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. “Ghost Children”
We’re in the season of lockdown revisionism, where voices of the establishment sheepishly admit to making a couple of mistakes that barely cover one-tenth of the horrific reality. This isn’t just about covering themselves or salvaging their reputation, it can also be a tool for selling an agenda in and of itself.
For example: “covid’s ghost children”.
One of the “regrets” of lockdown – among those media types who have decided they were never in favour of it, even though we all know they were – is that “closing schools was unnecessary” because it negatively impacted education levels…and caused some children to leave and never come back.
These are the aforementioned “ghost children”, those kids who left the system and never came back. And they were all over the news this week.
The Spectator is very concerned that high levels of “truancy” is going to create a spike in homeless criminals. The Times is characteristically didactic in tone, demanding we “Take urgent action to get ghost children back into school”, while the BBC is predictably indirect and squishy, going for the manipulative sentimental angle.
The BBC article is also the most revealing, calling for a:
a national register that would help track all children, including those not on a school roll.
…as well as suggesting “real-time data collection” to “protect vulnerable children”. This will doubtless be included in the new “Children Not in School Register” legislation, currently being proposed by Tory backbenchers.
Interestingly, not one of these articles even mentions homeschooling – which was a big concern just two months ago, but not without some pushback. It’s still about that, reframing the conversation to be about “vulnerable children” and juvenile delinquents is just a trick.
2. meat bans in the off(al)ing
The anti-meat propaganda drive kicked into cycle this week, with the Guardian reporting that farms produce over 25% of the pollution found in cities.
Yes, in the latest absurd statistic they actually expect us to believe, some “experts” have published a paper claiming more city-based particle pollution is created by agriculture than any other source, including ones within the city itself. Apparently, cow farts 20 miles away are worse for the London air quality than all of the cars, chimneys buses or factories.
It’s ridiculous, obviously.
Meanwhile, Oxford City council has announced they are banning meat and serving only vegan food at internal council events, and introducing vegan options to school menus. the first domino to fall, perhaps.
3. Iraq anniversary, again
I know, we covered this last week, but I didn’t see this article then and it really, really needs some recognition as either the greatest act of revisionism of all time, or an all-time great piece of absurdist satire.
Eli Lake contends that, 20 years later, we can look back at the Iraq war “not the disaster everyone says it was”.
Writing for Commentary.org, Lake lays out a series of points ranging from the factually inaccurate to the totally illogical. But, without question, the crowning glory is this quote:
During Saddam’s reign, only a small number of Iraqis had cellphone subscriptions. As of 2021, 86 percent of the country had a wireless telecom plan.
I mean, what can you even say to that? It’s perfect. The total lack of historical or social context, the fact he doesn’t even quantify the “small number”, and the very idea – even if that stat is true – that it would somehow make the war worth it.
I have nothing more to add. It’s hilarious.
BONUS: Depressing image of the week
Maybe some people won’t have a problem with it…but advertising boards on a cathedral – even just the scaffolding – feels like a cultural low-point.
Our great war is a spiritual war. pic.twitter.com/N1SSd8I0s9
— Culture Critic (@Culture_Crit) March 18, 2023
It’s not all bad…
I’m not sure there is any good news this week, I looked, I really did. Believe me. This is as disappointing for me as it is for you guys…
…here’s a soothing beach scene:
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