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The War on Populism

CJ Hopkins

Remember when the War on Terror ended and the War on Populism began? That’s OK, no one else does.

It happened in the Summer of 2016, also known as “the Summer of Fear.” The War on Terror was going splendidly. There had been a series of “terrorist attacks,” in Orlando, Nice, Würzberg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach, and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, each of them perpetrated by suddenly “self-radicalized” “lone wolf terrorists” (or “non-terrorist terrorists“) who had absolutely no connection to any type of organized terrorist groups prior to suddenly “self- radicalizing” themselves by consuming “terrorist content” on the Internet. It seemed we were entering a new and even more terrifying phase of the Global War on Terror, a phase in which anyone could be a “terrorist” and “terrorism” could mean almost anything.

This broadening of the already virtually meaningless definition of “terrorism” was transpiring just in time for Obama to hand off the reins to Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew was going to be the next president, and who was going to have to bomb the crap out of Syria in response to the non-terrorist terrorist threat. The War on Terror (or, rather, “the series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” as Obama rebranded it) was going to continue, probably forever. The Brexit referendum had just taken place, but no one had really digested that yet … and then Trump won the nomination.

Like that scene in Orwell’s 1984 where the Party switches official enemies right in the middle of the Hate Week rally, the War on Terror was officially canceled and replaced by the War on Populism. Or … all right, it wasn’t quite that abrupt. But seriously, go back and scan the news. Note how the “Islamic terrorist threat” we had been conditioned to live in fear of on a daily basis since 2001 seemed to just vanish into thin air. Suddenly, the “existential threat” we were facing was “neo-nationalism,” “illiberalism,” or the pejorative designator du jour, “populism.”

Here we are, two and a half years later, and “democracy” is under constant attack by a host of malevolent “populist” forces …. Russo-fascist Black vote suppressors, debaucherous eau de Novichok assassins, Bernie Sanders, the yellow-vested French, emboldened non-exploding mail bomb bombers, Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult, and brain-devouring Russian-Cubano crickets. The President of the United States is apparently both a Russian intelligence operative and literally the resurrection of Hitler. NBC and MSNBC have been officially merged with the CIA. The Guardian has dispensed with any pretense of journalism and is just making stories up out of whole cloth. Anyone who has ever visited Russia, or met with a Russian, or read a Russian novel, is on an “Enemies of Democracy” watch list (as is anyone refusing to vacation in Israel, which the Senate is now in the process of making mandatory for all U.S. citizens). Meanwhile, the “terrorists” are nowhere to be found, except for the terrorists we’ve been using to attempt to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad, the sadistic nerve-gassing Monster of Syria, who illegally invaded and conquered his own country in defiance of the “international community.”

All this madness has something to do with “populism,” although it isn’t clear what. The leading theory is that the Russians are behind it. They’ve got some sort of hypno-technology (not to be confused with those brain-eating crickets) capable of manipulating the minds of … well, Black people, mostly, but not just Black people. Obviously, they are also controlling the French, who they have transformed into “racist, hate-filled liars” who are “attacking elected representatives, journalists, Jews, foreigners, and homosexuals,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, the anointed “Golden Boy of Europe.” More terrifying still, Putin is now able to project words out of Trump’s mouth in real-time, literally using Trump’s head as a puppet, or like one of those Mission Impossible masks. (Rachel Maddow conclusively proved this by spending a couple of hours on Google comparing the words coming out of Trump’s mouth to words that had come out of Russian mouths, but had never come out of American mouths, which they turned out to be the exact same words, or pretty close to the exact same words!) Apparently, Putin’s master plan for Total Populist World Domination and Establishment of the Thousand Year Duginist Reich was to provoke the global capitalist ruling classes, the corporate media, and their credulous disciples into devolving into stark raving lunatics, or blithering idiots, or a combination of both.

But, seriously, all that actually happened back in the Summer of 2016 was the global capitalist ruling classes recognized that they had a problem. The problem that they recognized they had (and continue to have, and are now acutely aware of) is that no one is enjoying global capitalism … except the global capitalist ruling classes. The whole smiley-happy, supranational, neo-feudal corporate empire concept is not going over very well with the masses, or at least not with the unwashed masses. People started voting for right-wing parties, and Brexit, and other “populist” measures (not because they had suddenly transformed into Nazis, but because the Right was acknowledging and exploiting their anger with the advance of global neoliberalism, while liberals and the Identity Politics Left were slow jamming the TPP with Obama and babbling about transgender bathrooms, and such).

