In this piece Phil Shannon excoriates Covid obsessed and establishment narrative adhering ‘progressives’ for divorcing themselves from the interests of working class labour, and offers advice on how best to deal with such ‘new normal’ nominal leftists.
Having a political discussion with a woke, Covid-obsessive, ‘New Normal’ Progressive is about as satisfying as having a root canal at the dentist’s. If you should diverge from contemporary identity politics orthodoxy, if you should stray from the ‘Safe and Effective’ celebration of the experimental, gene-therapy wonder shots as the key to vanquishing the Worst Disease Ever; if you should mock the Mask; if you should fail to cheer each and every Trump indictment; if you should neglect to display unwavering fealty to Volodymyr Zelensky; then, to the New Normal Progressive, you are automatically seen as an irresponsible ‘anti-vaxxer’, a loathsome bigot, a Putin apologist, a far-right extremist and a conspiracy theorist and thus deserving of the verbal venom sent your way by the morally self-righteous, ‘left-wing’ apostles of the ‘New Normal’.
As terminology, ‘New Normal’ was midwifed by Covid and it’s soul lingers on with other mooted schemes for elite political control of the ‘untrustworthy’ masses. It is now the unspoken umbrella concept for the hegemony of identity politics, medical authoritarianism, control of individual freedoms and the forever war against Russia. The normalisation of ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ is one example of the New Normal, as is all the ‘trans’ nonsense, the ‘unprovoked’ invasion of innocent Ukraine by Russia, and the labelling of dissenting ideas as ‘misinformation’.
Unless my circle of New Normal Progressive friends is atypical of the breed, I am sure we’ve all experienced the hostility and general unpleasantness they bring to bear through their closed minds, intolerance and belligerence. They are authoritarian in temperament with trigger-happy anger as their default social interaction mode with those who are yet to catch up with the New Normal zeitgeist.
Their vocabulary consists largely of recycled media headlines and soundbites. If you get it ‘wrong’ on such New Normal tripwires as Brexit, Trump, Covid or Putin then some mixture of incredulity and outrage will be your lot – ‘What adverse reactions?’; ‘What NATO proxy war?’. ‘How could you say such a thing!’, the New Normal Progressive will fume. ‘How dare you!’, they will imply. ‘What’s wrong with you, you deplorable?!’, they will infer.
The intellectual force and moral righteousness of their political discourse is often measured in sheer volume of delivery rather than logically-marshalled facts, whilst the usual New Normal Progressive spray will often be profanity-laced. We know from neuro-psychology that people with severe brain injuries who have lost the power of coherent speech are still able to cuss, volubly and frequently, using their primitive, reptilian brain which seems to be driving the New Normal Progressive, too, with their aggressive, look-how-good-I-am, emotionally-incontinent behaviour.
You will find New Normal Progressives in most contemporary settings that derive from the Left political tradition, from the centrist/reformist social democratic establishment (the ‘labour’ parties in Australia and Britain, the Democrats in the US and their Greens party allies), to the politically unaligned grass roots activists in sundry social movements. A particularly fertile breeding ground for the New Normal Progressive is the old, one-time Marxist revolutionary left (my old stomping ground) with its steady stream of reinforcements form the tertiary institutions of allegedly higher learning.
Not just pandemic pottiness
It wasn’t just pandemic pottiness that made most of the old Left lose its marbles. The rot had set in earlier, although the Left’s Great Covid Debacle amplified and consolidated the drift towards a right-wing New Normal. The Great Retreat from leftwing principles demonstrated by the modern New Normal Progressive had already begun to ebb like last week’s pay-packet with their incomprehension of, and outrage over, Brexit, Trump and democratic working class populism.
These epochal events stunned and infuriated the woke, ‘progressive’ left which has found it impossible to accept the electoral repudiation of their out-of-touch political vision and program which had become increasingly dominated by all things identity politics. The elitist revulsion was nowhere better captured than with Hilary Clinton’s infamous dismissal of Trump voters as a ‘basket of deplorables’, a crude jibe the likes of which has just been repeated here in Australia with the caricaturing of the ‘No’ vote in our upcoming referendum on an Indigenous ‘Voice’ to parliament as “base racism or sheer stupidity”.
