The demand for ‘normal.’

I have a lot to pull together today and it isn’t quite there yet. So it’s here, for the moment at least, and really as well in the issue last night.


Fig. 1. Cartoon by Matt Pritchett in the Telegraph, July 25, 2020, fair use.

George Monbiot writes in and principally of Britain. He does not, in this column, mention the U.S. except in reference to a trade deal that Boris Johnson is negotiating as a sad substitute for the European Union. And he relies on polls[1] which, due to a ludicrously and beyond unacceptably low response rate,[2] I do not trust.

But I wonder the degree to which what Monbiot writes is true in the U.S. It’s weird here, where the “normal” that he disparages and believes people do not wish to return to, but that elites (functionalist conservatives) are all too anxious to return to,[3] appears to have an ideological component.

Monbiot seems to be referring to an elite and intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism[4] as that “normal.”[5] But here in the U.S., I would think there are, as well, paleoconservative (including white supremacist), authoritarian populist (“Tea Party”), and social conservative (principally conservative evangelical Protestant) elements among the general population that desperately want to assert their own ideological “normal.”

It’s weird here, and really rather sickening.

George Monbiot, “Dysbiosis,” July 25, 2020,


From last night (July 25):

It’s been almost 2 months and there’s rioting in at least 3 cities tonight, this movement has outlasted the great upheaval of 1877 and only has 2 larger continuous antecedents in US history, the revolutionary period of 67-71 and the general strike of the enslaved + reconstruction

Having spent five years producing a history of rioting in the US I really really can’t quite believe how truly monumental this uprising is, and I recognize that there is real historical possibility opening wider every day

Like for context 1877 upheaval was so severe it led to the creation of National Guard armories in every big city in America. In terms of sheer value of property destroyed 1877 (and LA 92 and Holy Week 68 and even Miami 81) may still be “larger” (it will take years to know)

but in terms of momentum and mvmt longevity we’re in incredibly historic times. If we can keep pushing now, soon everything becomes possible…

It can be easy in the middle of something to be awed by the power of a moment (to be clear, a beautiful feeling) and so overestimate, but just as easy to get acclimated to a level of conflict and so underestimate. I’m often guilty of the former, but still…[6]

I believe that when Vicky Osterweil refers to “67-71,”[7] she means the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the antiwar, counterculture, and liberation movements of that era, which led to a decades-long backlash that has been visceral throughout my adult life and that spawned neoconservatism.[8]

I honestly don’t know how this plays and, indeed, it’s surely disingenuous to say the least for anyone to claim that they do know. But there’s certainly a lot happening, including the antiracism protests that Osterweil writes of, including Donald Trump’s response to those protests,[9] including a neoliberal refusal to adequately and compassionately address human need in an economic crisis,[10] and including a refusal by many to accept personal responsibility for helping to contain the coronavirus that propels that economic calamity.

