The month of November added a Trump victory insult to my still open brexit injury from June. It also saw a manifestation of what I can only describe as some kind of inverted intellectual snobbery on the part of some pundits, to try and produce some moral or intellectual justification of what has just happened in our democracies here and across the pond. It would seem you have to somehow sympathise with these economic self-harmers to be really, really sophisticated.
I hope you know the kind I mean: “Not all Trump brexit voters are racist”. “Trump/ brexit was a popular revolt of the people against the elites and included many intellectuals and middle class folk”. “The man in the street is sick to death of globalism and its Westminster Washington political lackeys. What just happened is the populus sincere form of protest'”.
A good example of this intellectual snobbery was recently provided by magazine “The Rolling Stone“. I guess editors of such magazines cannot afford to alienate 50% of their potential readership. The broad narrative of the article seems to be that if you “resent” the outcome of a populist referendum, then you probably have not much respect for democracy in the first place. This seems to include respect for the right of “Low-information” voters to shoot themselves in the foot. It’s a total false dichotomy. People have followed ‘leaders’ from the dawn of time. In democracies we follow elected leaders. In the absence of inspiring truly ‘great’ leaders in troubling hard times, the vacuum is easily filled by demagogues like Farage and Trump. Imagine what could have happened in South Africa if Mandela hadn’t been on the scene, but some sort of Trump or Farage was?
Now take the case of the Labour opposition in the UK. When interviewed, people like Corbyn and McDonnell often start their answers to questions about brexit with the prelude “Of course we must respect the outcome of the referendum, but….”
Excuse the expletive, but FFS why, as the government opposition, do you have to respect an advisory non binding popular vote, only held to paper over fractures in your main Tory opposition party? Especially as the brexit vote won with the narrowest of margins and with an increasing number of Leave voters today having second thoughts? ‘Carpe diem’, is what I’d say! The ball is there in front of a wide open political goal. Why are only Liberal Democrats willing to take the penalty?
Still, going back on the trump brexit manifestation, the troubling fact remains: Why are people so easily led by the nose. Why do they swallow the lies blazoned on red vote.leave busses? Why do we now live in a ‘post truth’ society?
Only one punter, god bless him, for me has come up with an answer that is not patronising and yet seems to come closer to the truth than anyone in the previously described inverted brexit snobbery brigade.
Tobias Rose-Stockwell has penned an analysis on medium.com that avoids the ‘poor education-poor prospects in life’ beaten track and looks for answers in our society’s increasing reliance on social media to filter our news sources. Yes, you read it correctly, FaceBook has a lot to answer for! I really recommend you read the article in full, but I reproduce one key featured illustration that shows what might be going on in our post truth society.
From “How We Broke Democracy” by Tobias Rose
So now for the first time, I have a satisfactory explanation, why I only see economic doom as a consequence of the brexit and trum votes, where others see this bright future of untold opportunities ahead. In your social media brexit bubble perhaps, but not in the real world.
Tobias kindly suggests an anti-dote against all this facebook brainwashing. I end with a block quote from him, very wise and much appreciated:
Ways to increase your political empathy online
- Expose yourself to alternative opinions — Read the other side: Your news sources likely have their own bias baked right in. There is no better way of unpacking your own beliefs than exposing yourself to the news sites that disagree with you.
- Examine the source of news for bias and factual inaccuracy before you share it — Cultivate a healthy skepticism when you see an exciting headline that comes from a website you haven’t heard of. Many of these posts are designed to appeal to hyper-partisanship in order to get you to share them.
- Engage with people who are different from you when you can — Don’t delete the friends on Facebook that disagree with you (Trolls excepted). You will not ‘pollute’ your worldview by talking to them and trying to understand their perspective. Expend the extra effort to go through a civil discourse, build common ground and avoid a shouting match.