Yellow vest protests: “Over and over, a daft political class paternalistically implements changes more to the benefit of donors than voters, then repeatedly is baffled when they prove unpopular.”

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We needn’t worry here. BOW would refuse the parade permit.

The French Protests Do Not Fit a Tidy Narrative, by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)

The yellow vest protests are more nuanced than American pundits want to admit

“What’s wrong with elitism?” asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot this week on Twitter. Boot posed this in a discussion about the merits of centrism, raised in the context of the “yellow vest” protests against the government of Emmanuel Macron in France.

American media seems to be confused by the protests. Few seem to understand what protesters want, or even who they are. Some outlets describe protesters as Trump-like nationalists aligned with Marine Le Pen, others as antifa-style leftists aligned with Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The marchers actually cut across all political lines, and if anything, both Le Pen and Melenchon are trying to attach themselves to something independent of them. Unifying factors seem to be hatred of Macron and a desire to express this in profane fashion (the New Yorker noted that many of the protest slogans are colorful variations on the theme of people being literally screwed by Macron).

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Macron has a 23 percent approval rating, Paris seems to be on fire, and people are even spray-painting the Arc de Triomphe. How, Boot asked, could all this be happening to such a cool politician? When an online commenter suggested “centrism” was just another word for “elitism,” Boot was again puzzled.

What’s wrong with elitism? Don’t we all want the best at the helm? You wouldn’t want an un-elite airline pilot, would you?

This was the Spinal Tap version of neoliberalism: what’s wrong with being elite?

The inability of pundits to make sense of the plummeting popularity of “centrism” is a long-developing story in the West.


Over and over, a daft political class paternalistically implements changes more to the benefit of donors than voters, then repeatedly is baffled when they prove unpopular.

See: NAFTA, the creation of the WTO and GATT, deregulation of the banking sector, multiple unnecessary wars, tax holidays and other corporate subsidies like bans on drug re-importation, mass construction of prisons during an era of sharply declining crime (coupled with broad non-enforcement of white-collar offenses), and so on.

Allow me to recommend supplemental reading.

The Marxist Pop-Culture Theorist Who Influenced a Generation, by Rob Arcand (The Nation)

Through his blog, k-punk, Mark Fisher pioneered a different kind of cultural criticism.

… Across three books, numerous magazine pieces, and hundreds of short essays, Fisher established a vast and totalizing worldview defined by his thoughts on capitalism, media, and the afterlife. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Fisher coined the term “capitalist realism” to describe a specific belief increasingly common with politicians in both the UK and North America, that no matter how bad things were under capitalism, the roughly 300-year-old political and economic system had become the only viable option—with it all but impossible to imagine any realistic alternative to the current global marketplace.

Building on the work of Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, Fisher regarded the expression that “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism” as more than mere Marxist fatalism; his 2009 book, Capitalist Realism, approached film, literature, and music as a lens into the phenomenon for which it was named—a manifesto for some lasting alternative to global capitalism, inspired by the art he loved. But before their inclusion in Capitalist Realism, almost all of the writing here existed in earlier forms as essays and posts on Fisher’s blog, k-punk.

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