Not Biden their time: The UK's Trump-friendly media puts the boot in and Joe Biden hasn't even been inaugurated yet

It's some of the right criticisms from (almost) all of the wrong people.

Joe Biden’s inauguration is the return to a ‘status quo’ in Washington for which I have no love. The Obama/Biden administration was as keen on drone strikes and interference in other nations as any that had gone before it. The chain-link cages housing immigrant families were built in that era; they weren’t, in fact, one of Trump’s many monstrous inventions.

What Biden represents is a return to a ‘polite’ face for American power both globally and domestically. He’ll roughly say the ‘right’ words — the famous Biden gaffes are not going to simply go away once he’s saying them in front of the Presidential seal — and do the ‘right’ things and liberals who have leapt fifteen feet in the air at every cough and spit of the Trump era will go back to sleep.

All of that said, it’s interesting to note that The Times and Daily Telegraph have run pieces this morning that already go in on the not-yet-inaugurated 46th President of the United States. Could it be that the headbangers at these publications are still galled that their guy, Donald J. Trump, was not able to steal the presidency as he and his goons so desperately tried to do?

Ella Whelan, a reliably tedious controversialist who is part of the Spiked Online Extended Universe, dusts off a familiar rant from the Obama era and find/replaces the former president’s name with Biden’s — “Joe Biden’s celebrity-packed inauguration is an embarrassing start to his presidency.” As a criticism, it’s weak-sauce. Trump would have loved to have a celeb-drenched inaugural; it’s just that nobody of note wanted to play.

After admitting that inaugurations have “long been occasions to show off” and listing celebrities who have featured at previous events, Whelan writes a justified list of complaints that includes Biden’s hypocritical musical choices (MF Doom was kept out of the US by the Obama administration), the incoming vice-president’s volte-face on her new boss’ merits (during the primaries Harris hammered him on his previous record on race), and Kamala Harris’ own previous loose relationship with reality (she refashioned an MLK anecdote as her own).

My complaint with Whelan’s column is not so much the points she makes — she’s right to say “you’re still kidding yourself that Biden’s term will spell a move to serious political change based on what’s good for working-class Americans…” — but who’s saying it. Her previous Telegraph column framed protests at a Portland bookshop over the stocking of a book by Andy Ngo — the far-right adjacent reporter who hates being called far-right despite saying endlessly appearing with them and saying things they like — as an “Antifa siege”. The one before that castigated celebrities — again — for “gesture politics” in speaking out after the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

Spiked, where Whelan was Assistant Editor until 2018, predictably took hardline contrarian positions on Trump throughout his administration. It published a leader column yesterday accusing Biden of “promoting wokeness on steroids”. That’s not a surprise as Spiked and its heavingly-foreheaded editor Brendan O’Neill relies on framing the world as under attack from a reactionary force of wokeists, desperate to destroy everything the right holds dear, even as the right holds the levers of political power. By British standards, Biden is basically a wet Tory. He stands for capital and the interests of his major corporate donors, and will simply do that more politely than Trump has done over the past four years.

When O’Neill wrote “Twitter’s suspension of Donald Trump is a chilling sign of tyranny to come,” that’s not what he actually believes; it’s what the character he and his titanically top-heavy forehead play for money believes. O’Neill maintains his hold on talkRadio, The Spectator, and the 24-hour news channels by selling the same thing over and over again: The right is being censored and the left are the real authoritarians. It doesn’t have to have any connection with what’s happening in the real world, it just has to be suitably extreme to keep the attention of over-caffeinated news producers and far-right friendly editors like the Spectator’s odious Fraser Nelson.

In The Times, Lord Finkelstein writes a far more measured assessment of Biden than Whelan’s wail about celebrities. Finkelstein opens the piece with one of his most frequently-deployed tricks: Starting with a tight focus of some piece of historical trivia — in this case, Biden as Vice-President delivering the eulogy at the memorial for Richard Ben Cramer, the writer of What it Takes, an astute book that included his 1988 presidential run — before quickly zooming out to consider the here-and-now.

Using Cramer’s book and its perspective on the Biden of 1988 as the spine for his argument, Finkelstein implies that the new President will not be up to his task without coming out and saying it directly. I’m not surprised. Finkelstein is a political animal and selects his words more carefully than most columnists; he’s well aware of the embarrassment that can come from having your previously confident assertions quoted back to you when it’s already become clear that they were so much huff and puff. He writes:

It’s exhausting just to read about Biden at that time, to learn, as Cramer puts it, about “the demanding curriculum of being Joe Biden. Everybody had to know him, like him and trust him. He had to be the guy they could turn to, the one they could count on. He was a good friend, a good date, a good officer, a leader, a hell of a talker . . .” Can he still be all these things now? Does he have the energy, the physical stamina to be Joe Biden? The will hasn’t deserted him, but the way? That’s more of an open question.

That’s more of an open question? That’s more like hedging your bets.

While the editors of The Times and their ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch, will not be easy on Biden, I also suspect they’ll want us to forget the obsequious homage paid to Trump by Michael Gove, who returned to his old paper to bow and scrape to the bumptious billionaire shortly after Trump’s election.

I want to read writing that critiques Biden, his agenda, and the rush back to the status quo, but the usual suspects aren’t capable of doing that credibly. Many of them cut Trump a lot of slack over the years — especially writers at outlets like The Times, Telegraph, and Spectator — who saw full-throated defences of Trump’s populism as part of protecting the more home-grown populist posturing of Boris Johnson and his Cabinet of horrors. The reasons Douglas Murray doesn’t like Biden aren’t the same ones that make me doubt him.

On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, the right-wing press was telling us that we should be giving him a chance, that people who didn’t were anti-democratic snobs unable to accept the ‘will of the people’ (remember that one?). At the end of his presidency, many of them continued casting aspersions on Joe Biden’s electoral victory long after it became clear that no ‘steal’ had occurred. In fighting their beloved culture war, the right’s most ranting columnists will keep finding ways to blame everything on the left, even as Joe Biden capitulates to the Republicans time and time again. I wonder why…

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