Lockdown has led to some people’s unhealthy habits and vices getting a little out of hand. For me, a problem I thought I’d vanquished many years ago found its way back into my daily routine with uncomfortable ease.
Americophilia (a fascination with the USA) blights many an Englishman’s (and it does usually seem to be the men, probably because we’re the more foolish) life from a young age.
It doesn’t manifest itself necessarily in a desire to be one of them, though this can happen to, but instead an urge to try and understand the country—its vastness and its vast contradictions.
During the summer, while America burned, as it so often does at this time of year, I slipped backward into the ocean of its vast cultural output: I reread Bellow, rewatched Coppola and reexamined Thoreau.
But none helped me to get a grip on the country in 2020: Trump, the killing of George Floyd, the modern Democratic Party. Then I stumbled across a YouTube channel called All Gas No Brakes and found what I was looking for.
It features shortish videos of presenter Andrew Callaghan travelling around the United States interviewing some of his very unhinged fellow citizens at conferences, protests and rocket launches.
Like his gawky progenitor Louis Theroux, Callaghan has realised that given the floor, many Americans will use it to do or say something obscene or funny, often both.
It helps, of course, that he’s chosen to visit some of the more eccentric and inebriated sites in the land: Area 51, Mardi Gras, Hempfest, Burning Man, Fourth of July etc. One of the best, and most disturbing, takes place at a Flat Earth conference in Dallas, Texas.
Attendees rabidly spew their pseudo-scientific conspiracy babble, much of it unashamedly anti-Semitic, into the mic. Even more depressingly, a lot of them choose to rap it. When one troubled soul offers the slurred confession, “sometimes I want to go back to Britney Spears concerts, you know, to turn it all off,” you cannot help but sympathise with him.