HI THEN, BIDEN : Notes From Joe Biden’s Inauguration

Trump is gone. So long, and thanks for all the fascism.

Yesterday marked the inauguration of Joe Biden as the USA’s 46th President. Trump left the White House at 8am, and left in his typical style – refusing to concede, refusing to refer to Joe Biden by his name, and wishing his followers “a good life,” before vowing to return.

We’d really rather you didn’t, Donald. Hopefully impeachment will see to that anyway – if the Senate moves to convict him, he can never run for office again.

Which means someone far worse might run instead.

But anyway, let’s not dwell on that. Whatever happens, we have four years at least of something vaguely resembling normality. This should be celebrated, so celebrate we shall. Crack open the bubbly (or the non-alcoholic version if you’re bold enough to do Dry January this year, of all years), sit back, relax, and be thankful to your god that the president who amounted to little more than a sack of racist sausage meat piped into a tangerine skin-suit is gone.


Yesterday had a curious feel to it. Obama’s inauguration felt like an explosion of catharticism, with American citizens of multiple races, faiths and backgrounds openly weeping. Trump’s felt like bad dream. But Biden’s had a sense of apprehensive relief washed over it.

While yes, Trump is gone, Biden’s task is no easy one. Over 400,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus and counting. A flatlined economy. Racial tensions at their worst in decades. Armed militias threatening civil war. It’s an in-tray from the depths of hell itself, and Biden knows it.

Despite this, the day was still full of optimism. The weather, sensing an opportunity, decided to go all teenage art-student and become a fully-blown metaphor. Cold winds and snow buffeted the Capitol building, now besieged by former Presidents’ egos rather than conspiracy theorists. Despite the inclement weather, the line-up was a pretty incredible window into recent history, as they always are.

Michelle Obama looked incredible, obviously, and her husband (Barry something?) looked dapper as all hell, too. George W. Bush looked older but dignified (remember when we thought that he was a moronic president?), Bill Clinton looked gaunt, and Mike Pence looked like the kid at the birthday party who had to be invited, but who has never been popular on account of his penchant for shaving cats.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate who has been prominently critical of Trump since the Capitol attack, was present, as was Ted Cruz, who is still a Trump supporter, and who wore a mask saying “Come and Get It.” The sooner politics is rid of that supine toad, the better.

The pomp and ceremony was in as full a swing as it could be – the millions of Americans that would usually attend replaced by flags and all guests socially-distanced. Trump, if he were able to Tweet, would probably have chimed in with some stupid bollocks like, “Not the same numbers as my inauguration. The People love the OLD President!!! Fav Prez. SAD.” Thankfully, he wasn’t, so he didn’t. In fact, he was off in Florida at a party, probably enjoying his last days of freedom before he’s indicted for crimes against his country.

The military band played through all the hits, the trumpeters playing with their masks pulled down to their chins. Presumably, if one of the trumpeters were infectious, blasting out a banging version of “The Star Spangled Banner” would make the trumpet itself some kind of face-loaded coronavirus canon.

But anyway. They were probably all fine.

A couple of hitches aside, such as Ron Blunt’s microphone positioning looking like he was motorboating a miniature robo-Madonna:

…the ceremony started smoothly.

Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, the first ever “Second Gentleman of the United States,” emerged onto the podium looking every bit the part of the history they were about to make. President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill followed them soon after, and, I’m not going to lie, watching Joe Biden walk down stairs is an alarmingly heart-in-mouth affair.

Leo O’Donovan, the priest who presided over the funeral of Biden’s son, Beau, gave a moving sermon, and Biden himself looked quite close to tears. But then it was time for some star power.

Who else but Gaga.

By her standards, Lady Gaga was quite dressed-down for the occasion, wearing a black top with enormous gold brooch, and a billowy red dress/tutu/thing (I’m not good with ladies’ fashion. Or men’s fashion, actually). This prompted my Mum to quietly remark, “She looks like a loo roll holder,” and then Gaga took hold of her golden microphone and belted out the national anthem.

A prominent Democrat supporter, she looked thrilled to be there. It’s worth noting at this stage that Trump is reportedly furious with how many celebrities were a part of Biden’s inauguration and subsequent party. For his inauguration, he got something like Boyz 2 Men, Smash Mouth and Barry from Eastenders.

