Book Review: Heroic Failure – Fintan O’Toole


Posted 1 week ago in Print

Heroic Failure

By Fintan O’Toole

Head of Zeus

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, a trend emerged of advertising books on the promise that they could explain the shocking political twist. JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir about white working-class America comes to mind. Touted as a synecdoche for the far-right’s rise, its insight was dubious, at best. Thankfully, Fintan O’Toole’s Heroic Failure is more suited to its suggested purpose of examining Brexit.

A tragicomic reflection on the English idealism that culminated in Brexit, equally it serves as a work which dissects the New Right’s bewilderingly successful lunge for power. Scrutinising romanticised historical tragedies and the evolution of the Leave manifesto by way of ideals disseminated through media and popular culture, O’Toole correctly taps into how 21st Century populism succeeded en masse. Cultural hegemony overpowered political discourse, in short.

Johnson, Farage and Rees-Mogg did not ascend to power by being masterful politicians. Nor did they fall from grace for lying. They emerged victorious by playing up a certain character, manipulating emotions and channelling the rage of the Sex Pistols. If punk could be co-opted by the Tories without anyone blinking, then the colonialists could claim to be the colonised.

Likely, Heroic Failure would have been dismissed as a complacent liberal’s critique a few weeks ago. Given the recent furore surrounding the draft bill, the farce described herein seems prescient, heartbreakingly so.

Words: Michael Lanigan

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