Our successor to This Week in the Guardian, This Week in the New Normal is our weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.
1. Justin Trudeau’s complete lack of self-awareness
On Friday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared at a meeting of Toronto’s Ukrainian community – sans mask, but bearing Ukraine ribbon – to deliver a stern warning: we need to be aware of “slippage” in our democracies.
Justin says – “leaders are becoming more authoritarian”.
And he’s right – Less than three weeks ago he invoked the Emergencies Act to criminalise peaceful protest and then seize and/or freeze the private property of people who had done nothing but donate money to peaceful protesters.
Justin says – “countries are allowing too much misinformation and disinformation”
And he’s right – The Canadian establishment reported that the Freedom Convoy was full of white supremacists who were stealing food from homeless shelters and being funded by “foreign agents”. None of that was ever proven true.
Justin says – “our current political climate emboldened Putin, and made him think he could get away with starting a war”
And he’s right – America has started three wars and bombed at least eight countries since the year 2000 and dropped 26,000 bombs in 2016 alone. Canadian forces took an active part in two of those wars. No American or Canadian politician has ever been censured, let alone punished. No wonder Putin thought he could get away with it.
But, of course, Justin wasn’t really talking about himself, which is a bit sad.
Probably the first time Justin “I support Current Thing” Trudeau has told the truth since the new year, and he did it by accident.
2. West embraces censorship
The West’s decision, this week, to outright ban Russian news outlets Sputnik and RT shouldn’t surprise anyone, in some ways it’s only surprising it didn’t happen years ago.
Regardless of your position on the war, you cannot support this kind of censorship. Even if those channels did literally nothing but spout propaganda, even if literally everything they said was factually wrong, their right to exist needs to be protected by everyone, because none of us are safe once the government claims a monopoly on “truth”.
On top of that, Reddit is blocking all visitors from Russia, and all links to any Russia-registered domains.
More troubling are the instances of censorship at the individual level. For example, a Virginia teacher was suspended indefinitely for telling the kids in a Spanish class to “read media from both sides” and trying to understand the Russian perspective.
Of course, the climate of censorship predate Russia’s military entering Ukraine, it started with Covid and that’s still going on. Last week a regular Forbes contributor was let go after writing about how Dr Fauci makes his money. Google is also shutting down climate scientists who reach the “wrong” conclusion.
3. An insight into television as political theatre
Another instance of censorship, along with something even more interesting.
During a televised Q&A program on Australian television, a young audience member was kicked out of the studio for asking why the media weren’t upset about the civilian casualties in the Donbass for the last eight years:
Q and A on Australian TV about the Russia/Ukraine situation pic.twitter.com/VeVZI6y3H6
— Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2022) March 4, 2022
Several minutes after the question is asked Stan Grant, the host, breaks off the conversation to ask the questioner to leave, claiming he was “condoning violence”. Grant claims it was “bothering him”, but the fairly obvious truth is the producer is in his earpiece telling him what to do.
By way of explanation, Grant told the audience it was a “rogue” “unvetted” question. (Of course all questions to political panels are vetted – but it is nice to hear them admit it.)
But what’s interesting is that the young man claims his question was vetted, and asks “if my question was not appropriate for the show after being vetted and edited, I wonder why I was invited at all.”
Well, one possible explanation is that it was a piece of theatre pour encourager les autres.
Invite the young man on TV, have him ask a pro-Russia question on air, and then have him kicked out. Using the earnest young man as a tool, they have established his views are totally unacceptable and will result in removal from society.
That’s the message.
As a little postscript, the host who is so “bothered” by “advocating violence” is a senior fellow of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an “independent, non partisan think-tank” funded by the Australian government, the US government and private firms including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
BONUS: Cringe of the week
A double helping of painful-to-watch celebrity videos here.
Firstly, there’s Anna Lynn McCord, actress (and “human rights campaigner, apparently) reciting a poem to Vladimir Putin, about how if his mother had loved him this war wouldn’t be happening…
Dear Mister President Vladimir Putin… pic.twitter.com/LbDFBHVWJf
— AnnaLynne McCord (@IAMannalynnemcc) February 24, 2022
Secondly, there’s Sean Penn giving a (drunk?) interview about Ukraine, and talking about Zalensky as if he were literally Jesus…
Actor Sean Penn on meeting with Zelensky: "I don't know if he knew that he was born for this, but it was clear I was in the presence of something. […] This is such an extraordinary moment and I was endlessly impressed and moved by him." pic.twitter.com/rNblW5lfc7
— Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2022) March 6, 2022
Hollywood is a hell of a drug.
It’s not all bad…
As it becomes clear that the narrative is shifting from “pandemic” to war, it becomes harder to report the lifting of Covid restrictions as “good news”, as opposed to just being a scene shift.
Nevertheless, the New Zealand High Court’s ruling that vaccine mandates for the police force were “not justified” is still very much a good thing.
According to Justice Francis Cooke:
The order limits the right to be free to refuse medical treatment recognised by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (including because of its limitation on people’s right to remain employed), and it limits the right to manifest religious beliefs for those who decline to be vaccinated because the vaccine has been tested on cells derived from a human foetus which is contrary to their religious beliefs,’
This is good news – even if just a footnote as everyone shifts focus to Ukraine – because, whatever the motivation behind it, there is now a legal precedent on the books that says vaccine mandates are unconstitutional. Could be very important down the line.
Oh, and there’s this…
Oh no they got Uncle Joe!!! pic.twitter.com/xxLf7NsYVS
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) March 1, 2022
Sometimes life just gives you a little treat.