The progression from Trump Derangement to Covid Derangement has, therefore, been no surprise. If you could demonstrate your moral worth by vociferously standing against the ‘literally Hitler’ President Trump, a similar virtue could be advertised through training your ‘public health’ fury against ‘deplorable’, selfish, unmasked, unvaxxed, morally-deficient ‘pandemic’ sceptics whom the New Normal Progressive bundles up with Brexiteers, Trumpists and other political devils. The potty-mouthed Trump-Hater and the shouty, Covid Hysteric are cut from the same ‘progressive’ cloth.
With Covid hysteria now off the boil, the transformation of the old Left to its New Normal parody is currently drawing political sustenance from the West’s proxy war against Russia. The New Normal Progressive is keen to rabbit on about ‘misinformation’ on Covid and its poisonous, dud injectables but they routinely, and unselfconsciously, parrot government misinformation on Ukraine. The CIA (and its above-ground spin-off, the National Endowment for Democracy, whose hands are in the Ukraine business up to the armpits), was once derided by the Left for being the patron of vicious counter-revolutionary paramilitary death squads in Central, Latin and South America, and for overseeing the anti-democratic anti-communist movements in post-war Europe, but it is now the New Normal Progressive’s source of political information on geopolitics.
The New Normal Progressive is the New Right
The New Normal Progressive has now become the New Right with its love of NATO warmongers and censorship, forced medical experimentation and the bonfire of the civil liberties under a ‘pandemic’ pretext. Its hectoring and shaming of ‘wrongthinkers’ for dissent is deeply ironic – the Left that was once the prime target of HUAC’s anti-communist witch-hunt of dissenters has now, in its New Normal Progressive incarnation, backed the government witch-hunt of Covid rebels through its loyalty oaths to the Pharma-State if workers want to keep their jobs and its ‘are you now or have you ever been an anti-vaxxer?’ inquisition.
As a conservative government in Australia staged a quasi-Stalinist show-trial, ritual humiliation and deportation of the unvaxxed Novak Djokovic, and as a ‘progressive’ government in the US gave the tennis rebel the full Senator from Wisconsin treatment by blacklisting him from entry to the US, the New Normal Progressive stood by silently, infatuated by garbage Covid ‘case’ numbers and vaccine passports. They were apparently unaware of the historical irony about the former victims of anti-communist hysteria now being the agents of anti-virus hysteria.
The Covid crazy, war-mongering, populist-hating New Normal Progressive supported lockdowns, forced quarantine, compulsory face-coverings, and then mandatory toxic jabs pushed by a corporate cartel with the backing of the capitalist state. Censorship was all the rage (as it still is in the ‘New Normal Democracy’™ because the way to protect democracy is to stop people from expressing counter-opinions).
The old leftists who resisted the Covid nonsense, the West’s war against Russia, and the divisiveness of identity politics are pilloried by New Normal Progressives as apostates who have gone over to the dark side of ‘far-right extremism’, but this is a political mis-characterisation to cover their own class treachery and betrayal of leftwing principles – it is the New Normal Progressives who are the ones pitching woo at all the old class enemies of the left and the repressive arm of the capitalist state.
Wither the trade unions?
Behind the transformation of the Left is the decline of trade union and class consciousness in the working class. Paid work is the defining aspect of life under capitalism (Marx based his whole political philosophy on the capitalist economic exploitation of the working class), and the workplace is a terrific educator in the realities of class power as mediated through the different classes’ relationship to the means of production. For some decades now, in a mutually reinforcing descent, however, trade unionism and the union-based left are both in retreat.