By contrast, Tom Hanks hosted the party that was shown after Biden’s inauguration.

Then came the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the US’s female and mixed-heritage Vice President. It was at that moment that the weather, with a pique of dramatic flair, suddenly changed to glorious sunshine.

It was quite the moment. Perhaps it’s best described by Harris’ words herself following the election victory being declared – she may be the first, but she won’t be last.

And, from one queen to another, J-Lo took to the stage next. She belted out a medley that started with “This Land Is Your Land,” which was a bit odd for me as it was the first thing I learned to play on the banjo.

You might want to turn your speakers or headphones down.

As you can imagine, her version was better. She also spoke in Spanish to the millions of Latino Americans watching, which was quite something to behold at a President’s inauguration.

And then came the moment. Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, and only slightly looked like he was forgetting the lines to repeat as they were read out. After a brief, weird pause (they were running ahead of schedule, and it’s not the swearing in that make him president – turning midday local time does, for some reason), he stood up to make his maiden speech as President.

And what a speech it was.


The sun, fully embracing its role as a metaphor, showered Biden in wintery sunlight. The wind remained, which caught his thinning hair, and the sunshine made it look like some vanilla candyfloss was stuck to his head. But Biden had a message, and no amount of cranially-mounted confectionary would stop him.

The word unity was used in almost every sentence. The last four years have divided America in ways not seen in a generation. Biden set out his stall, and, indeed, his soul, to bringing America back together again. He called for healing, restoration and reunification, and vowed that America would face the coronavirus together.

He vowed to be a President for all Americans, and to end “The Uncivil War.”

He lamented those who used lies to sell their stories, and urged Americans to listen to the truth, rather than fabrications. It is clear that the “fake news” craze and conspiracy theories that have dogged democracy for the last few years will be challenged from the outset by the Biden administration.

He made a global pitch to America’s allies around the world, not least the UK, saying that the US would reestablish itself as a paragon of democracy and liberty. “America has been tested,” he said, “And we have come out stronger for it.” Perhaps the most stirring aspect of the speech from an international relations point of view was the brilliant turn of phrase, “We will lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

Give the speechwriter an Emmy – that is sterling work.

Biden was passionate, articulate and stirring. A true boon for American democracy, just when it needed it most. Yes, towards the end of the speech he tired a touch and some slurring of words appeared, but it is clear that this is a man who is fully intending to rally the “firebrand” label he received over many decades as a senator.

Whether or not he has the stamina we will have to wait and see. But, if his first executive actions are anything to go by (rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, reversing the withdrawal from the WHO, etc), he’s got the bit between his teeth.

For some reason Garth Brooks came out to sing Amazing Grace, which was odd. But then 22 year-old Amanda Gordon, the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, delivered a ten minute poem about unity, and it was staggeringly good. Her mastery of English was spectacular and her message on point. Expect to see her name up in lights over the next few years.

Finally, to deliver the benediction, Rev. Dr. Sylvester Beaman delivered a prayer straight from a Gospel Church. “HALLELUJAH,” he cried.

After watching what looked like something close to sanity regaining the White House, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person around the world agreeing with him. Hallelujah, indeed.


All of that being said, we cannot be too excited about Joe Biden.

He isn’t that same firebrand he once was, though his passion and heart still clearly remain. He takes over as a Democratic president, but his party is split into two camps much like the UK’s Labour Party – the moderates, like him, and the harder-left, like Bernie Sanders, Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez and the like.

Biden will be loathe to implement anything close to socialist policies as there is simply little stomach for it in the rural heartlands of the United States. He has vowed to be a president for all Americans and I believe he will try to stick to his word.

This isn’t to say he won’t implement his own ideologies, however. His vision for America depends on helping the worst off, and after four years of total free-market capitalism and the vast enrichment of the 1%, a division of wealth is needed across the country. What’s more, the Democrats now control the presidency, the senate, and congress, making legislation far easier than the gridlock that Obama faced during his two terms in office.