  1. [1]George Monbiot, “Dysbiosis,” July 25, 2020,
  2. [2]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019,
  3. [3]George Monbiot, “Dysbiosis,” July 25, 2020,
  4. [4]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017,; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019,; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013,; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015,; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013,; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013,; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013,
  5. [5]George Monbiot, “Dysbiosis,” July 25, 2020,
  6. [6]Vicky Osterweil, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, July 25, 2020,
  7. [7]Vicky Osterweil, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, July 25, 2020,
  8. [8]George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).
  9. [9]Hamed Aleaziz, “‘Disturbing And Demoralizing’: DHS Employees Are Worried The Portland Protest Response Is Destroying Their Agency’s Reputation,” Buzzfeed, July 21, 2020,; Julian Borger, “Trump consults Bush torture lawyer on how to skirt law and rule by decree,” Guardian, July 20, 2020,; Bill Chappell, “Federal Agents Will Be ‘Clearly Identified’ In Kansas City, Mo., U.S. Attorney Says,” National Public Radio, July 21, 2020,; Jeet Heer, “Trump Unleashes His Secret Police in Portland,” Nation, July 17, 2020,; Madeline Holcombe, “More than a dozen mayors join Portland in asking Trump administration to withdraw federal forces,” CNN, July 22, 2020,; Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan, and Paul Sonne, “Pentagon chief balks at Trump’s call for active-duty military force on U.S. citizens, and Mattis rips president,” Washington Post, June 3, 2020,; Marissa J. Lang, “‘MomBloc’ and protest first-timers march into Portland streets, moved by the aggressive tactics of federal agents,” Washington Post, July 21, 2020,; Sarah McCammon, “DHS Official On Reports Of Federal Officers Detaining Protesters In Portland, Ore.,” National Public Radio, July 17, 2020,; Nick Miroff and Mark Berman, “Trump threatens to deploy federal agents to Chicago and other U.S. cities led by Democrats,” Washington Post, July 20, 2020,; Vicky Osterweil, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, July 25, 2020,; Katie Shepherd, “‘It was like being preyed upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them,” Washington Post, July 17, 2020,; Chris Walker, “Philadelphia DA Says Trump’s Police Will Be Arrested If They Assault Protesters,” Truthout, July 22, 2020,; Matt Zapotosky, “Trump threatens military action to quell protests, and the law would let him do it,” Washington Post, June 1, 2020,
  10. [10]Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland, “Life upended for Americans as U.S. scrambles to contain coronavirus threat,” Reuters, March 12, 2020,; AnnaMaria Andriotis, “Americans Skip Millions of Loan Payments as Coronavirus Takes Economic Toll,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2020,; Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020,; Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020,; Associated Press, “U.S. stocks climb 6% the day after biggest loss since 1987,” Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2020,; Associated Press, “3.2 million more filed jobless claims last week; more than 30 million since coronavirus hit,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2020,; Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020,; Associated Press, “1.9 million seek jobless aid even as reopenings slow layoffs,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2020,; Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020,; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020,; Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020,; John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020,; John Cassidy, “Who’s Right About the Economy—Jared Kushner or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?” New Yorker, April 30, 2020,; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020,; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020,; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020,; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020,; Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020,; Ben Eisen and David Benoit, “‘This Is Not a Normal Recession’: Banks Ready for Wave of Coronavirus Defaults,” Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2020,; Benjamin Fearnow, “Biden, Sanders demand 3-month freeze on rent payments, eviction of tenants across U.S.,” Newsweek, March 28, 2020,; Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020,; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020,; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020,; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020,; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020,; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020,; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020,; Paul Hannon, “Economic Recovery Is Under Way but Fighting Flare-Ups Is Key,” Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2020,; David Harrison, “Lack of Savings Worsens the Pain of Coronavirus Downturn,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2020,; Thomas Heath and Jacob Bogage, “Dow caps worst-ever first quarter with a more than 400-point slide,” Washington Post, March 31, 2020,; Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets wrap up worst week since the 2008 financial crisis,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020,; Thomas Heath, Taylor Telford, and Heather Long, “Dow plunges 10 percent despite Fed lifeline as coronavirus panic grips investors,” Washington Post, March 12, 2020,; Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020,; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020,; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020,; Greg Ip, “A Recovery That Started Out Like a V Is Changing Shape,” Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2020,; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020,; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020,; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020,; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020,; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020,; Justin Lahart, “Jobs Warning Light Starts Flashing,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2020,; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020,; Eric Levitz, “Coronavirus Creates an Opening for Progressivism — Also Barbarism,” New York, April 1, 2020,; Eric Levitz, “Why the Shockingly Good Jobs Report Might Be Bad News,” New York, June 5, 2020,; Eric Levitz, “This Recession Is a Bigger Housing Crisis Than 2008,” New York, July 13, 2020,; Heather Long, “Over 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March as economy collapsed,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020,; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020,; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020,; Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020,; Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020,; Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the pandemic total to over 17 million,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020,; Annie Lowrey, “The Second Great Depression,” Atlantic, June 23, 2020,; David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020,; David J. Lynch, Thomas Heath, and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets fall sharply as rampant volatility takes hold,” Washington Post, March 18, 2020,; Dylan Matthews, “Coronavirus could lead to the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression,” Vox, April 1, 2020,; Renae Merle, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020,; Eric Morath, “The Job Market’s Long Road Back,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2020,; Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020,; New York Times, “There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill,” March 14, 2020,; Neil Paine and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “What Economists Fear Most During This Recovery,” FiveThirtyEight, June 23, 2020,; Manu Raju et al., “White House, Senate reach historic $2 trillion stimulus deal amid growing coronavirus fears,” CNN, March 25, 2020,; Catherine Rampell, “The U.S. job market is still in very bad shape. Just wait until the fiscal time bomb goes off,” Washington Post, July 2, 2020,; Olivia Rockeman and Jill Ward, “Millions of Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2020,; Tony Romm, “3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million,” Washington Post, May 14, 2020,; Tony Romm, “Americans have filed more than 40 million jobless claims in past 10 weeks, as another 2.1 million filed for benefits last week,” Washington Post, May 28, 2020,; Eli Rosenberg, “Unemployment rate drops to 13 percent, as the economy picked up jobs as states reopened,” Washington Post, June 5, 2020,; Eli Rosenberg, “‘A Band-Aid on a bullet wound’: Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out,” Washington Post, July 23, 2020,; Eli Rosenberg, Heather Long, and Jeff Stein, “The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, but fierce new headwinds have emerged,” Washington Post, July 2, 2020,; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020,; Hamza Shaban, “White House tells 18 million unemployed workers to ‘Find Something New’ in ad campaign,” Washington Post, July 14, 2020,; Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, “4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States,” Washington Post, April 23, 2020,; Rachel Siegel, Thomas Heath, and Jeff Stein, “Dow slides more than 1,800 points on fears of coronavirus resurgence, more economic pain,” Washington Post, June 11, 2020,; Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020,; Andy Sullivan, “Americans too scared to go to work risk losing unemployment aid, experts say,” Reuters, April 23, 2020,; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020,; Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020,; Anneken Tappe, “30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March,” CNN, April 30, 2020,; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020,; David Wallace-Wells, “America Is Broken,” New York, March 12, 2020,; Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and Paul Kane, “Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020,; Erica Werner, Paul Kane, and Mike DeBonis, “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020,; Holly Yan, “5 common arguments for reopening the economy — and why experts say they are flawed,” CNN, May 11, 2020,

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