There’s a movement afoot, an etymological land-grab, that involves centrists shouting at every opportunity: “eh, Sanders and Corbyn, Trump and Bolsano, they’re the same. Populists. The only people you can trust are … centrists.” It’s not a NEW movement, God knows, but the distortions that Trump has brought to the national discourse have led centrists to sense that they can seize this opportunity to lock out any significant deviation from full spectrum dominance. The weirdness of Facebook and Twitter’s intervention in the Hunter Biden laptop kerfuffle show just how emboldened they’ve become to block conservative AND progressive voices from access to what have become de facto All the New That’s Fit platforms.
This Guardian dispatch, for example, celebrates Jacinda Arden’s victory in New Zealand over the weekend, and manages to drag the words populist and populism through the mud with no little gusto. The author associates these words exclusively with the Right-Wing Murdochian populism, which doesn’t really involve actual populism and instead stands for the diametrical opposite of the powerful populist movement America has experienced on and off for more than a century. Monied interests, then as now, saw fit to trash the Good Kind of populism with every dirty trick in the book, including, I guess, by describing it it in this dishonest way.
Google Thomas Frank, for God’s sake, or watch/listen to Frank’s fascinating and entertaining guest appearance on Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper’s insanely great Useful Idiots podcast.
I know. This is a two-hour episode. But the time will absolutely fly by.
Want the tldr; ? Well, actually: we should never forget that Populism Is Good. Centrism, the game of footsie played by two (and only two) corrupt nihilistic parties, is what has given us our world. Precarity, disease, scarcity, the threat of nuclear Armageddon always present, and now on the brink of complete ecological collapse.
No, we can’t have populism. Anything but that.
I got so fussed over the besmirching of the fine word “populist” that I started googling around about Thomas Frank, our age’s foremost defender of the term, and found that he has written just a spectacular essay for Le Monde Diplomatique. I’m guessing he tried placing it in outlets more easily accessed by American readers, but the op-ed pages of major media platforms were stuffed to the gills with all the Fear pieces Frank describes here so well. And so funnily. Read this.