In Australia, for example, the union membership rate at August 2022 was just 12.5% (way down from 43% in 1988) and it is just a miserable 8.2% in the private sector. The public sector has a healthier 33.7% union penetration (concentrated in nursing, teaching and the public service), though even that is declining (down from 38.8% in 2016). Over the four decade course of my life as a union rep (aka shop steward) and rank-and-file union activist in teaching and the public service, the near-to-fully-unionised workplace has gone from being the norm to an aberration today. The strike is fast becoming an antiquarian labour movement artefact whilst the picket line increasingly resembles a historical re-enactment society outing.
The decline in union membership is global. In the US, trade union membership is just 10.1% and in the UK it is a healthier but still modest 22.3%. The shrinking trade unions are, paradoxically, victims of their own success, the union-won gains of the past being seen by new generations of workers as just the norm from beneficent employers whilst, if political at all, they are more preoccupied with the flashy distractions of identity politics than with dry-as-dust superannuation schemes and the other bread-and-butter issues of workplace unionism. Marooned from its class moorings, much of the Left has sought relevance through the new constituencies of identity politics.
These reflections are not a lament for nostalgic workerism, nor is it to romanticise the working class, but it is to recognise that it is class (whether you sell your labour versus whether you exploit the labour of others) that remains crucial to the question of who has political and economic power and how old-fashioned class politics can redress rule by the capitalist elite. All the identity politics in the world can not do this. Identity politics is merely the go-to political purity test that the unwoke fail at their peril of being looked upon as some sort of political pond-life by the New Normal Progressive. Identity politics is fundamentally conservative.
Corporate capitalism has, indeed, embraced wokeness in all its frivolous glory precisely because this brand of narcissistic politics masks fundamental issues of power and also boosts profits by positioning a company with the woke worker and consumer. Straight from the divide-and-rule playbook, identity politics overrides class solidarity by pitting people of alternative hue against people of no colour, men against women, fake women against real women, etc. Occasionally, there can be overreach such as in the farcical Bud Light trans saga, but most of the corporate woke posturing goes unchallenged, consolidating their class power and wealth.
Can mere stupidity be to blame?
The New Normal Progressive may appear to be a bit dumb and gullible such as, for example, on lockdowns, masks, the Glorious Jab of Salvation, and adopting the often bizarre and frequently damaging behaviour norms required by the new Covid religion. The New Normal Progressive, is, however, actually quite smart and highly intelligent. Most have spent years at university which still, in most courses, requires conceptual, analytical and creative thinking, a high level of subject-matter mastery and the ability to write joined up sentences.
Intelligent people, however, can sometimes do very stupid things, often without even realising it. On identity/woke politics, for example, the need to be seen as a ‘good person’ requires a great deal of stupidity. The OED tries to neutrally define ‘woke’ as meaning ‘alert to injustice in society’ but, more to the point is the Urban Dictionary’s sarcastic definition of ‘woke’ as “the act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue”. This way lies woke stupidity.
The New Normal Progressive is not intellectually stupid but the ‘stupid intellectual’ is, nevertheless, a real personality type. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, who was hanged by the regime in 1945, well understood the concept of the ‘stupid intellectual’ as fear and panic made many refined, cultured, urbane Germans into stupid Nazi supporters (and leaders). Of otherwise “remarkably agile intellect”, Bonhoeffer said, the smart-but-stupid Nazi, “is not independent. In conversation with him [sic], one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being”.
“Reason falls on deaf ears”, Boenhoeffer added – “facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed … and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental”. Tell me that is not precisely how the smart-but-stupid ‘progressive’ handled any quizzing or doubt offered up by the Covid dissident with a response that was defensive and sometimes hostile (‘where’s your MAGA cap?’, ‘are you one of those do-your-own-research cookers?’) and which never displayed any open-minded curiosity and willingness to civilly explore contradictory views.
We have all done stupid things, made stupid mistakes, been stupidly conned. The smart, however, will admit it, if even just to themselves, and resolve to learn from it. True stupidity, on the other hand, means not ‘fessing up to behaving stupidly and so continuing in the stupid behaviour. The hard-core New Normal Progressive, forever banging on about how everything everywhere is racist, still clutching their masks and over-the-counter Covid tests, whilst lining up for the next booster to ward off variant BS24-7, with Putin not NATO fixed in their frame of vision, and continually blowing their irritating, one-note woke vuvuzela of ‘Racism! Racism! Racism!’, fits this definition to a tee.