But, first things first, his in-tray. Tackling coronavirus once and for all, repairing the economy, battling climate change that has ravaged states like California, impeaching Trump. He’s got his hands full, and whether or not he will be fully up to the task remains to be seen.

There is no doubting, however, that Joe Biden Jr. is a good man. He is principled, compassionate and driven, an anathema to Trump’s divisive rhetoric. However he does, the principles behind his actions are in the right place.

The rest of the world wishes him well – he will need it.

I’ll leave you with one final image. As Biden was giving his speech yesterday, and as he became president, a lone marine sat by the grave of Biden’s deceased son, Beau. Biden has suffered huge loss and tragedy in his life, yet he remains true to the principles that guide him.

That alone makes him a far better president than Donald J Trump could ever hope to be.

#BLOCKED : Trump’s Social Media Suspension and Free Speech

And so, on Friday night, the most prolific Twitter account of all US Presidents, living or dead, (presumably) was permanently shut down.

Donald J Trump, outgoing President of the United States, was no longer allowed to tweet from both his personal Twitter account nor the official POTUS account. But that’s not all – Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch joined suit, Facebook had already suspended his account until after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Parler, the “free speech” app, was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores.

Trump’s endless Twitter tirades were, at long last, silent.

“Hurrah!”, you might think. “For too long have we been forced to listen to incoherent ramblings of a Grade-A nutsack. Now, finally, his nonsense brought to an end. Hurray to the end of stupidity!”

And yes, there are a few obvious upsides. Since he incited mob violence at the Capitol building last week, Trump showed next to no contrition on Twitter, using it instead to praise his followers and tell them “We love you.” Now that he has lost access to his nearly 90m followers, it will be far harder for him to incite disruption or even more violence during the final days of his tenure.

This is, quite obviously, a good thing.

But there is far more to this story than simply “tangerine madman gets silenced.” There has been a debate for quite some time about exactly how Twitter and Facebook should be classified, regulated, and kept in check. There is a profoundly grey area between platform and publisher that Facebook and Twitter have been deliberately muddying in the name of profit for quite some time.

A platform takes no responsibility for the content posted on it, as it is the user’s responsibility to ensure that it is within the platform’s community guidelines. A publisher, on the other hand, has to take responsibility itself for the content posted upon it due to regulation, such as around hate speech.

Twitter and Facebook have both deemed themselves to be platforms. As such, Trump’s huge following and demand for attention meant serious money for the two tech colossi through advertising revenue. While they might not have liked what he said, it meant megabucks for them, so they let him crack on, no questions asked.

Trump’s actions over the course of the 2020 election campaign and its aftermath, however, took things to a new level. He has compacted the grey area into a more defined line – not least because whatever line now exists, Trump not only crossed it, but then took a dump on it for good measure then blamed it on Antifa.

An uneasy truce had been balanced between politics and social media for the last few years. We have seen incredibly-rapid changes in the relationship between the people and politics, and social media has been the primary catalyst for it. However, we are now starting to understand the power of social media, and the companies who wield it.

This may well be the end of the first age of digital democracy. It’s worth exploring where we go from here.


It’s very easy to be critical of social media. God knows I have. Trolls. Racists. Lunatic fringe parties getting undue attention. It’s easy to write the whole thing off as a colossal shitshow that should just be shut down.

But to do so would be to forget some of the positive things that social media has done. While it’s easy to look at Trump’s “patriots” going postal in Washington and think, “This wouldn’t have happened without Twitter,” nor would the Black Lives Matter movement. Nor would the #MeToo movement. Or Captain Sir Tom Moore’s NHS fundraiser. The list goes on.

Social media’s deepest weakness is also its greatest strength – it gives a voice to everyone. And, in a political sense, this cannot be seen as anything other than a good thing.

Democracy only works when every person in a country can express their opinion through voting. By extension, this requires freedom of thought and freedom of speech to engage with opinions constructively. I profoundly disagree with the idea of privatising the NHS, for example, yet there are compelling arguments to be made in favour of it, such as quality of care or better resource management (or, at least, hypothetically). These arguments deserve just as much discussion as my own.

