A recent headline out of South Carolina compels us to drag the term neoliberalism out of the closet; our apologies to the reader.
Whenever we use this term we meet with some pushback from certain quarters—and rightly so. It’s one of those abstract, obscure, multi-syllabic terms that is rarely if ever taught in school. It would be downright rude to just throw in on the page and expect everyone to understand what we mean.
In those rare cases when it comes up in conversation, an argument is probably underway—or about to begin. These negative characteristics tend to reduce the use—and therefore the usefulness—of the word. That’s a real shame, because once you crack its code it says a lot.
Neoliberalism is the name of a philosophy, the chief concern of which is how to control the world.
An important part of that question, clearly, is who should do the controlling? Unsurprisingly, the people who control the world now—if the current chaos can be called controlled—believe it should be them.
A thing that has a name which is universally understood is a hell of a lot easier to control than something that’s anonymous. That is why it benefits those who are now in control, not to apply names to the tools that they use. This is also why, on the rare occasion when someone in power does utter the word, it is more often than not to deny that there is any such thing.
If we groundlings understood neoliberalism better, we’d have a better chance at shutting it down—and a better life after we did it.
“Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations,” George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian, on April 15, 2016. “It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that ‘the market’ delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
“Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.”
Sound familiar now? It’s the world we live in—or try to.
It does works for some. As Monbiot writes, “The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages—such as education, inheritance and class—that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.
“Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.”
Now, the headline which sparked this tirade: “South Carolina could force death row inmates to choose between electric chair, firing squad.”
Wardens used to ask the condemned man what he wanted for his last meal. The neoliberal warden comes in with a napkin draped over one arm, and a menu in the opposite hand, asking, “What would monsieur prefer for the pièce de résistance, le peloton d’exécution, or the chaise électrique?”
Our Wandering Photographer, recently having gotten a jolt of Johnson & Johnson’s Fetal Tissue Special, courtesy of our benevolent overlord Governor Chris Sununu and the Noise Bowl up in Loudon, has begun to think about unilaterally lifting his own self-imposed travel restrictions. Reverting to type, he ambled down to the Pan Am railyard. There he mused, not for the first time, about irony. Such a grimy, earthbound enterprise—and yet its owner, an umpteenth-generation scion of a notorious right wing clan, has finagled for it the fabled name of a defunct luxury airline. Some unusually talented artist has tagged this Union Pacific car with a spectacular giant insect. It appears eager to pounce on and devour this Pan Am worker; he, however, seems unconcerned.
The Hyatt Regrets…
Even with the world’s heavyweight champion dispenser of chaos out of the Oval Office and off Twitter, events can still move pretty quickly. So much so that we nearly forgot our intention to do a follow-up on the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC] held last month in Orlando—the one held on a stage made to look like the symbol on the collar of an SS soldier’s uniform.
Naturally the organizers sputtered in rage at the suggestion that the symbol, well…symbolized anything. Ian Walters, a spokesperson for the American Conservative Union, told AFP, “I think it’s a ridiculous proposition that somehow we tried to, you know, wink and nod at people that hold views antithetical to our own”—an argument which might have been more powerful if the tone of the event had less resembled a neo-Nuremberg Rally.
Matt Schlapp, CPAC’s organizer, accused the event’s critics of anti-semitism—of course.
Hyatt, the event’s rueful host, issued a delicately-worded disclaimer and apology, and not just about Nazi symbolism.
“When we learned that CPAC 2021 stage design had been compared to a symbol of hate,” the statement read, “we promptly raised this concern with meeting organizers who strongly denied any connection to such symbols. Had we initially recognized the potential connections to hate symbolism, we would have proactively addressed it prior to commencement of the event. Unfortunately, this became clear to us only after the event kicked off. With CPAC’s denial of any intentional connection to hate symbols and our concerns over the safety of guests and colleagues in what could have been a disruptive situation, we allowed the event to continue. We understand and respect the opinions of those who might disagree with that decision.”
It appears that the next time CPAC comes knocking, the scrutiny will be excruciating.
Hyatt wasn’t too happy, either, with the behavior of some of their guests.
“…our colleagues worked tirelessly to support this event while enforcing Hyatt’s safety policies. At times, these efforts included reminding attendees to wear masks and socially distance, even while colleagues occasionally faced hostility from attendees who did not support our policies. While individuals are entitled to their opinions, in a Hyatt hotel we expect guests to follow our policies. Further, we were extremely disappointed by the disrespect many individuals involved in the event showed to our colleagues….”
Aww…Isn’t That Nice…?
We are pleased and relived to report that Liza Scott, of Birmingham, Ala., is said to be recovering “uneventfully” from brain surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Liza, 7, became America’s latest sweetheart a few weeks ago. A series of seizures had led to an alarming discovery: there were “cerebral malformations” in her little noggin “that needed repair.”
Liza’s parents, being responsible folks, had health insurance, of course. That’s a double-edged sword, though. Insurance companies, being people, have rights, too—including the right to defend him or her self against expensive problems like Liza.
The free market, in its infinite wisdom and Solomonic fairness, decided that the insurance company should be spared some of the expenses associated with making sure Liza grows up to be a productive member of society. So, plucky, adorable Liza seized the means of production, and turned her cerebral malformations into—you guessed it—lemonade!
