.12m high and 7.8km long and which has numerous ‘unique high-security features’, including an ‘external roadway to prevent tunnelling’, a ‘45-degree overhang to prevent climbing’ and ‘zero nuts and bolts to stop the fence being tampered with’. ‘No borders!’, cry the virtuous of Glasto while surrounded by a border fence that the screws of Alcatraz would have envied.

The unsettling truth is that it’s easier for an illegal immigrant to get into the UK than it is for a person of insufficient means to get into Glastonbury. Turn up on the shores of Kent in a dinghy and you’ll be given food, water and a room in a hotel. Turn up ticketless to Glasto and you’re done for. There are ‘watchtowers’ – literally – all along the imposing fence, keeping an eye out for ‘nuisance Brits trying to get in for free’. There are press reports of music fans buying ‘grappling hooks’ out of ‘pure desperation’ to try to scale the ‘super fortress fence’. ‘Migrants welcome here’, Glasto types love to say, but they don’t mean here, not on Worthy Farm, not while I’m trying to enjoy a vegan sausage while listening to Sleaford Mods for heaven’s sake.

I can think of no better insight into the cant of the tosser class than the fact they seem to think their annual five-day party in the mud deserves better protection than the nation itself. That they accord more moral weight to their right to listen to LCD Soundsystem than they do to Britain’s right to exercise sovereign dominion over its borders. ‘How dare those Tory scum try to stop the boats?!’, they no doubt mumble over a Camden Hells in the Avalon Inn while not a hundred metres away some security bruiser in a hi-vis vest is barking into a walkie-talkie: ‘Security breach on Fence 4!’ It’s virtue-signalling summed up: people of means in a fenced-off fantasy zone drunkenly deriding the rest of us for our archaic belief in borders.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Glasto has fallen far since its founding in 1970. Back then it was a festival for men with beards and women without bras who only wanted to bonk to Marc Bolan. Now it’s an entirely corporate affair at which 48-year-old readers of Mojo bop awkwardly to Coldplay. Even Glasto founder Michael Eavis admits the festival has become ‘too middle-aged’ and ‘respectable’. ‘The kids’ added ‘so much to the flavour’, he said, but now all we’re getting is ‘the 30- and 40-year-olds’. And insufferable 30- and 40-year-olds at that. The kind content to attend workshops on ‘Anti-Bullying’ and ‘Mansplaining and Misogyny’ or to treat themselves to a session with one of the ‘skilled therapists’ in ‘The Healing Field’. These are all real things at Glasto. Rock’n’roll.

The phoney virtue on display at this ageing assembly was even more preposterous this year than normal. Alongside Banksy’s floating boat we saw an out-of-tune Cyndi Lauper change the lyrics of her most famous song to ‘Girls just wanna have fun-damental rights’. She sang this – I say ‘sang’; it was more a warble – to a crowd feverishly waving the flag of a nation, Palestine, in which girls have neither fun nor rights. In the Gaza Strip they don’t even enjoy legal protection from physical or sexual violence in the home. Bashing the patriarchy while your fans enthusiastically cheer a patriarchal nation – make it make sense, people.

Then there was Ros Atkins of the BBC djing on the Stonebridge Bar stage. Honestly, it was like a mid-life crisis put to music. He even played a drum’n’bass version of the BBC News theme tune. If that sounds like the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever heard of, that’s because it was. The sight of fortysomething Glasto people waving banners emblazoned with the letters ‘BBC’ as they jived to the music that kicks off every BBC news bulletin was borderline surreal. From dancing topless to the Kinks in 1970 to worshipping the state broadcaster as some kind of sun god of truth in 2024 – ladies and gentleman, Britain’s middle class.

And yet, there was a limit to the virtue on display at Glasto. And that limit was telling indeed. From none of the stages, from none of the acts, was there one, measly mention of the 364 people slaughtered at the Nova music festival in the south of Israel on 7 October. Hundreds of people murdered by racists while dancing to trance in a Glasto-like get-together in the desert just eight months ago, and no Glasto performer saw fit to say something about it. No minute’s silence, no black flags, nothing whatsoever for their fellow festival-goers who were slain by anti-Semites. On the contrary, everywhere you looked was the flag of the side that carried out the slaughter at Nova, not of the side that suffered this hellish act of racist, misogynistic, tyrannical violence.

And there you have it, the fake virtue of the elites summed up. Border-bashing from the bordered-off classes. Posturing against misogyny without so much as a whisper for the women raped and murdered by Hamas. Self-congratulation disguised as conscience. Narcissism masquerading as progressivism. Glasto might be rubbish these days but its insights into the mindset of the bourgeoisie remain unrivalled.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics UK


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