But here is where we start to see the issues. The democratic ideal of creating policy through scrutiny, debate and compromise only works when we are able to change our minds, or at least see the good in opposing arguments. Unfortunately, we currently seem to live in a world where people are more willing to hunker down with their own side than even contemplate an opponent’s point of view, even if their team has such extreme factions that they might even be overtly racist (see antisemitic Corbynistas on the far left, anti-Islamic or anti-BLM Trumpers on the far right).

How have we got here? A million different reasons. A vast expanse in the wealth gap between rich and poor. A deliberately divisive and misleading media. Geolocational viewpoints that are entirely at odds with one another (i.e. liberal, Labour-voting major cities versus more conservative rural constituencies). A First-Past-The-Post voting system that disenfranchises millions of people at every election. There’s a myriad of explanations as to why the country feels so divided – there is a pervasive underlying narrative of “Us” vs “Them.”

Social media has merely exacerbated the pre-existing malaise that was afflicting us. Hard right and hard left fringes have always existed, but now they have a means of finding other, like-minded people, rather than being confined to the backs of pubs or weird online message boards.

However, whether you like it or not, the fact that they exist is a good thing.

Why? Because freedom of speech and freedom of thought are vital to the workings of democracy. Opposing viewpoints are needed to keep the mainstream ones in check. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says in his frankly incredible video below, our democracy is like a sword – the more you temper it, the stronger it becomes.

Just watch. Seriously, just watch. Sword analogy at 5.12.

We need to have opposing viewpoints that challenge our own to ensure that our own views remain appropriate, considered and relevant. If we become lazy and fail to strengthen our own arguments, other, more insidious ones can take hold.

But in order for this to happen, the opposing views must be heard. Really, really listened to, and treated with respect, no matter how daft or insulting they are. You don’t have to respect the arguments themselves, but the person’s right to make them. Because the only way to defeat them is to have a better argument and to change the minds of those championing them.

If you ignore the arguments of someone who disagrees with you, those arguments will simply fester like a bad wound, getting more and more painful until finally – POP – the boil bursts, and it’s too late. Frustrated at not being taken seriously, opponents will go to further and further lengths to be heard. This includes disinformation and conspiracy theories like QAnon – there isn’t a morsel of reality in anything they say, but to those who have been ignored, they welcome them to the fold like long-lost family.

That is where we are with Trump. That is where we are with Brexit. That is where we are as a society. Fringe voices are summarily dismissed out-of-hand, so they simply double-down until they sound insane, but are still more representative to those that follow them than the beliefs of the status quo.

Done right, social media gives voice to those who are owed it. But those of us in the status quo are still refusing to listen.

So what does Trump’s suspension mean?


For all that I’ve just said, there was little else that Twitter or Facebook could do about Trump other than suspend him. Five people are dead due to the events that unfolded at his command. He’s reportedly unstable, at odds with reality, and liable to do something profoundly dangerous (or, at least, profoundly stupid).

A man with that much power should not have a platform for inciting violence or for damaging democracy.

It’s also understandable that Trump and his supporters are apoplectic about it. Along with the removal of Parler, they feel as though their freedom of speech is being curtailed.

And they have a point, too. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with something Donald Trump Junior posted, but:

Leave it to Trump JuJu to make a relatively profound point but still tailend it with something eye-wateringly stupid. “Mao would be proud.” Do sod off.

Yes, still playing with the design software.

The decision to suspend Trump was made by Twitter itself and its CEO Jack Dorsey. At its core, it’s an editorial decision. Yes, an editorial decision to prevent loss of human life, attacks on democracy and so on, but still an editorial one.

So why aren’t other hate-speech spouters being suspended? Why is it one rule for Trump and not for others?

Put simply – because there is no regulation.

Dorsey’s Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook have long argued that they are merely platforms. They are private tech companies that have their own policies for content, which means that they cannot be treated in the same way as traditional media such as TV or newspaper journalism.

But, now that Trump has crossed the Rubicon, it’s clear that that’s not the case. The second they silenced him, they demonstrated the influence that they wield.

These two companies have more power, financially and ideologically, than the world’s great superpowers. And yet they are not elected, have no accountability to the people, and have so far even managed to evade regulation.

This is the crux of the matter, and what happens next. Social media, in the current, polarised political climate, must be regulated.

