by C. A. Matthews
Politics...activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.
Merriam-Webster Online defines performative this way:
1. Relating to or marked by public, often artistic performance
2. Made or done for show (as to bolster one's own image or make a positive impression on others)
Both definitions describe more than a few actions taken recently by neoliberal politicians. Before I describe these incidents, perhaps it’s wise to define what exactly is meant by neoliberal or neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism: an ideology and policy model that emphasizes the value of free market competition. ...It is most commonly associated with laissez-faire economics... Its confidence in free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources, its emphasis on minimal state intervention in economic and social affairs, and its commitment to the freedom of trade and capital.
Now that we’re on the same page with what is meant by these terms, politics, performative, and neoliberalism, here are three examples of recent performative politics and what I think each of the actors (that is, politicians) is communicating to their obvious and not-so-obvious audiences and why they choose to perform in such as way at this time.
First off, we have the extremely photogenic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC” as she is known. AOC gave a fiery speech at the recent March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City. Her obvious audience was, of course, the crowd that gathered there or watched her performance online. This crowd included environmental activists and protesters of all the destructive things “Big Oil” has done to our planet with their constant drilling, mining, and burning of fossil fuels. But who was the not-so-obvious audience AOC was reaching out to with her speech? And why did she choose to perform this particular speech at this particular place and time?
To understand, AOC’s motivations we have to do a little research and look back at her history in politics. AOC ran as a “Bernie Sanders Democrat” and was photographed interacting with the youth-led Sunrise Movement environmental organization. She led a very loud protest with these young environmental activists inside Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s offices early on in her career, so it makes sense that she would show up at the march where many of them were protesting that day.
But many things have happened since AOC’s time hanging out with the Sunrise Movement in 2018. AOC has been re-elected to Congress a couple times, and she’s made quite a name for herself, not so much as an environmentalist but as a very good Democrat who does as she’s told. She has voted several times for massive Pentagon/Defense Department budgets in spite of the fact the US military is one of the most polluting organizations in the world.
AOC declared earlier this year that she supports President Biden running for office again, although he has done the complete opposite of what an environmentalist would support. Biden has opened up more federal land to oil drilling than any other president, particularly with the Willow Project:
The Biden Administration released its final decision approving three drilling sites for the Willow Master Development Plan, otherwise known as the Willow Project that threatens local communities, wildlife, and the global climate. This is a massive oil drilling development on Alaska’s North Slope, which is a stretch of public land known as the National Petroleum Reserve that borders the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
This project developed by ConocoPhillips would be the single largest oil extraction point on US public lands, emitting 278 million metric tons of climate pollution over the next 30 years. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions from 74 coal plants — one-third of all remaining U.S. plants. Willow will disproportionately impact the community of Nuiqsut, a predominantly Iñupiaq village of about 500 people already suffering extreme pollution from existing oil projects.--from Biden Administration Breaks Climate Promise and Approves Willow Project
By supporting Biden's actions, it seems AOC doesn't care much about the environment at all.
By supporting these astronomical Defense budgets and the US sale of cluster bombs (munitions that have been outlawed in almost every country in the world) as well as Biden’s Willow Oil Project, AOC's actions tell us that she isn’t particularly concerned with the health and well-being of her fellow human beings or the planet. Her actions in Congress just don’t support her image or “performance” as an environmental activist, now does it?
Who is Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s not-so-obvious audience she was trying to reach with her fiery environmental tirade at the march? I think she was telling the major donors of the Democratic Party—the military-industrial complex, corporations like Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and the rest—that she is more than willing to act as a front to keep the public from looking too closely at what’s really going on behind the scenes in Washington DC. AOC is good at getting positive press by looking pretty on camera and saying what the public expects at the right time and place. What she says has no real depth or substance, since none of her actions back her words up.