News outlets across the country picked up Liza’s story, because—what irony—little Liza really had to use her brain…in order to get her brain fixed!
Isn’t that just hilarious, and heartwarming as well?
Now Liza can grow up and enlist in the U.S. military and protect our corporations’ access to markets and raw materials, if Tucker Carlson doesn’t mind.
Right’s Monarchist Roots Are Showing
Furor reigns at the moment over in Old Blighty. It seems that someone in the Royal Family may be as bigoted as many Americans; color us unsurprised.
The target of their disdain is Meghan Markle, the latest person of American extraction to enter the higher ranks of that class-ridden nation.
The most prominent example will likely always be Winston Churchill, son of the American beauty, Jenny Jerome. In her fabulously-rich father’s New York City mansion, there were many rooms, including a six-hundred seat theatre.
This trans-Atlantic matrimonial phenomenon is sufficiently common to have produced a local example: Anne Catherine Tredick Wendell (1900-1977). Her family had homes in Kittery, Portsmouth, and New Castle, suggesting a certain level of, shall we say, material comfort. Sadly that ended with the death of her father, when she was ten.
Ms. Wendell’s mother took her brood of four to England, where a cousin had married rather well. Catherine Wendell, as she was generally known, did the same—on paper. Sadly, her high-born husband, Henry George Alfred Marius Victor Francis Herbert, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, turned out to be a womanizing bastard.
After thirteen years of misery in splendor—the family seat was Highclere Castle, familiar to fans of “Downton Abbey”—she ditched the bum. According to a website touting the book, Catherine and Tilly: Porchey Carnarvon’s Two Duped Wives, by William Cross, Catherine “is buried in a neglected grave at the graveyard on the Highclere Estate.”
The U.S. has always been susceptible to some degree of Anglophilia; that’s hardly surprising, given our history. More perplexing is the widespread fascination with, and even support for, Britain’s royal family. It’s almost as if some people would have preferred that we lost the Revolution—an outcome which could well have resulted in the hanging of George Washington and a whole slew of our other heroes.
Case in point, Richard Grenell: general, all-around right wing Republican Party hack and, briefly, Director of National Intelligence—the irony, it burns—under the sack of protoplasm now known as “The Former Guy.” Grenell tweeted, “Meghan Markle is the classic American woke progressive. She doesn’t want to do the work but is outraged she doesn’t get the freebies.” Fact check: news reports say Markle wanted to do more, but The Firm—the commercial arm of the Royal Family™—would not let her.
Erick Erickson, a right wing blogger who demonstrated the lasting truth of the Peter Principle by becoming a Fox “News” blatherer, tweeted, “So essentially Harry and Meghan have joined Woke-o Haram and want to cancel the Royal Family for not being woke.”
Charlie Kirk, the insufferable twerp who set up his own version of Young Republicans under the brand Turning Point USA, erupted with this: “Anyone who sits by and lets his family and his country get attacked the way that Harry did last night is certainly not an alpha.”
That is particularly rich. Harry did a tour—albeit only for ten weeks—as a forward air controller in Afghanistan. He went back as an Apache gunship pilot, ticking off the Taliban, who vowed to kill or kidnap him. The bravest thing Kirk ever did was talk his followers into wearing diapers to “own the libs.”
Whenever there’s a particularly virulent outbreak of American Monarchism, we are reminded of the following passage from Thomas Paine’s immortal Common Sense, Chapter Two, Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession:
“England, since the conquest, hath known some few good monarchs, but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones; yet no man in his senses can say that their claim under William the Conqueror is a very honourable one. A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. It certainly hath no divinity in it. However, it is needless to spend much time in exposing the folly of hereditary right; if there are any so weak as to believe it, let them promiscuously worship the ass and lion [The unicorn and lion on the royal coat of arms.], and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility, nor disturb their devotion. [Emphasis added.]
The Flag Police were recently shocked—shocked, we tell you—to discover this undersized and underloved example of the nation’s iconic banner. The condition alone was sufficient to merit their concern: a discerning eye will note that the fly end is uniformly frayed from top to bottom. Wounding them to the quick, however, was its location: atop the former home of a veterans service organization. It didn’t help that the pole was topped with what appears to be a toilet tank float. Familiar with the offending establishment’s otherwise sterling character, the vexillological gendarms considered turning a blind eye. Eternal vigilance, however, is the price of upholding the fetishization of material objects which symbolize the values of a purported republic in the absence of any perceptible functionality.
Pining For The Newsprint, 265/13
Has it really been a year? Yup.
We have not sullied fresh newsprint since publishing our Volume 264, No. 13, on Friday, March 13, 2020—the sort of coincidence that gives triskaidekaphobes the fantods. Under the circumstances we cannot complain. We are still here, albeit only online. We have lost some distribution points; Water Monkey, for example—a hard loss, that. Our masthead, however, is unscathed.
When, then, do we ask our printer to spin up that massive roll of Canada’s finest? No promises, but here’s a rough guess: at one year into this, we can imagine perhaps coming out of it in another six months—provided that our reckless Republican governors don’t cause another catastrophic wave of infections. If that seems like a long time, well, we agree. We’d rather under-promise and over-perform than do it t’other way round.