I GOT to within almost coughing distance of Westminster today but ventured no further for fear of the scourge that the virus has wreaked among the denizens of Downing Street.
Boris Johnson was one of the first to fall victim, having glad-handed his way through the early weeks of the crisis. Health minister Matt Hancock swiftly followed him into self-isolation after testing positive.
Then came the news that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, last seen scurrying around the back of Downing Street, had hidden himself away after experiencing symptoms.
Cummings, one of the key architects of Brexit, is known as a disrupter who would like to sweep away the messy compromises of the state. If he wanted disruption, he’s certainly got it now and has fallen victim to his own medicine, or should that be disease.
He’s well known for favouring “weirdos” over experts.
The Cummster, and his American friend Steve Bannon, have much in common with the self-styled Accelerationists, a self-regarding little cult that blossomed on the fringes of British academia at the turn of the century. Warwick University was a hotspot as was Goldsmiths College, just down the road from here at New Cross.
The Accelerationists believe that high-tech and aggressive capitalism should be sped up rather than restrained, leading to a brave, new and robotic world sometime in the future.
To get there, they would like to scrap regulation of business and drastically scale back the power of the state. They also embrace any tech advance that leads to a merger of the digital and the human.
It’s a movement that started on the fringes of the left – Karl Marx is frequently claimed as the first Accelerationist – but it now embraces a wide range of political weirdos from barely reformed Stalinists to crypto-fascists and white supremacists.
For these apostles of disruption, the worldwide coronavirus must make them feel like Christmas has come early.
In the US, Joshua Fisher-Birch, a member of a terrorism watchdog, warned: “Extreme right-wing accelerationist and neo-Nazi Telegram chats and channels have increased their frequency of calling for violence related to the coronavirus since the president’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13.”
“As more Americans have been reported as infected in the past few days and stock exchanges have fallen, the administrators of these chats and channels seem to have realised that this is a moment to increase their calls for disorder and advocacy for violence,” according to Fisher-Birch.
It could never happen here, as we Brits like to say. But who knows? The father of British accelerationism, Nick Land, a favourite of the right-wing Breitbart news outfit once run by Cumming’s mate Bannon, remains a figurehead of the so-called Dark Enlightenment.
Nick did a runner to Shanghai a while back after a breakdown – too much sci-fi, punk and drugs? – where he fell in love with what he sees as the Accelerationist tendencies of the Chinese state.
Anyway, enough of all that. You’ll be wanting to know about today’s walk.
To borrow the knowlege vocabulary of London’s black cabbies: it was “left Potters Field; forward Queens Walk; forward London Eye; left Waterloo; forward Stamford Street; forward Southwark Bridge Road; left St Thomas Street; forward Tooley Street; and then a walk through the park.”
It was quiet. There were more pigeons than people. A couple wanted money for dog food but I didn’t have change on me.
The homeless Lithuanian at the Tower Bridge steps said they hadn’t found him an emergency flop yet. Maybe tonight. For some reason, he addresses everyone, or at least the men he encounters, as “Señor”.