The global capitalist ruling classes needed to put a stop to that (i.e, the “populist” revolt, not the bathroom debate). So they suspended the Global War on Terror and launched the War on Populism. It was originally only meant to last until Hillary Clinton’s coronation, or the second Brexit referendum, then switch back to the War on Terror, but … well, weird things happen, and here we are.

We’ll get back to the War on Terror, eventually … as the War on Populism is essentially just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end, it’s all the same counter-insurgency. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgency (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The “character” of the internal enemies might change (e.g., “Islamic terrorism,” “extremism,” “fascism,” “populism,” “Trumpism,” “Corbynism,” et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.

The way I see it, the global capitalist ruling classes now have less than two years to put down this current “populist” insurgency. First and foremost, they need to get rid of Trump, who despite his bombastic nativist rhetoric is clearly no “hero of the common people,” nor any real threat to global capitalism, but who has become an anti-establishment symbol, like a walking, talking “fuck you” to both the American and global neoliberal elites. Then, they need to get a handle on Europe, which isn’t going to be particularly easy. What happens next in France will be telling, as will whatever becomes of Brexit … which I continue to believe will never actually happen, except perhaps in some purely nominal sense.

And then there’s the battle for hearts and minds, which they’ve been furiously waging for the last two years, and which is only going to intensify. If you think things are batshit crazy now (which, clearly, they are), strap yourself in. What is coming is going to make COINTELPRO look like the work of some amateur meme-freak. The neoliberal corporate media, psy-ops like Integrity Initiative, Internet-censoring apps like NewsGuard, ShareBlue and other David Brock outfits, and a legion of mass hysteria generators will be relentlessly barraging our brains with absurdity, disinformation, and just outright lies (as will their counterparts on the Right, of course, in case you thought that they were any alternative). It’s going to get extremely zany.

The good news is, by the time it’s all over and Trump has been dealt with, and normality restored, and the working classes put back in their places, we probably won’t remember that any of this happened. We’ll finally be able to sort out those bathrooms, and get back to paying the interest on our debts, and to living in more or less constant fear of an imminent devastating terrorist attack … and won’t that be an enormous relief?

C J Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org

Feel free to come find him in Berlin and buy him a beer. He’s been known to frequent an assortment of extremely suspicious RUSSIAN establishments in Kreuzberg.


  1. DunGroanin says

    The choice for honest parliamentarians is clear as is the ensuing option – a general election.

    A GE takes 4 weeks.
    A referendum will take at minimum months.
    Liam Foc admitted exactly that on Monday evening.

    The establishment wants a hard brexit – it was the only plan. PM May’s deal was designed to fail. If they wanted cross party support they would have had the negotiations conducted with cross party input. But they would have ended up with a better plan – that would have meant no hard brexit. With no running down of the clock and a shrug from May that it was the dastardly EU’s refusal to legally change the agreement which She took two years to finally agree – see?

    Bercow may be forced to include yet another amendment that would let Grieve march his troops back down the hill – again. He is as much arch establishment as Letwin!

    And lets not forget these curious secret cabals within uk governance – known as the Crown, the Privy Council… the Beast, the ‘never stopped from being born to rulers’.Etc.

    It is as historic and dangerous a moment for the survival of Parliamentary democracy as when Guy Fawkes came close to destroying it, for the globalists of their days.

    Excellent by CJH as usual btw.

  2. Fair dinkum says

    “The enemy is over there!”
    “What? Us?”
    “No. We’re the good guys”
    “Okay. We are obscenely wealthy. We do own the government. We do have a long history of ruthless exploitation and warmongering. We do make the rules”
    “But seriously. THE ENEMY IS OVER THERE!!!”

  3. BigB says

    Bravo CJ. As for a nominal ‘Br####’, the semanticised ‘Brexit-without-the-exit’ …I couldn’t agree more. We are on the eve of the “meaningful vote” …. 😀 😀 😀 😀

    …as for the real agenda: that is going to its 70 year plan of deeper EU federation and military integration. Germany and France are federalising by synchronising foreign interventionist policies, security police states, with closer military ties and ‘Eurodistricts’ …to be formalised as the Aachen Treaty on the 22nd (the day DeGaulle and Adenauer signed a similar alliance in 1963). Hopefully, this sub-imperial satrap venture will be equally short lived. But the intention, as a template for further integration and confederated militaristic dictatorship, is apparent. As is the intention of a permanent seat for Germany at the UNSC. Little chance of getting past a Russia/China veto – but clear intent none the less. Perhaps France will cede to become the two-speed EUSA seat after all?

