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“MEET the new boss/Same as the old boss,” sings Roger Daltrey at the end of Won’t Get Fooled Again, one of The Who’s greatest songs. In fact it’s one of the greatest anthems in the rock canon full stop, reaching the top ten in 1971.
However, reading the Guardian’s coverage of Joe Biden you would think most of the staff at the liberal-left newspaper have never heard of the track, nor are familiar with the sceptical sentiment which courses through it.
In Guardianland the President-elect of the United States is “a decent, empathetic man,” as senior columnist Jonathan Freedland explained.
“Joe Biden has won… renewing hope for the US and the world,” the paper confirmed. “After four years of turmoil, misinformation, manipulation and division, the result of this historic presidential election offers fresh promise for democracy and progress.”
To celebrate his victory the Guardian produced a “Free 16-page Joe Biden souvenir supplement” for readers, filled with propaganda photographs of the 78-year old looking popular and presidential.
“He will have to reassert America’s role as the global problem-solver,” a Guardian editorial asserted. “Under Mr Trump the ‘indispensable nation’ disappeared when it was needed the most.”
If all this bowing of the knee to authority sounds familiar that’s because it is.
“They did it. They really did it,” the Guardian’s leader column swooned when Barack Obama was elected to the White House in November 2008. “So often crudely caricatured by others, the American people yesterday stood in the eye of history and made an emphatic choice for change for themselves and the world… Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too.”
Freedland himself breathlessly recorded Obama coming on stage in Berlin in July 2008: the then Democratic presidential candidate “almost floated into view, walking to the podium on a raised, blue-carpeted runway as if he were somehow, magically, walking on water.”
Of course, the problem is much wider than the Guardian.
“Congratulations @KamalaHarris and @JoeBiden we are all rooting for you in your new jobs!” tweeted self-proclaimed “actual socialist” Stella Creasy MP.
“He ran a campaign on the values that we in the United Kingdom share — decency, integrity, compassion and strength,” commented Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
“In a dark year, this is a good day. It’s time for a return to decency, unity and humanity in our politics,” tweeted Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
There is no excuse for this kind of vacuous power-friendly bullshit. Unlike Obama in 2008, Biden has a very long political record so there is no reason to get fooled again.
As US political analyst Thomas Frank noted in the Guardian itself — sometimes useful things do appear in the paper — “Biden’s name is virtually synonymous with Washington consensus.”
“His years in the US Senate overlap almost precisely with his party’s famous turn to the ‘third way’ right, and Biden personally played a leading role in many of the signature initiatives of the era: Nafta-style trade agreements, lucrative favours for banks, tough-on-crime measures, proposed cuts to social security, even.”
And, Frank notes, “It was precisely this turn, this rightward shift in the 1980s and ’90s” and the abandonment of the working class “that set the stage for Trumpism.”
As vice-president in the Obama Administration from 2009-17, Biden oversaw the bombing of seven Muslim-majority countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen). According to a Council on Foreign Relations blog written by Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson, the US dropped 26,172 bombs in 2016 — an average of 72 bombs a day.
Going further back, in his new book Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden, Branko Marcetic says Biden “arguably more than any Democrat had created the crisis in Iraq.”
In the run-up to the aggressive and illegal invasion in 2003 he supported the Bush administration’s push for war in the media and as chair of the Senate foreign relations committee he travelled to Europe and the Middle East to make the case to other leaders.
Writer Louis Allday recently provided some clear-sighted analysis in Ebb magazine: Biden “has caused an incalculable amount of suffering over his many decades as a senior official of the US empire.”
This is supported by a September 2020 Brown University study, which “using the best available international data… conservatively estimates that at least 37 million people have fled their homes in the eight most violent wars the US military has launched or participated in since 2001.”
On the environment, the (recently departed) Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore argues Biden “has room for manoeuvre… he can, in short, act as if the climate emergency is real.”
Indeed, Biden has pledged to immediately sign up to the Paris Agreement, This is good news, though it needs to be tempered with a pinch of reality. As the leading climate scientist James Hansen remarked about the agreement: “It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2°C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises.”
And while you’ll be hard pressed to find any mention of it in the fawning media coverage of Biden and the climate crisis, it’s worth noting the US’s piss-poor pledge at Paris, when Biden was vice-president: the US promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level by 2025. Friends of the Earth described these goals as “weak” and not “commensurate with the demands of climate science and justice” as “it moves us closer to the brink of global catastrophe.”
To be sure the Biden presidency will usher in many positive changes. The US will almost certainly rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reverse Trump’s move to withdraw from the World Health Organisation.
Biden is also expected to rescind Trump’s rule on US foreign aid, “which rights campaigners say has prevented millions of women across the globe from getting access to proper reproductive and sexual healthcare over the past four years,” the Guardian reports.
But Biden himself confirmed “nothing would fundamentally change” when he met with wealthy donors in New York in 2019. According to Salon, the President-elect went on to say that the rich should not be blamed for income inequality, telling the donors, “I need you very badly.”
“I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you,” he added.
Biden is, in the words of US muckraker Matt Taibbi, the latest “imperial administrator.”
Yes, he might be a highly experienced politician, more prone to multilateralism and someone who will oversee a more predictable US foreign policy, but he is still the head of the reigning imperial power in the world today.
And this is the key issue: Biden’s presidency will give US imperialism a more likeable face that will likely reduce opposition to its often deadly policies and actions, both at home and abroad. It is, in short, another opportunity for An Instant Overhaul For Tainted Brand America, as Advertising Age hailed the last incoming Democratic president in 2008.
Interestingly, it seems many people were able to see through the political marketing surrounding Obama, with a 2013 WIN/Gallup International poll of over 60,000 people across 65 nations finding 24 per cent (the most popular answer) believed the United States was “the greatest threat to peace in the world.”
Not so the Guardian. Instead, its servile coverage of the election of Biden and Obama makes a mockery of editor Katharine Viner’s claim the paper is committed to “holding the powerful to account.”
As Tony Benn memorably wrote in his diaries: “The Guardian represents a whole batch of journalists, from moderate right to moderate left — ie centre journalists — who, broadly speaking, like the status quo. They like the two-party system, with no real change. They’re quite happy to live under the aegis of the Americans and Nato.”
“They just are the Establishment,” he added. “It is a society that suits them well.”
Follow Ian on Twitter @IanJSinclair.
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