Yes, we must learn to listen. We, as a society, have a responsibility for our own democracy that doesn’t begin and end on Twitter. In fact, for all the power that it wields with influencing government decisions and news headlines, only around 22% of US and UK citizens use it. Finding an end to polarised politics doesn’t just lie with sorting out social media.

But the fact of the matter is that it makes the problem so much worse.


So, what to do?

Over the course of the US Presidential Election, Twitter took the first steps. By adding fact-checking addendums to Trump and his cohort’s tweets, they showed some signs of understanding how dangerous the swirling cauldron of disinformation has become.

Just for balance, here’s my friend Trump Jr again demonstrating the Twitter notice:

And it’s here that I believe the tides will turn. Once factual accuracy becomes a mainstay of social media, and once the extreme fringes have fewer places to turn, the more that they will engage with reality. It’s those defending the status quo who have to listen more, but their opponents will be armed with better arguments if they aren’t derived from some spiralling, online bollocks about Barack Obama being King of the Paedos.

Social media companies must start taking responsibility for the content that’s published on their sites. And, indeed, so should traditional media, too. I am desperately keen to emphasise that I do not remotely believe in curtailing free speech and I believe more than most that arguments from all fringes should be heard. But those that are based on lies or falsehoods should be flagged as such.

To all those who complain about being “silenced”, I would give a platform. But every time the platform is given, they must be asked, “Where is your evidence?” This question must be posed every time they speak.

Every. Single. Time.

Because if we can get to a point where political discourse is about interpretation of facts again, where the debate is held sanely and respectfully, and we can learn to trust those we disagree with to act in good faith, we can start to claw our democracy back from the brink.

Because right now, make no mistake – both for our friends across the pond and for us right here at home, democracy is looking shakier than ever before.

CAPITOL PUNISHMENT : Trump Supporters Ransack Capitol Building

NB – As you might have noticed from the cover image, I was given some new design software for Christmas. I will be trialling it in this post.

Apologies in advance.

Well, folks. We made it. We got to 2021.

We dragged our way through what was certainly the strangest year of my lifetime, and probably most other people’s, too. And, while the coronavirus has mutated, is running rampant, and we find ourselves in lockdown once again, we can at least take comfort from the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The vaccines, those glorious little vials of diluted evil, are our ticket out of this nightmare. And we Brits are the lucky ones – we have the most easily-produced and easily-distributed vaccine being made on our very own shores. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the end is in sight.

And so, as we sat with our families, significant others, or just on our own as the clock struck midnight last week, we had reasons to be cheerful, at long last.

2021 might, we thought, just might be the year where we can get everything back to normal, at long last.

What’s that? Trump’s incited a riot and his supporters have broken through police barriers to storm the Capitol building? Four people are dead? Trump’s been blocked on Twitter and Facebook and has been described as being, “Out of his mind?”

Wait, does he still have access to the nuclear codes?! Oh Christ. I thought a US Civil War was on the 2020 apocalypse bingo card, not 2021…

For God’s sake. Here we go again.


Yesterday already had huge potential for unrest. The US Congress was debating the much-contested (by Trump) Presidential election result, with a view to ratifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice President-elect. Once confirmed, there was no going back – no more legal challenges, no more denial, just acceptance. If confirmed by Congress, Biden would be inaugurated as President on the 20th of January.

And, to make the process that little bit smoother in his typical, societially-consciencious way, Trump held a massive rally in Washington DC yesterday morning. He and his lackeys spat venom at the Democrats, insisting, despite everything, that he had won the election by a landslide.

And it’s worth remembering at this point just where Trump has got to in the past few weeks. He has:

  • Filed 62 lawsuits against various states claiming that the election was fradulent, losing 61 of them (and winning a mere handful of votes in the successful one);
  • Given the Democrats control of the Senate by losing two seats in Georgia (despite calling the state’s top election official, Republican Brad Raffensperger, and asking him to illegally find him votes);
  • And made significant firings in the civil service, replacing top officials within the Pentagon and other crucial defense positions with his own loyalist puppets.

And so it was little surprise that yesterday’s rally was touted as being a final opportunity to “Stop the Steal.” Trump even said it himself.

