‘PC’, Orwellian censorship, official lies and the perils of modern ‘democracy’

Many from the ‘Left’, progressives, Cultural Marxists and activists keep trying to stymie democracy with their shrill, often illogical, Orwellian and ideological views. The following articles provide evidence.

Brave New World or 1984?  The former morphs into the second.

Brave New World or 1984. The former morphs into the second. By Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog, Zerohedge, 29 January 2019

“What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth.

When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” ? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Something as mundane as using the restroom at work sometimes ends up triggering deeper thoughts about technology – its benefits, deficiencies and danger to our culture. I’ve been using the same restroom at work for the last twelve years. They remodeled the restroom a few years ago with the latest technology – automatic flushers, automatic soap dispensers, automatic spigots, and automatic towel dispenser. This technology is supposed to make things better, but from my perspective the technology just added complexity, glitches and unnecessary complications.

First off, these technological “improvements” did not eliminate any humans from the equation. The housekeepers responsible for the restrooms continued to be employed. Prior to the remodel they would fill a metal bin with individual paper towels and fill the soap dispenser with liquid soap. Now they have to insert a roll of paper towels in the electronic dispenser and a cartridge of soap in the electronic soap dispenser.

Instead of doing this daily, they wait until they are empty before replacing the towels and soap. That means they run out during the day. It must be dozens off times when I’ve washed my hands and put my hands in front of the automatic towel machine and nothing comes out. Then your choice is going to a stall and using toilet paper or wiping your hands on your pants. When it’s not empty, it jams 20% of the time. The automatic faucets stay on too long or go off by themselves with no one near them.

The bottom line is this bathroom technology was costly, requires ongoing costs for battery replacement, did not eliminate any labor costs, malfunctions at a far greater rate than the previous manual devices, and provides less service and satisfaction than the non-technological methods.

This led me to ponder whether this microcosm of technological dysfunction and dissatisfaction applies to technology on a much larger scale, as technology has been sold to the masses as the solution to all of our ills and a sure sign we are progressing as a civilization and culture. Technological advances have given the masses the false impression their lives have gotten better, when in reality the technology has enslaved and controlled them while providing a never-ending distraction from reality, critical thinking and the truth.

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” ? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

With virtually everyone in America having access to the internet, smart phones containing more computing power than NASA used to launch rocket ships into outer space, and the proliferation of computers even in the poorest school districts, the masses should be far more intelligent and informed than previous generations. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Technology is wasted on people who haven’t been taught to think critically, have been indoctrinated by government run schools to be subservient cogs in the machine, and believe feelings and emotions are more important than knowledge and understanding. The proliferation of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) has resulted in the dumbing down of human interactions and replacement of discussing issues with virtue signaling, selfies, faux manufactured outrage, and glorifying shallow celebrities. We’re addicted to technology.

It is incomprehensible our society has embraced technology for amusement, trivialities, and superficial displays of diversion, rather than advancement of knowledge, proliferation of ideas, and cultural progress and enrichment. The works of Aristotle, Socrates, Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Orwell and Huxley are available with one click of your iGadget, but instead the masses choose to play Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Madden, while worshipping at the altar of Kardashian. So much knowledge and wisdom at your fingertips, guaranteed to make you smarter and 99.9% choose to amuse themselves into a stupor of ignorance.

Are we just a society of intellectual lightweights, driven by emotions and sensitivities? Or is this infinite infantilism designed and implemented by those controlling the culture through their ownership of all media platforms? It appears to be a purposeful deliberate strategy implemented by the ruling class to dumb down the masses through the public education (indoctrination) system, divert their attention and thoughts through modern day electronic bread and circuses, enslaving them in debt, and pillaging global wealth and power through control of the political, financial, and mass media structures. And now they utilize the technology to spy on you and make sure you are not contradicting the establishment narrative.

“Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.” ? Neil Postman

If the daily machinations, intrigues, schemes, and plot twists broadcast 24/7 seem like an orchestrated reality TV show, it’s because they are. It’s nothing more than an enhanced Truman Show where we are all Truman. The controllers produce the daily disinformation propaganda; superficial story-lines designed to play upon your emotions; plot twists designed to invoke hope, despair, anger, fear, and desire; and a ceaseless mantra that the government, mega-corporations, Wall Street bankers, and chosen “experts” know what is best for us.

They don’t want a citizenry who understands what is going on, how to think critically and question the establishment, or live within their means. They want obedient consumers who believe what they are told by “authorities” and are just smart enough to follow the rules laid down by their superiors. A nation built on illusions, delusions, disinformation and confusion.