    Tomorrow, the bi-partisan Brexit betrayal will reach a new low. It pains me to see Treason May weaponise the concept of democracy – to beat the people with a stick, as Bakunin would say. I’m no more happy that it is called the ‘People’s Stick’ – to complete the aphorism. Alas, but that’s what it means to be living in a post-truth, post-democracy, national security dictatorship – soon to be a sans-military ex-nation state – disunited kingdom.

    There seems to be an ultra-neoliberal ‘quasi-D-Notice’ on the Aachen Treaty. Only the Express and the Times have even mentioned it. What are they worried about, that people might see the ultra-neoliberal expansionist federalisation writing on the wall for the EU? I think free-thinking people everywhere saw that years ago. I don’t know what they are bothered about: BBC/Guardian readers have Stockholm Syndrome anyway. And the politicians are all completely complicit in our democratic betrayal, anyway. Time to popularise Weber’s theory of (de)legitimation: because that is exactly what is being perpetraitored …


    • Frankly Speaking says

      Meanwhile, in the real world, Brexit is a actually neoliberal Atlantacist project and Britain with be even more tightly fucked by the US post Brexit.

      NeoMarxists make friends with some strange bedfellows, whod’ve thunk it?

      • BigB says

        Ah yeah: the “we need to stay in the ultra-neoliberal EU in order to be safe from Atlanticist neoliberalism” pseudo-theory. Run it by me again, I’m still trying to decipher it from the last time.

  4. Interesting. How to tie this into the problem of the rejection of expertise. I’ve seen leftists and rightists rail against the rejection of expertise.

  5. Frankly Speaking says

    CJ, unfortunately in the Anglo-Saxon world, the “working classes” don’t give a flying fuck, most of them are beyond redemption and self-preservation and salvation.

    They’ve completely bought into the neoliberal and consumerist narrative, and whilst some of them sense something is wrong, they have no clue nor courage to resolve the situation, other than supporting Brexit which in my opinion, is barking up the wrong tree.

    Whilst the Brits are useless, even the Greeks and Italians have given up, and now it’s back to the reliable French to make sure we have a mini revolution.

    Up the Gillet Jaunes!

    • Northern says

      Glad to know we’re ‘beyond redemption’. Self aggrandising berk.

      • Indeed he is a berk. When he was still trolling on the Grauniad he used to claim to have been a union organiser and a fireman (and once or twice an economist who’d lived in Soviet Eastern Europe).

  6. Makropulos says

    “…..whatever becomes of Brexit … which I continue to believe will never actually happen, except perhaps in some purely nominal sense.”

    Ain’t that the truth!

  7. Gezzah Potts says

    Yet again CJ…. brilliant summation of the state of the World. Batshit crazy would almost be an understatement. And if Trump does get turfed out, then who becomes President? Mike Pence. Full blown fundamentalist christian who believes in the rapture, ffs. There are days I feel like I’m perched on a plank with a tiger shark swimming right underneath it. And regards any legitimate criticism of the murderous Apartheid regime in Israel, well, legitimate criticism is now deemed anti semitic, as Angela Davis has just found out, having her invitation to the Shuttlesworth Award recinded, allegedly for her vocal support for Palestine. And now various Western Govts making a criminal offence to support BDS, or advocate boycotting Israel. The absolute hypocrisy of the Western ‘democracies’ regards human rights is mind numbing. Two more examples: Yemen and Syria. And of course, its absolutely taboo to mention in the Western ‘free press’ who was behind the White Helmets, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, and all the other proxy terrorists. All Empire’s eventually collapse, and I think we are in for a very nerve wracking, perilous journey in the near future. The house of cards is tottering.

    • RealPeter says

      Batshit crazy: according to RT this morning, US Democrats (with a capital D) are planning to subpoena Trump’s Russian interpreters in order to try and prove he’s a ‘Russian asset’. RT also showed a couple of headlines from once-respectable US newspapers claiming Trump is a secret Russian spy. You couldn’t make it up.

      • Gezzah Potts says

        Real Peter: pure Hollywood candyfloss gunk. You’re right; you couldn’t make this stuff up. And the disastrous consequences of where all this is leading too….. All this reminds me of The Pied Piper.