AOC’s example of performative politics shows that she is willing to act as the perfect front in order to take interest away from the true polluters and causers of death and destruction on our planet. She’ll make all those young environmental activists in NYC forget that nothing has really changed since she first marched with them. Magicians would say she’s the “smoke and mirrors” of the establishment, a perfect distraction. And by the size of her growing bank account since joining Congress, she has been well rewarded for her work.
This next example of performative politics is very easy to spot, and it’s easy to figure out who the obvious and not-so-obvious audiences are. The United Auto Workers are on strike. President Joe Biden—who didn’t permit the railroad workers to go on strike for safer working conditions in 2022—said he wanted to be the first sitting president to visit a picket line. So Biden spent about 12 minutes for a photo op at one of the picket lines in Detroit. Looking at the photos of some of the strikers, you can tell what the obvious audience thinks about Biden’s performance. Just look at the expression on the guy’s face standing to the far left in this picture!Tim Black tells us exactly what Biden’s motivations were for making that oh-so-brief visit in this video clip on Twitter:
— RealTimBlack (@RealTimBlack) September 29, 2023
The not-so-obvious audience of the CEOs of the Big Three Automakers know that Joe Biden’s many years of not supporting the workers and always being there to help bail out the corporations at the expense of the public purse isn’t going away anytime soon. They understand Biden's trip to a UAW picket line was just the photo op that it so obviously was. The billionaires hope that it will trick enough workers into thinking they're being heard by Washington to stave off the revolution for a while. But does Biden and his campaign staff realize just how shallow this attempt came across? That remains to be seen.
Our last example of performative politics took place recently north of the border. Compared to the first two examples, it was a complete and unmitigated disaster. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government invited a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran to be honored with a standing ovation in the House of Commons… A man who turned out to be a veteran of the 14th division of Hitler’s Waffen-SS (1st Galician) in World War II, a group that was known for its genocide of Poles, Jews, and other ethnic minorities in what eventually became Ukraine after the break up of the Soviet Union. The soldiers of the 1st Galician were responsible for burning 1,000 Polish people alive. Horrific!
After Canadian Jewish groups demanded an explanation, the prime minster tried to rationalize why his government acted so callously:
Trudeau, meanwhile, pointed to the “deeply embarrassing” event as a reason to “push back against Russian propaganda,” as though the Kremlin somehow smuggled an nonagenarian Nazi collaborator into parliament, then hypnotized the Prime Minister and his colleagues, Manchurian Candidate-style, into celebrating him as a hero. --from Canada's Honoring of Nazi Vet Exposes Ottawa's Longstanding Ukraine Policy
Using your critical thinking skills you’ve sharpened with the first two examples, who are in the obvious audience and the not-so-obvious audience Trudeau hoped to reach with this performance? We can assume that the public wasn't suppose to discover the genocidal history of this particular Ukrainian-Canadian veteran and that this “honor” given by Parliament would promote more Canadian corporations arms sales to Ukraine. Obviously, independent thinkers weren’t fooled and shared the information of the man's identity widely. Whether or not this negative publicity will affect Canadian arms sales to Ukraine remains to be seen.
Trudeau's not-so-obvious audience were the arms manufacturers who want the bloodshed to continue in Ukraine. The CEOS of the Canadian military-industrial complex were probably salivating at the thought of more arms sales. Endless proxy war is great for the NATO war machine, even if it’s not so great for the health and safety of human beings on the whole.
Hopefully you’re getting a handle on what is meant by “performative politics” by studying these recent examples. If you’re still confused why I labeled these three politicians “neoliberals” then go back to the definition for neoliberalism above and re-read the last line: [neoliberalism's]“commitment to the freedom of trade and capital.”
Think about that sentence. There’s a lot of capital to be made in the trading of armaments and munitions. All three of these politicians—AOC, Biden, and Trudeau—are on good terms with the military-industrial complex and are eager to see the trade in arms grow. They may say they support the striking workers, the environment, and veterans, but at the end of the day their actions make more money for the CEOs of the Big Three automakers, Big Oil, and the military-industrial complex.
