Entering Donald Trump’s world felt like entering into a bad fiction. For me the feeling was amplified given that news of the elections reached me, in real time, high above the planet’s surface. Months before the 2016 elections I had booked a flight from Chicago (where I lived at the time) to London (where I was speaking at a conference) on election day. Like most people I was under the foolish impression that this puffed up billionaire reality star didn’t stand a chance.
Not only have we turned the corner, / I know what lies on its other side. / So divine is my inspiration, I can tell you with certainty: / democracy is for chumps. / Jack, you’ve stirred your last chicory. / Armies of clogged noses stand behind me, / and they are formidable… so long / as they stay on their god-dang knees.
Compared to the hellish turn events have taken over the past four years, the Great Clown Panic of 2016 is easy to forget. But as I wrote at the time, this bizarre phenomenon – part prank, part media hype, part soccer mom moral panic – was not as alien to America as it appeared. Far from it, it seemed to be symptomatic of a country whose already threadbare psyche was completely unraveling. If you believed in omens, it would be easy to see this as a preamble to something far more menacing in store.
Santa Claus is a fascist. He always has been and always will be. I can hear your shock and outrage at my writing that from here, but I have the facts on my side. Not only does this man run a sweatshop whose workers are basically treated like slaves, his whole reason for being is that he can bring gifts only to Christian kids. We’ve seen this type of selective charity before, but most of the time the groups that do it have been named things like “National Socialist People’s Welfare.”
He has survived. This braying, sniveling coward whose vindictive petulance has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people, has survived. Of course we always knew he was going to. He has access to the best treatment imaginable – round-the-clock care, experimental drugs, even a hospital room that looked more like a suite at the Waldorf. A few caveats aside – “not out of the woods yet,” his shortness of breath – Donald Trump has survived Covid-19.
From now on every autumn / will burn / The only question / will be whether the flames / are set by figments / or by nature.
Nobody ever remembers everything they want to say during an interview. Particularly when it is about music, and even more when it’s music you love. There is always an artist you want to bring up, one that not only illustrates your point but you want to mention simply because they’ve managed to touch your own being and bringing them up feels good.
In the vast warehouse of insufferable chestnuts that comprises popular American political wisdom, few are more cloying and useless than “democracy is not a spectator sport.” Not just for its thick-headed, football coach motivation-speech optimism, but because, by point of fact, American democracy has always been a spectator sport. It has always feared the mob, always relied on passivity to get its business done, and – if you’ll indulge another stupid sports metaphor – has always viewed the voting public as an inert crowd watching while the real action happens on the field.
Comparisons between Protomartyr and the Fall are so commonplace they’re almost trite. Almost, but not quite. Joe Casey inhabits a great many of the musico-poetic roles that listeners loved in Mark E. Smith: sarcastic ambivalence that could unexpectedly give way to sincerity, a talent for the vivid grotesque, the aura of a madman carnival barker harnessing the existential circus.
EP Thompson saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the beginning of a new phase in world history. By itself this is not exceptional. Most historians, politicians and commentators, from across the political spectrum, saw the end of the Second World War and the dramatic shift in the geopolitical axis as the dawning of a new era. What set Thompson apart was the name he picked for the logic undergirding this new world: “exterminism.”