By Darragh Roche
Confession time: I follow George Galloway on Twitter. Like the dozens of political accounts in my newsfeed, Galloway’s can usually pass unnoticed in the blur. Recently, however, I was drawn to his page following some posts about the Grassroots Out campaign – a pro-Brexit group that’s seen Galloway buddying up with UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Scrolling through the former Big Brother contestant’s tweets, the surreal beauty of it all revealed itself to me. It was like the moment you finally see the image in a magic eye picture. Galloway has used Twitter to create bizarre, highly controversial and baffling art.
Galloway uses Twitter to create a Joycean collage of images, ideas, words and allusions as detailed and confusing as a late era Picasso. His timeline is littered with artsy photos of a behatted Galloway in empty streets, conference halls and corridors. Often black and white and distinctly unpolitical, the pictures are almost intimate and you can imagine for a moment that he’s a small time jazz musician or a busker randomly captured on film. But controversy intrudes on this coziness just as Galloway intrudes into mainstream politics . If you’ve forgotten about Tony Blair and Iraq, George will remind you. Regularly. And with vigour. The Russian-owned news site Sputnik seems to be a favourite with his supporters, and there are plenty of supporters who win re-tweets from the man who would be mayor of London.
And it’s easy to forget he’s running for mayor, despite his attacks on Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate. Here is a man who thinks about 100 things before breakfast and tweets most of them, without regard to consistency. Twitter is the perfect medium to express a stream of consciousness and Galloway pours his mind out on a daily basis. This is a man without a filter and proud of it. Right-newspapers get a bashing, ‘Zionists’ are exposed and ridiculed and the only sacred cow is that atavistic fedora. The oft-scorned hat is as much a part of the persona as the cat whiskers and the studied bluntness.
To his critics, Galloway’s beliefs are a chameleonic patchwork of inconsistent positions, part populist, part Trotskyite and 100% contrarian. But like his Twitter feed, Galloway’s politics are a work of sublime art. Whether you agree with him or not (and I disagree with him more often than not) Galloway has something almost all other politicians lack – personality. Since politicians hijacked social media, we’ve grown used to sanitised accounts sharing dry, predictable updates, managed by party workers with about as much panache as a sack of spuds. George Galloway’s Twitter is like a landmine on a quiet country road.
Some commentators, more sneering than wise, dismiss Galloway as a clown. His feline performance on reality TV is now mostly forgotten, but it helps to explain his Dadaist Twitter use and, possibly, his personality. Maybe life is one long performance and Galloway has just picked a fun role to play. His success in politics is modest compared to his success as a force of personality. Galloway is a masterful performer because he’s playing the role of his lifetime. He’s playing himself, with all the bawdy language and bizarre tweets that entails. Galloway’s art alienates many, but all good art should.
George Galloway may not become London’s next mayor and if he doesn’t and he has some time on his hands, I have some advice for him. George, print your tweets, your photos, your re-tweets and paste them onto canvas in the shape of your face (with hat). Put your signature at the bottom and find an avant -garde art gallery to display the finished product. Then you can add ‘Conceptual Artist’ to your bio and fulfil your obvious destiny.