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In defence of Gemma Worrall, and her ‘Barraco Barner’ tweet

8 March 2014

10:10 AM

8 March 2014

10:10 AM

Meet Gemma Worrall, the latest unlikely worldwide star produced by social media. She is a 20-year-old beautician from Blackpool, now famous for tweeting ‘Why is our president Barraco Barner getting involved with Russia, scary.’ Cue 7,000 retweets, publicity from Australia to Brazil, and the inevitable vicious attacks. Haters have come thick and fast, she says, describing her as an ‘oxygen thief’ and worse. This morning’s press gets stuck in too. ‘Tweet about the Ukraine/Russia crisis is branded a new low for “dumb Britain”‘ sneers the Daily Mirror.

Really? It can be argued that this is a new high. I’d like to cite, in my defence, Ed Miliband. The sole redeeming feature of his confused Hugo Young lecture was his quoting a lesser-known Walt Whitman poem, The Prairie Grass Dividing:

‘Whitman talks about what makes for a successful democracy and says it is about a country where people can “look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and Governors, as to say, Who are you?”‘

Or, to put it another way, a successful democracy is one where a socially-engaged beautician in Blackpool can refer to “Barraco Barner” as “our president”. In his poem, Whitman was arguing that politicians should, ideally, be as unimportant as possible. That, ideally, people would not have cause to know who they are. That he who governs least governs best.


In that poem, Whitman saluted:-

Those that go their own gait,
Erect, stepping with freedom and command
Leading, not following,
Those with a never-quell’d audacity
Those with sweet and lusty flesh, clear of taint…
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and Governors, as to say, Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never-constrain’d, never obedient,
Those of inland America.

Had Whitman been in Britain today, these words might well have been written not for inland America but for coastal England – and the likes of Ms Worrall.

She felt obliged, in later comments, to refer to her ‘stupidity’, which I’d dispute. In the Spectator’s Portrait of the Week column, we always refer to “David Cameron, the Prime Minister”. You might wonder: why add the job title? Surely anyone who buys our magazine would know who was in No.10? But there are many perfectly intelligent Brits who could not give a hoot about current affairs.

The Spectator’s great coalition of readers include those who think poetry is more important than politics.  Those who buy us just for Jeremy Clarke and cartoons  are certainly getting their money’s worth (just £1 a week, by the way, sign up here).

If you decide that life’s too short to follow the Westminster tragicomedy, it emphatically does not make you stupid. The societies which tend to make a fuss about the bloke in power tend to be the societies in which you don’t want like to live. The freer the country, the less the need to know who is running the government. That’s why Ms Worrall’s tweet can be seen a sign of something going right, rather than wrong, in Britain today.

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Show comments
  • scaryklown

    Newsflash! Conservative commentator lauds the notion that the general public being ignorant about politics is a good thing. Who saw that coming???

  • Corbus

    There is a tendency for the well-educated to sneer savagely at ignorance that dares to even speak. You’ll find among Spectator readers not only poetry lovers but some very unforgiving folk. One thing I can say about all Spectator readers is that they will tend to be of a higher intellective capacity; obviously. And among the bright, many stupid things are still done. Look no further than politicians. You’ll find an exemplary story on the front page of any week’s edition. At least the pleasing to the eye, with a genuine smile, Gemma, was willing to question her capacities – and much of this is comes from a failure to be rigorous in one’s thinking and observation. Perhaps the problem lies in her education….Michael, oh Michael…what are we doing about state education, and the three Rs, in the UK?

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      Well-schooled perhaps but not well-educated.

      And almost completely bereft of imagination it would seem.

      • Corbus

        Agreed. And the ‘our president’ reference to Obama has a subtle irony in that he does indeed occupy the globe’s most powerful chair and somewhat assumes, particularly in his case, the mantle of senior statesman to all western and not a few non-occidental nations. He has clearly brainwashed (if that is possible in this particular case) poor Gemma into feeling he represents all our Western interests. Alternatively, ‘our’ was a bit of northern familiarity.

  • swatnan

    She does seem to have a healthy glow about her, but it may be from a sunbed or just a bottle. You can’t expect a good looking broad to know everything, can you?