“Television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.” ? Neil Postman

Television has always been an effective tool in keeping the masses under control. Talking media heads, sold to the public as highly intelligent and educated journalists, mouthed their lines, written by invisible men working on behalf of the wealthy ruling class, to sooth the savage beasts known as the masses. Control the message and you control society.

With the advent of the internet, what should have been a vast awakening and enlightenment of the masses, has just been a degradation to the lowest common denominator. Social media platforms have eliminated thought, conversation, seriousness, knowledge, intelligence, and clarity from the public square and replaced it with narcissism, vitriol, virtue signaling, triviality, attacking anyone with a different viewpoint, and self-promotion.

Now that the Silicon Valley social media behemoth corporations have hundreds of millions addicted to amusing themselves to death, they can decide what is acceptable speech and that which doesn’t conform to their left-wing views. Censorship, public shaming, manufactured outrage and destroying those with an alternative point of view is now in the control of a small cabal of extremely rich men.

They use contrived incidents like the Covington High School kids “threatening” a “noble” Vietnam Vet Native American in a blatant attempt to spin their web of deceit. Their technological control over public discourse is a threat to our freedom of speech and to our society. Anyone who thinks for themselves is in danger of becoming an outcast and/or cyber criminal in our new dystopian existence.

“For in the end, he was trying to tell us what afflicted the people in ‘Brave New World’ was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.” ? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman published his book in 1985, one year after the title of Orwell’s chilling view of a dark and brutal dystopian future. Postman’s view at the time was Huxley’s Brave New World dystopia had proven to be the more accurate assessment of the future. And he was probably right thirty-four years ago. He accurately assessed how the masses had been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to follow their emotions rather than their intellects.

The average person actually thinks they are informed, when they have been programmed by disinformation peddled by the corporate media at the behest of their oligarch masters. Ignorance is not strength. War is not peace. Freedom is not slavery.

The misleading information – superficial, irrelevant, fake news – is designed to create the illusion of knowledge when, in reality, it leads you away from knowledge. Postman didn’t think the dumbing down of Americans was deliberate. He attributed it to TV entertaining rather than informing.

I believe those in control of the levers of society have made a calculated effort to convince the masses their willful ignorance is actually knowledge. The ignorant are much easier to manipulate and lead down any path necessary to benefit those in charge. Accumulating wealth and power is much easier when the masses can’t think, understand basic mathematical truths, or comprehend reality.

Postman compared the two dystopian visions at the outset of his brilliant tome:

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” ? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Postman was most certainly correct in his assessment of our society in 1985.TV was still the overwhelming method of information and entertainment for the average person. People still had newspapers and magazines delivered to their homes. Cable news had just launched. The internet was not in widespread use. Home computers were in their infancy. Cell phones for every person was a distant dream.

Orwell’s dark future had not materialized, YET. Huxley’s subtler dystopia required far fewer authoritarian measures. The unseen psychological manipulation of the masses, as described and practiced by Edward Bernays and his sycophants, was far more effective in molding minds, designing the culture, and forming the ideas of the masses without them realizing they were nothing but lab rats in a grand experiment. Propaganda works.

Since 1985 the technological control over the masses has deepened and overwhelmed any resistance to its creeping governance of our daily lives. The proliferation of computers, 24-hour cable TV and “smart” phones for the masses has given the unseen manipulators of the public mind, known as the invisible government, the ultimate tools for engineering our minds and deciding what will be perceived as the central beliefs guiding our daily lives.

We have come to love our oppression and learned ignorance, adoring the very technologies enslaving us in trivialities, disinformation, shallow displays of virtue signaling, and eliminating our capacity to think. The masses have passively acquiesced to their oppressors by allowing technology to completely control their lives and form their opinions.

The corporate mass media, through social media platforms, the internet, and TV overwhelm the masses with useless information designed to distract and divert our attention from the subversive actions of the wealthy oligarchs pulling the strings behind the technological curtain. The truth has been and continues to be hidden behind an avalanche of irrelevant minutiae and nonsense, spewing from our Screens.

The purposeful purveyors of this garbage into the minds of the masses play to the lowest common denominator by producing disinformation designed to amuse, provoke fear, confuse, inflame desires, and kindle emotions. They most certainly don’t want citizens thinking critically, questioning the status quo, ignoring their dictates, discussing the real issues and problem confronting the country, or generating ideas which could undermine their control and potentially reduce their vast riches.

