Wanted: Self-Starting ‘Weirdos and Misfits’, ‘Odd Skills’ an Asset

Boris Johnson is casting content creators for a whole new sh*tshow. Public servants need not apply.


Lisa Van Dusen/For the Hill Times

Jan. 8th, 2020

“We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole, weirdos from William Gibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand ‘diviner’ who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger or that Chinese-Cuban free runner from a crime family hired by the KGB.”

Chief Special Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson Dominic Cummings’ (above) recent blog post soliciting resumés for Number 10.

As a person who had a brief fling with university and has an involuntary expert’s eye for appalling hell holes, I have to admit that certain passages of Dominic Cummings’ casting call for “weirdos and misfits with odd skills” to serve in the upper echelons of Her Majesty’s Government warmed the cockles of my heart. My favourite bit was the plea for “people who have worked in movies or on advertising campaigns. There are some very interesting possibilities in the intersection of technology and storytelling — if you’ve done something weird, this may be the place for you.”

I have no idea what Dominic Cummings’ definition of workplace weird is, but I’m guessing it doesn’t begin with a Morrissey ringtone and end with photocopying your arse at the office Christmas party. In an age when the executive branch version of the “intersection of technology and storytelling” is ghoulishly represented by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it only follows that the colonizers of the bureaucratic culture that gave us Yes, Prime Minister would be shaking the shrubbery for misfits and weirdos to help implement the next phase of Grand Theft Democracy: Attack of the Misfits and Weirdos.

As with every other bit of rubbish window dressing fashioned by Mr. Cummings and his fellow new world order “crap Rasputins”, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, this isn’t about respect for authentic misfits and weirdos. It’s about the exploitation of possibilities licensed by tactical, reality-show misfits and weirdos — including the president of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the aforementioned Steves and Mr. Cummings himself — whose contrived peculiarities can rationalize a multitude of norm-breaking, democracy-degrading acts of political vandalism.

Only reality show misfits and weirdos of the mercenary variety cast in the cannonball operations currently besieging the United States and Britain could plausibly front the sort of dystopian lunacy unfolding at the US-Mexico border, in the Oval Office and in the frenzied halls of Brexitannia.

By issuing an APB for more “misfits and weirdos,” Mr. Cummings — Downing Street’s subsequent damage-control efforts notwithstanding — is establishing a pre-emptive rationale for every status quo-overturning, power consolidating cunning stunt the Johnson government will perpetrate in the name of “reform”. “We’re a government of misfits and weirdos,” they will quip with a screw-you shrug, as the gig economy morphs into cyberslavery and facial recognition technology is deployed at Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s to ration Hobnobs.

(Based on Cummings’ views on diversity and the people who espouse it — “They are usually babbling about ‘gender identity diversity blah blah’. What SW1 [the London postcode that includes Whitehall] needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity” — Hobnobs will only be sold to bald, white men who fulfil his notion of “super-talented weirdos”, i.e. Dominic Cummings himself. Classic.)

Having worked in the Prime Minister’s Office of a G7 government, I have to admit there were days when the grim business of watching other people run the country might’ve been enlivened by the addition of a few genuine misfits and weirdos. But generally speaking, the machinery of government tends to purr along more smoothly when the misfits and weirdos are on the outside, covering the proceedings — without fear, favour or having to translate narrative wankery disguised as governance.

Lisa Van Dusen is associate editor of Policy Magazine and a columnist for The Hill Times. She was Washington bureau chief for Sun Media, international writer for Peter Jennings at ABC News, and an editor at AP in New York and UPI in Washington.