And remember: actions always speak louder than words. Just ask this guy:
Keep sharpening your critical thinking skills and doing your research into the backgrounds and motivations of everyone who is involved in politics or the “activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.”
Why? Because it seems politicians enjoy distributing the world's resources into their own pockets and keeping the status quo exactly the way it is while the world burns. Their fat personal bank accounts apparently help them sleep well at night, too. Stop believing the "performances" of politicians and hold them accountable before it's too late.
Related Articles and Interesting Links:
The Climate March, Joe Biden, and AOC's Dubious Endorsement https://scheerpost.com/2023/09/19/the-climate-march-joe-biden-and-aocs-dubious-endorsement
Biden Administration Breaks Climate Promise and Approves Willow Project https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/biden-administration-breaks-climate-promise-and-approves-willow-project
Clusterf*cked: The Cruelty is the Point https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2023/07/clusterfcked-cruelty-is-point.html
Nazi SS Veteran Receives Standing Ovation in Canadian Parliament https://peoplesdispatch.org/2023/09/26/nazi-ss-veteran-receives-standing-ovation-in-canadian-parliament/
Canada's Honoring of Nazi Vet Exposes Ottawas Longstanding Ukraine Policy https://scheerpost.com/2023/10/01/canadas-honoring-of-nazi-vet-exposes-ottawas-longstanding-ukraine-policy/
How Joe Biden and The Democratic Party’s Climate Agenda Increases Environmental Racism More Than It Reduces Emissions https://blackagendareport.com/how-joe-biden-and-democratic-partys-climate-agenda-increases-environmental-racism-more-it-reduces
GOOD NEWS: Climate Lawsuits Against Fossil Fuel Industry Starting to Build Major Momentum https://stevendonziger.substack.com/p/good-news-climate-lawsuits-against
Biden’s Picket Line Visit Doesn’t Mean He Is On Our Side
Canadian parliament’s applause for Nazi war criminal exposes NATO war against Russia https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/09/28/xalg-s28.html
In Canada, Denialism Grows Over Residential Schools Ahead of Orange Shirt Day https://truthout.org/articles/in-canada-denialism-grows-over-residential-schools-ahead-of-orange-shirt-day/
Senator Menendez and co-defendants plead not guilty as Democrats seek to contain fallout from bribery scandal
William Astore: What Would Real ‘National Defense’ Look Like?
People Are Dying For Inches In Ukraine, The "World's Largest Arms Fair" https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/people-are-dying-for-inches-in-ukraine
Caitlin Johnstone: Neocons Love the Ukraine War
US House Rejects Cluster-Bomb Ban https://consortiumnews.com/2023/09/28/us-lawmakers-reject-cluster-bomb-ban/
Fog Over Nord Stream https://scheerpost.com/2023/09/28/fog-over-nord-stream/
Files Expose Syrian ‘Revolution’ As Western Regime Change Operation https://popularresistance.org/files-expose-syrian-revolution-as-western-regime-change-operation/
Patrick Lawrence: The Undiscovered Country https://scheerpost.com/2023/09/28/patrick-lawrence-the-undiscovered-country/
Suing For a Livable Planet https://scheerpost.com/2023/09/28/suing-for-a-livable-planet/
A Major Win Against Factory Farming In Oregon https://popularresistance.org/a-major-win-against-factory-farming-in-oregon/
Uninvited and Unaccountable: How CBP Policed George Floyd Protests https://theintercept.com/2023/09/21/cbp-george-floyd-protests/
UN Report Urges End to Forced US Prison Labor—a 'Contemporary Form of Slavery' https://www.commondreams.org/news/racism-in-the-criminal-justice-system
Philadelphia Youth React When Charges Are Dropped Against Killer Cop https://popularresistance.org/philadelphia-youth-react-when-charges-are-dropped-against-killer-cop/
Why Our Popular Mass Movements Fail https://chrishedges.substack.com/p/why-our-popular-mass-movements-fail