  8. Nope. Firstly, liberals aren’t the left or even of the left.

    Secondly, the populism of which you speak (from right wing parties) is fake populism sponsored by the powers that be designed to push the political centre to the right and depower the left.

    Fore example, Macron was not manufactured to defeat Le Pen. He was manufactured to split the left and keep Melenchon away from the race altogether.

    Fascism is the fake populism that the elites serve up when socialism is in the air.

    • Antonym says

      This is how the Establishment wants potential revolutionary people to think: fascist, racist, fake, right wing etc.
      Luckily they don’t only read but mostly look around them in their neighbourhoods and know better.

  9. Paul Spencer says

    The more often I encounter CJ’s articles, the closer I get to buying him a beer – Berlin or other places.

    • Excellent in all respects! I would just differ on the point that they will move on from the attacks on “Populism.” Just as every progressive measure or organization was branded Communist, so every progressive measure or organization will continue to be branded as Populist for a long time to come in defense of neoliberalism.

  10. Loverat says

    Really engaging and amusing article.

    I came across the consentfactory, CJ Hopkin’s site for the first time today. Very funny

  11. Bufo says

    The Elites hate the People, the Elites hate democracy, the Elites hate freedom.

    • kevin morris says

      Bufo- the toad. In homoeopathy, those requiring the remedy Bufo are intellectually challenged and have a penchant for masturbation,which they will do almost anywhere. Sorry, I couldn’t resist displaying my homoeopathic knowledge. As for ‘the People’ who are they exactly? Do you include everyone who is not a member of an elite? Would that then include the toadies who will always pander to elites whoever or wherever they are, or are the Peopl’, that mythological beast that is replete with exclusions? If not, why not simply, ‘the Elites hate’ people? But of course, that sounds nowhere near as rousing.

      Speaking personally, and somewhat ironically, over many years, I have found that whilst some people who use the term ‘the people’ are very well intentioned, a lot who do seem mostly to resent the fact that their own little elite lacks the kudos it might have had once upon a time.

      • Paolo says

        “Speaking personally, and somewhat ironically”. Oh Irony, you mean that post 80s non commital fashionable attitude that helped lead the vainglorious modern “intelligentsia” off the edge of a cliff (without them even noticing). Which just leaves “the people” to clean up after them.
        Irony and global mass murder don’t really mix well.

  12. And always behind the scenes in the “war on populism” sit the Western intelligence agencies and media institutions, doing their best to foment a new Cold War (and perhaps as a ‘bonus” WWIII) through their completely manufactured “Russiagate” hysteria, “the Integrity Initiative’s” criminal activities demonizing Corbyn AND Russia, the DNC rigging the last U.S. presidential primary against Bernie Sanders and in favor of neocon war monger Clinton, the NYT’s and the Guardian’s ceaseless publication of fact-free deep state pablum presented as “news,” and in the U.S. at least the complete criminalization of any critique of Israel’s apartheid racist mayhem. Meanwhile, led by the U.S., NATO and Western war mongering continues to “project” it’s own clear insanity onto any number of “existential” non-threats.

    For this carnival of the absurd to be merrily rolling along month after month suggests that there is rather obvious real fear at play in Western oligarchic circles. It is likely that our brothers and sisters in the Yellow Vest movement are probably making it quite difficult for the uber-wealthy anywhere in the West to enjoy their caviar without indigestion. The house of cards that is the global Western dominated economic system would appear to be as fragile as it has ever been, and whether the “push” that sends is crashing down comes from climate or environmental catastrophe, unforeseen war, or simply the next stock market crash, one can sense change in the air in the coming year.

  13. Marjaleena Repo says

    I only disagree with this statement in the very “right-on” article: “The ‘character’ of the internal enemies might change (e.g., ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘extremism,’ ‘fascism,’ ‘populism,’ ‘Trumpism,’ ‘Corbynism,’ et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.” Well, “global capitalism”does not have 800 or so military bases around the world and does not engage in violent regime change, bombings and invasions of country after country, but the United States does, and is planning and threatening more while we talk.

