Review: The New Abnormal Podcast

My current favourite podcast (other than our own) is new and hosted by Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast. I can’t recommend it highly enough, particularly if you enjoy US politics in its rawest form, by which I mean, rich with vulgarity.

The New Abnormal (great title, by the way) isn’t afraid to put things bluntly. It addresses politics as it should be addressed: as a pure unfiltered shitshow and it is precisely what I miss so much in coverage of UK politics. Except for The Thick of It, UK politics usually involves either fob-wearing earlobe tuggers talking about council taxes and bin collections, or it’s the awful sub-tabloid dribbling world of Guido, populated by young men called Tobias with big hair and even bigger collars. Even the whole business of parliament doesn’t feel like it’s about anything more than the business of parliament. American politics is far bigger and its themes suitably large. It often sees ideology running smack into personality, leaving a suitably bloody trail that leads off into the undergrowth, which is where all the interesting analysis is to be found.

Wilson describes himself as an “Apostate GOP Media Guy”, which in plain English means ex-Republican strategist. He’s a familiar face on US networks, combative on Twitter, less well known over here but his writing is well worth a leftover book voucher. He tackles Trump from the point of view of the bird who finds its nest occupied by a particularly fat cuckoo who proceeds to crap everywhere. He is unabashed about being conservative but proactive in his opposition to Trumpism, being a co-founder of the rather excellent Lincoln Project (https://lincolnproject.us/) which is behind some of the most effective counter-Trump ads around at the moment. Molly Jong-Fast, meanwhile, is editor-at-large at The Daily Beast and another of the best US pundits to follow on Twitter. She’s also seventh in line to the North Korean “throne”, though she isn’t. The fact that she jokes about it gives you an idea why she is one of the best US pundits to follow on Twitter.

They have a new episode out today (May 1st) so you can catch up but don’t forget to listen to the first three. They’re funny and sacrilegious and unashamedly the show they clearly wanted to make, with one section called “Fuck That Guy” about the “profiteers, the scumbags, the liars, the people who are making this crisis much worse than it has to be”. We had a similar section on our own podcast which turned into a protracted mockery of Tim Martin. We should have also called it “Fuck that guy” but, on reflection, that’s far too mild and doesn’t suitably describe a man who looks like an embalmed Wurzel.

The podcast is light, crude, fun but serious, which is often the secret of all good political journalism. The new episode begins with a bit about Michel Flynn which cuts through all the counternarratives that more establishment shows might feel obliged to run in the misguided name of “balance”. This cuts right to the chase, which means, in Rick Wilson’s words, the judge will look at the latest attempt to clear Flynn and say “thank you for playing, now go fuck yourself.” Call me easily pleased but that is the analysis I want and need.

Also excellent is the segment with Andrew Yang, whose arguments about Universal Basic Income sound even stronger now that half the world is furloughed. Not that I didn’t think they weren’t strong before but they previously feel like a blatant way to buy votes. That, however, was in a world before Trump tried to get his face on the $1000+ cheques he has been dishing out to every American to convince them to forget about February (the month he did nothing about COVID-19). There’s a lesson for UK politicians in this. I know from my own plight as somebody who earns a pittance as a carer to sick relatives that I’m punished for anything I earn. Every time I sit down to work, I have the nagging fear that I might not be able to afford it if I managed to sell my work. I know it makes me write less that I might otherwise do because I would never earn enough regularly to lift me out of this benefits trap. The COVID crisis should make politicians across the spectrum look again at low pay and the gig economy. The more that average people experience life on the edge, the more chance a consensus will form around moving that edge.

There are only four podcasts so far and I don’t know how many are planned. Hopefully more beyond the end of this crisis, though, as the title rightly acknowledges, we are in a new abnormal and we’re in it for the long haul. If it means this podcast is around for that long, it should make the abnormal feel a lot better.

@DavidWaywell

About my horrific drawing: I was already doodling around with a Trump pig simply because I was bored, with articles and cartoons rejected left and right. Anyway, I found the podcast and frustration fused around one wonderful recollection. I remembered Wilson once writing or saying somewhere about the “ManBearPig” (I recall it because I had to look it up… It’s from South Park). Turning it around, I had the PigBearMan…

I know it doesn’t make much sense but so what? I wanted to draw somebody riding on the back of a shit-powered Trump pig. Isn’t that a good enough reason?

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Why Dunciad.com?

It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?

Really?

Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.