As I am sitting in London, overlooking the Parliament from my window, I can’t escape the politics in my rearview mirror, from Washington DC to London and back. I took a stroll on Boxing Day, the shopping day in the UK equivalent to Black Friday, and the shops were nothing short of empty. Covent Garden was a ghost town and the usual Christmas window decorations were missing. London is my happy place, especially during Christmas, and the city I call my second home, the abode I probably know better than both NYC and DC, but here we are, all fully vaccinated yet scared of the mild consequences of Omicron, which multiple governments have made a great fuss about, despite the growing scientific evidence that nothing major is bound to happen.
At the eleventh hour, health secretary Sajid Javid announced that there won’t be any new coronavirus restrictions for the UK before the New Year. The Premiership of Boris Johnson is in free fall, despite. But it will take some time before his friends tell the King that he has no clothes.
“I won’t stop until he’s gone,” a well known media presenter told me. That’s the mood of the British nation.
And that’s all happened after the Oregon dad said “Let’s go Brandon” on a Christmas call to President Biden’s face. Biden agreed and cheered on. So did half of America. The other half went after him, but he quickly pushed back, calling on his right to free speech. The White House went into full-on crisis management mode. Who’s going to break to the President what “Let’s go Brandon” stands for?
Then, the left and right unraveled, the only way they knew how.
When people threw milkshakes at Nigel Farage for wanting to Brexit, I said it was inappropriate. My friends in the corporate media disagreed. When the woman cyclist gave a middle finger to President Trump riding into the sunset in his motorcade, I said it was inappropriate, my friends in the corporate media disagreed. When the Oregon caller told President Biden to f**k himself to his face, I said it was inappropriate. My friends in the corporate media agreed.
My values do not change as a function of the political talking points, but the corporate media has double standards when it comes to popular speech. But that’s not only the Washington DC phenomenon the Republicans like to claim. It’s what the media in London does as well. The system of information gatekeepers was omnipotent before social media happened, but then social media became part of the system, and that has been happening for some time now in 2021. The members of the public are just unwilling or willing recipients of each message. Some agree, some disagree, and some go for conspiracy theories. Each to their liking, but that’s the audience’s make-up emerging in response to the newsrooms run by popular demand.
Next year, we have the primaries in the United States, and these corporate trends will only become more dominant. After over five years of being a member of the White House Press Corps, I am not sure if there is any way to beat the outdated system, but I know for sure that there is an alternative path, albeit less traveled.
Like crypto, the old world of political journalism needs a radical change – and by radical, I mean free-thinking, going to the basics of Robert Dahl or Emerson. If you are not familiar with the ideas of the two, then you should carve out the time to read them, and then Orwell, beyond 1984 and Animal Farm. He used to live in Hampstead Heath before the Second World War, my favorite neighborhood in London. My sister used to live in Hampstead and I still go there often in the footsteps of Orwell, full of questions about the world of political power that I’ve got to know over the years much better than I’d like to. Then I think of Christopher Hitchens and what he would say about the political landscape in the United States, and I drink up my cappuccino and laugh on the inside. I can hear clearly all the answers, all those self-evident truths of liberty and freedom and individuality and courage to speak truth to power. Still, these days you have to be a right-winger to say something remotely critical of Joe Biden, as otherwise, “it’s not good for your career.”
Speaking of the President, I have to say that he is a very nice guy. I imagine that he would not mind me calling him a “guy,” as it is something relatable to his constituents in Delaware, a very cool state, I may add. I was thinking of getting a beachfront house in Rehoboth many years before Biden made it famous. I was just not aware that I could get one in Malibu or Santa Monica for the same money instead.
Believe it or not, President Biden has given only one press conference since he became President. How much good has he made on his promise that he supports transparency and free press? You know the answer, you may just not be able to say it aloud.
I was on a plane talking to a fellow passenger on a flight from DC to London. She was an Elizabeth Warren supporter turned Biden voter “just for the sake of upholding normalcy as the alternative to Trump,” and she did not know the difference between a press briefing and a press conference. She thought Jen Psaki’s briefings are press conferences, as if that is the same as the President speaking to the American people directly and answering any question that may come his way. The fact that she does not know that the president only gave one press conference is not her fault. It’s the cover up executed by the lying-by-omission style no one was even able to notice.
In what book on democracy, I wonder, would one press conference per year be sufficient for a leader of the free world? Psaki, being excellent at her job, can produce a perfect thirty second response that no one will challenge, although everyone gets the sense that press access under Biden has taken us back to the Obama days. “No information is getting out of that building, I have more important stuff to do,” a bureau chief of one of the major news outlets in Western Europe told me.
On the foreign policy front, Psaki could not list one significant achievement in the first year of Biden’s term. The botched exit from Afghanistan would be a tough act to follow.
On the domestic front, Joe Manchin, aspiring presidential candidate 2024 killed Build Back Better, Biden’s hope for historic achievement.
Then, just as the year began to wrap, came the Omicron variant, a perfect window for the Biden administration to pump up the dramatics and make a big announcement that he has everything under control. Why not, as everything else was crumbling like a house of Washington cards.
However, it’s the end of the year, and in place of the glimmer of hope of joy provided by whichever holiday one celebrates with family and friends, fully vaccinated and boosted people are scared and isolated. Biden’s vision for next year is full of gloom, like his prediction of a “dark winter” when he was running for President of the United States.
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it, said Roald Dahl.
So just keep looking, despite all the doom and gloom of politics.
As the House of Washington cards continues to crumble, do look up and carry on. Out with the old, in with the new.
Cheers and Happy New Year!