  • Teacher

    Get her to do this week’s diary piece. White Dee’s was terrific.

  • Babrael

    i don’t care how dumb she is,she is definitely hot.

  • Johan Son

    You would know best of allFraser, having targeted, stalked and married an office worker you met over the photocopier

  • rosebery

    If her tweet is indicative of her knowledge and her thinking process, she meets the accepted definition of ‘stupid’. That’s not the point. She has a vote. That, in her words, is ‘scary’.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      ‘She has a vote.’

      It is a pity then that there is no one worth voting for.

      How can a ‘tweet’ be indicative of *anyone’s* thinking process?

      • rosebery

        Marie, if a comment composed and broadcast by someone cannot be used to infer something about the thinking process that went into it, then what can? Twitter is like any other public arena: if you choose to play, you have to accept the feedback. At least she tweets under her own name and that is commendable. The point about ‘having a vote’ is that I suspect (but cannot ever prove, of course) she will be a good proxy for how most people vote. Agree with you about the choices available to waste your vote. Mine has never mattered, wherever I have lived. Either the party I voted for would have won anyway, or would never have won no matter what. The Democratic deficit, I think.

  • SandySure

    She is a 20-year-old beautician from Blackpool….I she also a fully qualified nail technician?

  • Marie Louise Noonan

    I wonder if she can spell ‘potato’?

    Remember Dan Quayle?

  • Flintshire Ian

    At least she seems to have a job to get up for (and may even be self employed). And she doesn’t have three children which is not unusual by her age in Blackpool. And if she reads a newspaper, its most likely to be The Mirror that was so quick to criticise her, the daily paper of choice for Labour voting dumb Britain and not exactly a prime source for in depth analysis of world affairs.

  • IanM

    Just watched footage from the 2012 US election campaign where “Barraco Barner” criticised Mitt Romney for his attitude to Russia. Romney, Obama said, was “new to foreign policy” and “will drag the country back into old conflicts. After all, you don’t call Russia our No. 1 enemy — not Al-Qaida, Russia — unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”
    I’m not sure which mind warp Barraco’s in, but it sounds to me as if Gemma Worrell is at least as intelligent as the leader of the free world.

  • IanM

    ” tend to be the societies in which you don’t want like to live”. We appear to be missing some punctuation here. Should it be “want / like” suggesting indecision on the author’s part, or “want, like, to live” suggesting an attempt at a vernacular Ms Worrel might recognise?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Literally doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.
    A victim of Trash Culture UK where learning and education are belittled as elitist.

  • Nathaniel Poe

    Really? This dumbass needed defending? No. Just…, no.

  • La Fold

    STOP THE PRESS!! 20 year old Beautician aint too bright shocker.
    In other breaking news Disraeli repeals Corn Laws.
    Things like this let some sections of middle class sneer at those they want to feel superior to, just like adverts for Iceland.
    But yes, its a sad sign of the education system. Ask the average punter anything on history or geography and watch the eyes glaze over.

  • Martin Keegan

    That a UK citizen could think that the US president is our head of state is a triumph for the Anglosphere

  • Jamalayka Jamalaya

    Oh Fraser Nelon, I understand what you are trying to do but to be honest the comaprison if very very very thin. We are talkging about a 20 years old, with 17 GCE (“””””””!!!!??????) who got a president name totally wrong and assume he is her president, and also assumed that England where she lives is a republic. Looks ike she is a good beautician and she knows now she should stick to that or travel outside liverpool and learn more about her country. is she was mu daughter I will adore her but very embarassed with her ignorance.

  • Douglas Bennett

    the bbc shows more barack obama than david cameron on bbc news. That could be one reason. Personally i think shes blessed she has no idea about british politicians they are very depressing but argueably necessary.

  • Daniel Neofetou

    yeah you’d have a good point if she was living in chiapas and tweeting about a zapatista leader but unfortunately she’s not, and as long as we live in such an undemocratic society we should probably know as much as possible about all the decisions being made which we don’t have a say in but which affect us profoundly.