I think Portman was being somewhat naïve in thinking the dumbing down of society through technological means and government-controlled indoctrination public schools was an accident. As seen in both novels, the controllers knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. The Brave New World method of control has worked for decades, but the propagation of websites appealing to critical thinkers and those questioning the approved narrative has endangered this command and control structure of the Deep State.

That is why our society is now devolving towards Orwell’s vision of the future. Battle lines began to be drawn when Snowden, Assange and other selfless patriots of freedom revealed the level of deception, disinformation, and criminality of the state and those supporting the state. Technology is now becoming the boot stomping on our faces forever.

The tyranny being inflicted upon the masses by the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and other tech behemoths on behalf of their Deep State benefactors is chilling in its depth and depravity. The oppression from the current day Big Brothers through censorship, banning of truth tellers, demonetization of those who don’t conform, and public shaming of dissenters has replaced the soft tyranny of mental manipulation.

The establishment now openly suppresses the truth through their control of all mainstream media channels and outlets. The alternate media is scorned and ridiculed as conspiracy theorists, nutjobs, and Russian collaborators. The level of fake news vomited by Deep State propagandists has reached a new level of hysteria. Dissenting viewpoints are crushed through economic penalties inflicted upon those who dare go against the approved doctrine of the state.

The use of technology to control the minds of the masses has produced unintended consequences which threatens the power of the Party. A true Surveillance State, more comprehensive than Orwell ever conceived, is operating in full view.Trying to lock down the internet has proven to be difficult for the ruling class as more and more critical thinking, pissed off citizens congregate on truth telling websites and stir discontent among the awakening masses.

The election of Trump seems to have been a lightning rod for the discontent to bubble to the surface. There is an all-out technological war being waged between the corporate oppressors and those they are trying to control. The current escalation will surely lead to all out violent war in the foreseeable future.

Huxley’s soft tyranny, where we have been conditioned to obey and never consider revolution, is being replaced by Orwell’s vicious tyranny where persecution, torture and power will be on full display as this revolution begins in earnest. Portman was just early in his conclusion. Huxley and Orwell were both right. The Party doesn’t care about us. They just use us to attain their own felonious needs. We need to break free from the chains enslaving our minds and take back our country by force. Time is growing short. Will we meekly accept the fate of Winston Smith and John the Savage inflicted by the State or will we rise up against the technological tyranny oppressing our freedoms and liberties? The answer will decide our fate.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” – George Orwell, 1984

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

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Dark days for Western democracy

Dark days for Western democracy  By Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 19 January 2019

Theresa May’s omnishambles of a Brexit wreck, with her government in mortal crisis, has only one saving grace — the alternative is the unspeakable Jeremy Corbyn.

The British government is confused, disoriented and dogged. It resembles a dying man desperately driving to hospital but finding he’s going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Here’s the Kafkaesque twist — if it turns around and drives the other way, it finds itself in a new one-way street, still going the wrong way, against all the traffic. Its circumstances resemble a nightmare in which the dreamer knows the environment is irrat­ional but cannot find the way back to consciousness.

This week May’s government suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat in the history of British democracy, and it did so on its core policy. May’s Brexit agreement with the European Union on how Britain will leave the EU was ­defeated by 432 votes to 202, a staggering margin of 230 after 118 Conservative Party MPs voted against their government.

Next day May easily defeated a vote of no confidence. The House of Commons is thus clear in its resolution — it wants Theresa May in government but is determined that she will not govern.

However, let’s not get too ­superior in our attitude to the British mess. It is an acute version of the crisis that is crippling Western democracy in many nations, and is as likely to spread.

Western democracy has a virus in its central operating system. It can no longer perform its core tasks. Democracy has lost the ability to make decisions.

At its heart, democracy is about choosing between contradictory policies. Sometimes this involves compromise and splitting the difference, sometimes it involves a clear choice. But choices must be made. If a society can’t do it democratically and in an orderly manner, it does so through the naked use of power — the power of mobs in the streets, the power of autocrats who break the rules.

Look around. France elected a charismatic President on a modest economic reform program. He tried to implement the reform and hundreds of thousands of rioters took to the streets to burn his presidency down.

Donald Trump won a tight election with no promise clearer than his commitment to build a wall along the border with Mexico. His opponents in congress will do anything to stop him.

Democratic accountability is no longer about keeping the bastards honest, it’s about keeping the bastards paralysed.

