Collage by Marta Parszeniew
In the end, the moment that Piers Morgan’s CNN show has ended up being remembered for is the appearance of shouty nut man Alex Jones. Mr Jones enjoyed guns – who doesn’t? – and was determined to make this point to Mr Morgan, who didn’t like guns chiefly because of how they kill people. The episode, or to be more exact, the carnival of undiagnosed mental illness, ended with Jones squawking: “Don't try what your ancestors did before.”
And therein hangs the problem with Piers Morgan and his lack of success in America. He was still being made to pay for the sacking of Washington by General Ross in 1814. Mainstream America wouldn’t let him get on with his important job of soft-balling starlets on book launch tours, because it saw his Britishness, and it was repulsed by the yellow-teeth, stinky-breath, jam-and-buggery horror of it all. The man who broke the story, David Carr at the New York Times, has written a lamentation about Morgan’s "failure to assimilate". There is, according to Carr, an inevitable gulf between a man for whom "the only football he was interested in was the round one", and the mainstream American public upon whom his show depended.
“BOOM! Well played Norwich. Think I'll go and make myself some nice Delia Smith recipe roasted spuds to celebrate”, posted the CNN celebutainer, in the last tweet received before news of his sacking broke. To his audience of the sort of Americans so parochial they still feel CNN is the place to get their news, that question might as well have read:
ٹھیک ہےNorwich کے ادا کیا. میں کو منانے کے لئے کچھ اچھا Delia اسمتھ ہدایت
بنا ہوا spuds جاؤ اور اپنے آپ کو بنا دیں گے سوچو
Much like the incoming Urdus who can’t name a single fact about Frankie Howerd on their "Life In The UK" test, Morgan had arrogantly decided that he was above the culture that was paying his wages. America would have to assimilate with him. Like St Patrick in Ireland, he decided that he could go over and convert these heathens to Goonerism and a belief in the healing power of Kevin Pietersen, by sheer force of his bluff patronage.
America, in his reading, was secretly delighted to make the acquaintance of a new Brit. No Dane has ever walked down the docking bridge at La Guardia Airport and expected to be treated as a man-god for his essential Danishness. He has never set himself up as a messiah figure purely because his is a land of great bacon and highly functional modern architecture. No one here would welcome some French-o coming over and turning up on The One Show, trying to tell us that handball was an actual sport rather than what the weak kids had to do during PE, haranguing us about the glories of the Common Agricultural Policy by engaging in a series of slanging matches with Nigel Farage. Yet our man in Manhattan felt he could wade into America’s ancient and bloody constitutional battle over guns on the basis of "Britain doesn’t have them" and "you’re all kinda thick".
Piers is not alone in this imperialist notion. The deceptive cultural similarities mean that Brits still come through the turnstiles expecting that they will be hailed as Americans-Plus: an ideal form of Yank that takes things back to what they were always meant to be if it weren’t for that pesky misunderstanding over tea taxes. It’s that sense of global politics as a piece of parent-child transactional analysis that does both of us a disservice. The one where Americans go, "Well, we saved your ass in World War II," and Brits go, "Yeah and only two years late to the party." Which makes no more fucking sense than trying to sue the mayor of Rome for what his great-great something-or-other did to Boadicea.
Britishness works in an American context when it’s a filtered and thinned version that’s easy on the digestion, that can offer a few standard tropes that go easy on the brains, precisely because while we might know Martha Stewart, America doesn’t know Delia any more than it knows Danish super-chef Rene Redzepi, and despite our lamentations, it doesn’t overly care.
You can’t go over there and be a dick about it. Oasis went over with all the humility that Clive Of India displayed to the Raj, in their Wonderwalling pomp, Britishness bursting in their veins, and were promptly sent back to spend more time being among their people. The only reason Robbie Williams got given £80million in history’s fifth most stupid record deal was because his backers thought that he could replicate what he’d done in Europe over in the States. Then he got fucked off when his Stoke-on-Trent cheeky-chappy act was met with underwhelmed bafflement and retreated forever to his Kingdom Of Angels. For every One Direction – clean, modern flatpack-people whose Britishness is signified mainly by their over-use of VO5 – there is a more Sheffield-craggy Arctic Monkeys taking eight years, five albums and a lot of accent-ironing and Josh Homme-palling to crack the Billboard top ten.
If only Morgan had taken a leaf out of his predecessor’s book: Larry King. A man so quintessentially American he changed his last name from something more Eastern European and Jewish to something more WASP-y. King knew that Americans have to fake being who they are until they become that thing. That the US system has a place for eccentrics from minor European nations, but that place is not broadcasting every night to an audience of millions (or, in Morgan’s case, an audience that began life somewhere near the 2 million mark, but has since fallen off a cliff towards 270,000). Especially not the sort of Americans who are so culturally lagging they still insist on getting their world views from CNN. A global interzone that only seems to exist in the dim ellipsis between eating the free biscuits in a hotel room, and wondering if there is anything complimentary on the naughty channel.
Should anyone actually ever tune into his new Russia Today show, they will find Larry King now making an excellent doormat for the views of Vlad Putin. And perhaps, if he hurries, there may still be space for Piers there too, somewhere between Max Keyser’s end-times sermons and that troubling soapbox guy who always seems to be hating on GMOs. This time round, Piers, the words are: Menya zovut Piers. Ya Rooski.
Previously – How Water Betrayed Britain