The decline of amicable political discussion
As much as the intellectual degeneration of the New Normal Progressive has been stunning, the personal behaviour and style of argument amongst the grass roots New Normal Progressive, ever temperamental and histrionic, has been a real eye-opener in all its emotionally heated superficiality. Their debate style favours the vitriolic in heavy hand-to-hand argument, armed with hot-tempered volleys of sweeping generalisations and hyperbole at ten paces which results in raised blood pressures all round, up to and including the throwing of crockery.
The angry New Normal Progressive is easily triggered into the ad hoc denunciation of the political object of woke loathing de jour (Trump, Farage, Djokovic, even the ‘conspiracy theorist’ and ‘anti-vaxxer’ RFK Jr.) They are the easily programmed devotee of the scheduled Two Minute Hate session in which it is daily required of all good, loyal citizens- as a sign of their moral virtue and their fealty to ‘correct’ ways of political thinking- to curse and spit at the required target/s, bringing to mind Emmanuel Goldstein, the officially-designated ‘Enemy of the People’, the ersatz Trotsky-figure from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.
Mindlessly repeating the same empty slogans – ‘Trans women are women!’; ‘Believe all women!’; ‘Clap the NHS!’; ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’, ‘Black Lives Matter!’ (but not the lives of blacks when they are taken by other blacks); “Hands up, don’t Shoot!”; ‘Impeach Trump!’ – the New Normal Progressive can be infuriatingly blind, arrogant, obstinate, unwilling to listen and dangerously intolerant of tolerance. Any capacity for self-reflection, also, has shrivelled and died in the New Normal Progressive – no lessons will be learned by them.
The ad hominem attack is not only lazy politics but also elitist – fulminating against the bloke 63 million Americans successfully voted for in 2016, and 67 million unsuccessfully endorsed in 2020 because of electoral fraud, (and who is now the leading Republican candidate for Presidential nominee whilst being prosecuted banana-republic style by Democrat ‘Justice’ operatives) is to take aim obliquely at not just (bourgeois) democracy, but the mostly working class Americans who gave Trump their vote.
For example, the industrial working class in the US was being destroyed by free trade agreements which advantaged US and overseas capital and that was one of the key reasons they rallied to an unlikely saviour in the protectionist Trump – and Trump was absolutely right to champion working class communities left behind by globalisation, that phenomenon of the capitalist 1% that the Left once opposed with protests and occupations. It is entirely legitimate to point out to Trump-loathing ‘progressives’ that the left once opposed capitalist free trade and didn’t buy into the capitalist, globalist blather about ‘international competitive advantage’ and supported a strong, unionised, domestic manufacturing industry. Trump Derangement Syndrome had critically damaged the New Normal Progressive long before Covid continued the job.
How to handle the New Normal Progressive
When, after you’ve been the very model of reasonableness and good humour but you still find that the New Normal Progressive will not be coaxed into civil discourse because they are psychologically unwilling to admit they have betrayed their best political instincts, it may be best to bail out of any dead-end exchange. It is perfectly reasonable to disengage from them and stay mute, just as you wouldn’t waste your time or composure arguing with alcoholics or street lunatics. It is not in your job description to try and save them from their own political folly and lead them to socialist redemption – they can only come to that in their own way and their own time. Meanwhile try to tune out all the New Normal hubbub as just so much white noise.
Try to preserve any long-standing friendships by all means but be aware, however, that the New Normal Progressive can never be fully trusted again after what they have displayed these last few years especially during the Covid debacle, when they would have gladly locked you up in a camp and force-vaccinated you if given the word by the government. Never forget what the New Normal Progressive did during Covid (and during the other manias of the last decade) and what they would be prepared to do all over again.