And so it was. Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

And Rudy Giuliani openly called for violence. No, really.

And so, perhaps just enjoying the last moments of his boob-ermensch Presidency, or perhaps truly wishing for civil unrest to overturn the election, Trump paved the way for what happened next.

If you can spare a few minutes to watch this astonishing report, I would highly recommend it:

Inspired by Trump’s words, thousands of furious protestors stormed the Capitol building. The building itself was ransacked, with windows smashed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sign being removed from the door and destroyed, and all politicians and civil servants evacuated.

Republicans and Trump loyalists took to Twitter to beg the protestors to stop, to no avail. Trump himself asked, begrudgingly, for peace…

But that had about as much impact as a Nerf gun fired at a concrete bunker.

Rumours spread that the National Guard refused to arrive to disperse the crowd – the Head of the Guard had recently been replaced by a Trump puppet. Eventually, arrive they did, supposedly under orders from Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice President, rather than Trump himself.

Commendably, once the protestors had dispersed, Congress gathered again later in the day and Joe Biden was confirmed as US President-elect. But the damage was already done. Scenes of carnage at the heart of US democracy were viewed across the world by allies and foes alike.

A dark day for Western democracy, indeed.

I hesitate to use a tweet from Piers Morgan, but given his nose was once so far up Donald Trump’s nethers that he could wear him as a hat, it’s perhaps fitting to use this as the defining image of the chaos:


The depressing thing about all of this is that we saw it coming from a mile away. Being a lefty-liberal snowflake who commits the cardinal sin of listening to facts and data rather than opinions, I was genuinely surprised by how restrained Trump’s presidency has been.

Yes, I consider inciting racial hatred, suggesting bleach injections and riding roughshod over the American consitution, as he has done consistently for the last four years, to be restrained. Because yesterday the true face of Trumpism finally came out, and it could have been like that from the start. It took until the very last minute for it to emerge, but emerge it did, like a particularly angry spot finally popping on a teenager’s face.

Trump is quite clearly an underdeveloped, sociopathic narcissist. He, or at least his political advisors, cleverly positioned him as the champion of the people, despite being the son of a billionaire, albeit an emotionally-abused one. He has no concept of decency, higher power or responsibility – the only person Trump cares about is Trump.

So it’s little wonder that, rather than allow the peaceful transition of power like nigh-on every President that came before him, he instead chose to denigrate one of the most respected and authoritative positions in the world.

Trump knew no other way to behave, as he’s simply not been told “No” enough times in his life. This will be Trump’s legacy and his lasting effect on American discourse.

A sad, greasy, orange stain on the history of one of the world’s superpowers.

And what of the rioters? What of those who desecrated one of the altars of democracy?

Strangely enough, I feel more pity than anger. Yes, of course there is no place whatsoever for the kind of actions that they took. There is no excusing the damage done to both the physical manifestation of democracy and to the concept of it itself.

But when you watch the video above and you listen to these people, they aren’t anarchists. They aren’t trying to dismantle the processes of government for shits and giggles. They consider themselves to be freedom fighters, rebelling against a system that has economically left them behind and culturally left them alienated.

Trump and his merry band of fascist populists tapped into that anger. So, too, have conspiracy sites like QAnon, Flat-Earth Theorists or even Margaret From Down The Road. It is almost impossible to critically assess a theory when it aligns into your own world-experiences – “I feel abandoned, and these powerful people are telling me it’s the fault of these other powerful people.” It’s an easy pill to swallow.

So while I have no sympathy for the vandalism and violence, I have plenty for their motives. It is Biden’s unenviable task to reach out to these people and convert them, as they are soon to be abandoned by the Republicans, too. Disgusted with Trump’s behaviour, the GOP’s Faustian Pact with Trump is soon to be coming to an end, with rumours abound that Mike Pence might remove Trump from office sooner rather than later via the 25th amendment.

While a smattering of Trump loyalists might stay with him to the last, the fact that Mitch McConnell, a key figure in the Trump administration, proclaimed yesterday that the election results should stand before the riot even started, shows that it seems as though most Republicans are ready to finally wash their hands of him.

Trump’s time is up. What his followers do next, however, is anyone’s guess.