Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

Biden’s victories look a lot like defeats

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Joe Biden’s week did not get off to a good start. When running for office in 2020 he repeatedly boasted that he was going to ‘shut down the virus’, not the country. And then in the space of a few days last week it looked as if he had managed to achieve his promise, just the opposite way around. The President appears to have shut down the economy while suffering from the virus.

Despite being endlessly vaccinated, the President recently tested positive for Covid. And then last week he tested positive again. So he had a double dose. At the same time America had a double dose of something else: negative GDP growth. People started talking about the ‘R’ word: recession. Until recently two successive quarters of negative GDP growth was a common enough definition of an economy in recession.

But Biden and his team did not wish to make that concession. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, was among those urging people not to engage in the ‘semantic battle’ about whether two quarters of negative GDP growth did in fact constitute a recession. She pointed to all the good things that are happening in the US economy, creating a perfect post-modern moment. Things are what we say they are. If the President says it is a recession, then it is a recession. If he and his Treasury Secretary say it isn’t a recession, then it isn’t.

As though to add to the archetypal weirdness of the age, various online resources, including the never-reliable Wikipedia, dutifully rewrote their definitions of ‘recession’ so their preferred candidate could not be said to have led the country into any such thing. These websites then locked their pages. There is something almost awe-inspiring in the way in which our age can do this. Deny reality, redefine things and try to make everyone agree to the new definition, only then to become furious if people do not go along with it.

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