The Apprentice – Why do we Watch it?

Originally published by Consented Magazine.

We all know The Apprentice, don’t we. The show responsible for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The show responsible for Katie Hopkins. It has a lot to answer for.

But we still watch it, don’t we, masochists that we are. The British version has inflicted Alan Sugar upon us, with his foul temper, perma-frown and general lack of humanity. Revenge for some unwitting affront perpetrated on the BBC by the general British public, no doubt.

First off, we all know it’s a sham, right? Surely there aren’t too many viewers left gullible enough to believe there is any reality in this TV show. Where do they even find these contestants? I don’t envy that job, I can assure you. No sirree – wading through sewers, and trawling through gutters to find the lowliest, most grasping, snarling, preening, incompetent creatures in the nation. No thanks. Not for me.

The show tries to sell the idea that treating people like shit will make you go far in this world. Nice. And, predictably, it digs up characters like Katie Hopkins. She suggested that Pakistani men were, in general, child abusers simply by virtue of being male and Pakistani. She described Roma people as ‘feral’ – to be explicit, she was saying they are wild animals. Continuing her persecution campaign of marginalised people, she compared migrants to cockroaches and said they were ‘spreading like the novovirus’. Even Ukip refused her membership. Let’s be clear, this is the language of neo-Nazism. Hopkins is far from the media-constructed image of the average racist, but is in fact much more stereotypical. No doubt she learned her lessons well at Sandhurst and the Met Office. Her style of dehumanisation, broadcast by wealthy media magnates who obviously approve, allowed to broadcast by the state which at the very least doesn’t disapprove, leads directly to violence against people of colour by both the state and the likes of Anders Breivik. She is so self-aware and brazen in her spite towards people of colour she even demanded to see their dead bodies and coffins, to which she remained defiantly cold-hearted.

The recruitment process for The Apprentice clearly tests for high levels of greed, envy and narcissism. And hardly at all for business aptitude. But do they also test for sycophancy? These royally arrogant, hissing specimens turn into the most snivelling wretches once they’re in the presence of his holiness, Darth Sugar. Their champion. Their deity. It’s as if they think being rich entails anything other than being incredibly lucky and incredibly ruthless. There are no other inherent qualities. Just luck and ruthlessness. Sugar glories in being a petty tyrant. But his grovelling lackeys act like he is also the wittiest and wisest of them all simply because of the number of zeros in his bank balance.

Sugar also dines out on his working class origins and sees it as proof, QED, that anyone can make it, if only they possess the ‘magical essence of entrepreneurship’. He’s even claimed that there are no poor people in the UK, the prat. Hundreds of people died of malnutrition last year in the UK. Maybe he thinks they did it for a bet. Or the thousands living on Britain’s streets, probably doing it for the lulz. Or the million people who have to visit food banks, surely doing it because they’re bored of haute cuisine. He crows about the mere £50 he used as seed money, but that’s over £800 in today’s money – so don’t be fooled, that put him way ahead of most people (16M Brits now have less than £100 in the bank month to month).

Then there’s Baroness Brady. Telling all and sundry she was the youngest MD of a UK PLC. Not bad for an heir to a printing and property development fortune. It’s a real rags to riches story, honest. From boarding school to a cushty advertising firm where her father’s friend demanded she be put in charge of his substantially lucrative account. This same benefactor then bought Birmingham City (as you do) for her to run. It’s not what you know, eh. She’s now a Tory baroness. Such strength of character to pull herself up by the bootstraps.

The point here is that shows like The Apprentice are selling you an idea: that rich people deserve to be rich because of some mystical quality that makes them better than everyone else. Life is fair, and if you don’t like it, you’re a loser. It’s selling the idea that ‘life’ is a jungle, and the spoils go to the carnivore with the sharpest teeth. And it’s bullshit. Firstly, why should a competition to see who is the most ruthless (capitalist markets most certainly do not test how wise or wonderful a particular human being is) reward the few winners with more wealth than they could ever spend in a hundred lifetimes, and punish the many losers with homelessness and starvation? Second of all, if this meritocracy nonsense is being used to justify class hierarchy on the premiss that anyone can rise to the top – we’re missing the glaring fact that while individuals can slip through the cracks, the class as a whole is always stuck where it is – poor. You cannot solve poverty with this system. This seems so obvious, yet shows like The Apprentice do a clever job of obscuring it.

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