    • Marjaleena Repo – while only a fool would deny the U.S. role is leading this pack of jackals, only the willfully blind can deny the ongoing involvement of dominant “global Capitalist” powers like the U.K., France and Germany in not only Middle Eastern war mongering and mayhem, but also the ongoing pillage of Africa in the name of – “global Capitalism.” One need only watch Western Europe’s press collectively demonizing Russia, while selling arms to the Saudi’s and thus supporting the slaughter in Yemen, to see the underbelly of this amoral Capitalist propaganda system at work. The U.S. is global Capitalism’s “military base” without a doubt, but without the ongoing support of Western European elites (and now some Eastern European governments), America’s ability to create militarized mayhem would be severely curtailed or perhaps even be forced to cease. Why don’t we see a “BDS” movement by Europe focused on America and designed to end U.S. militarism and aggression? Unrealistic you say? Ask yourself “why that might be?”

      Western controlled global Capitalism is simply the extension of the West’s open colonial period to the current era. This “system” has now concentrated as much wealth in the hands of the five richest people on earth as in the hands of bottom half of the earth’s entire population, some 3.3 billion people. Attempting to defend “global Capitalism” at this point is an exercise in depravity.

      • BigB says

        Global means global: or International World Capitalism (IWC). It is ‘deterritorialised’ and centreless: with a global elite (or ‘supra-society’) operating largely unregulated, through the tax-free offshore markets. It includes all countries – China, Russia, Iran, etc. – with very few pockets of resistance. Even the ALBA countries (Bolivarian Alliance) that are internally resistant (socialist): being petro-states, have to engage the neoliberal hegemony of the IWC (hence the economic warfare – inside the global capitalist system).

        That’s why they are ‘intra-capitalist’ struggles, hybrid wars, and potentially even a world war. I’m not sure why people can’t get their head around the idea of a globally hegemonic system that wouldn’t create fissures and alliances …within the system. The perpetual growth vectors encoded in the system make this inevitable. Without systems analysis: it can lead people to making fictive East/West alternative dichotomies that do not exist. Within regional parameters and advancements (mature versus emerging economies), the system is the same East and West: it’s a global hegemonic system.

        Separating the imperial from the sub-imperial clouds the system dynamics of capital valorisation, expansionism, encroachment, defensiveness, protectionism, dehumanism and alienation of the peripheralised countries. Due to structural growth vectors: which in turn means that due to the internal dialectics of the system – everyone is self-preserving and re- arming. Larger and larger agglomerates (RTAs; FTAs) of capitalist blocs competitively competing for scarce resources …you don’t have to be psychic to predict the future.

        Anyone for autonomous self-sufficient localism?

      • Marjaleena Repo says

        Intergenerational trauma —This Thomas Freedman quote backs up my contention that we are not dealing with the rather abstract notion of “global capitalism” but an actual, concrete country, the USA: “For globalization to work America can’t be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is.. The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” Thomas Friedman, New York Times, March 28, 1999 (at the time of the attack on Yugoslavia). It is not an accident that in France “globalization” is seen as synonymous with “Americanization.” Ditto for Canada, the country that has lost a huge chunk of its political-economic-cultureal sovereignty to the US via the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (1989) and NAFTA (1994),

        • Marjaleena Repo – I could post a thousand similar “quotes” from people much higher in the food chain than the NYT’s based neoliberal apologist Thomas Friedman, all by various European ministers, presidents, heads of state, NATO leaders, international bankers, high ranking EU officials, UN officials, etc. all proclaiming the need for their nation or the EU to engage in military operations – “humanitarian interventions,” NATO expansion, selling weapons to the Saudis, overthrowing Libya, a no fly zone in Syria, opposing “Russian aggression,” supporting the overthrow of democracy in Ukraine, etc. etc. etc. If your contention is that Europe is somehow simply “run by” Washington oligarchs with a gun to it’s head and therefore lacks the ability to act independently of it’s American master, you’re going to need considerably more convincing “evidence” than a 20 year old quote from Thomas Friedman, a man considered a complete idiot by anyone familiar with his work. Just saying.

    • That rang a bell from Roman History, and I see that bell is now ringing on many contemporary websites. From WikiPaidia (if we must go Greek):

      “Publius Clodius Pulcher (c. December 93 BC – 52 BC) was a Roman politician. As tribune, he pushed through an ambitious legislative program, _including a grain dole_, but he is chiefly remembered for his feud with Cicero and Titus Annius Milo, whose bodyguards murdered him on the Appian Way. [1]

      Clodius was a Roman nobilis of the patrician Claudian gens. He was known as an eccentric, mercurial and arrogant character.[2] He became a major disruptive force in Roman politics… (59–53 BCE). _He passed numerous laws in the tradition of the populares_ , … “one of the most innovative urban politicians in Western history”.[3]

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