The EU has made its own epic contribution to democratic deficit by systematically eroding nat­ional sovereignty and preventing elected governments from exercising the mandates they win at national elections.

In the new political environment of 24/7 social media activism, of dark conspiracy theories and apocalyptic visions, of perceived social inequality and a collapse of trust in institutions, of a premium on anger and outrage for their own sake, no one any longer accepts that any decision has gone against them. The incentive to keep trying to thwart any vote you lose — the towering power of “nope” — is the addictive but ­arrhythmic adrenalin surge.

Because of the singular incompetence with which May has tried to manage these dynamics, like a cricketer who mistakenly went to the crease with a table tennis paddle instead of a bat, there is now a good chance that Britain will not leave the EU at all.

Yet the British people have voted to leave again and again. In 2015 David Cameron won a surprise majority at the general election by promising an in/out referendum on EU membership. The subsequent bill to establish this referendum was supported by the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons. In the 2016 referendum there was a vast fear campaign against leaving. The media was furiously pro-Remain. All the main parties — Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, Welsh ­nationalists, Greens — supported Remain.

Robert Manne once quipped that you’d have a better chance of getting a referendum passed in Australia if it faced bipartisan ­opposition rather than having ­bipartisan support. That’s what happened in 2016. All the big British parties, the media, business, trade unions, every quango and NGO you could poke a stick at, all supported Remain, but in the biggest vote in the history of the ­British Isles, a clear majority voted to leave.

Then at the 2017 election both the Conservatives and Labour promised to honour the referendum and actually leave the EU. Between them they won 80 per cent of the vote. The pro-EU Liberal Democrats got smashed and the even more pro-EU Scottish Nationalists lost a dozen seats.

Here, though, is the paradox — there was a Leave majority in the nation but a Remain majority in parliament. So parliament has not seriously worked to bring about Brexit and the EU has actively worked to frustrate it.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, has suggested the most obvious way forward. Britain should leave with the misnamed “no deal”, which means trading with the EU on World Trade ­Organisation terms. But there should be a transition period of a year or more while both sides simultaneously work to achieve a Canada-style free trade agreement and also prepare all the regulations and practical arrange­ments necessary if an FTA could not be negotiated in time.

This is not fiendishly complicated and could certainly be achieved if there were a coherent government in London, committed to Brexit, and a reasonable partner exercising minimal goodwill in Brussels. Sadly, neither of those exists.

This process would undoubtedly involve some new costs and complications for business, but as even the left-wing Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, it would create plenty of economic winners as well. And there would be the opportunity, through trade and economic policy and all the rest, for Britain to make its own economic destiny. Many “just-in-time” supply chains are maintained across modest tariff walls of the kind that would exist between Britain and the EU.

May once had something like this in mind. At the time of the referendum she was a quiet though clear Remainer. When the referendum result came through, Cameron resigned, the Brexiteers were triumphant and she became for a while a polemical Brexiteer.

But her disastrous performance in the 2017 election unnerved her, and since then she has exhibited the clarity of an uninterpreted Rorschach test and the policy strength of a jellyfish. Her instincts as a Remainer all along have been to secure minimum fidelity to the referendum result while causing minimal disruption, which also means minimal change.

This led to the catastrophic deal she brought back from Brussels. It would tie Britain to obeying EU ­institutions and rules but rob it of any influence on how those rules are formed. Britain would ­regain control of immigration but nothing else. It would be subject to EU court rules, trade policy, regulatory policy. And it would still have to pay into EU coffers ­indefinitely.

If it ever wanted to change anything about that, it would have to get approval from the EU, in this case all 27 EU national parliaments.

More than that, it also ­provides that even if it ever gets such EU agreement, Northern Ireland would remain forever ruled by EU regulations and institutions, thus destroying Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the UK.

May’s deal was literally the worst of all worlds. To understand this it is necessary to conceive of Brexit as a kind of binary choice in which any splitting of the difference, the seeming middle ground, is actually far worse than the main two alternatives.

Thus Alexander Downer, who knows British politics better than any Australian, thinks the best choice is for Britain to leave the EU altogether. The second best choice is not a soft Brexit, either of the kind May proposed or of that similar kind now gaining momentum in the House of Commons, but rather simply to stay in the EU.

And the worst choice of all is a May-style deal or any other variant of the “soft Brexit”. That alternative not only means Britain must abide by rules it has no say in forming, it also means the EU can force Britain to take actions that are directly against its economic interests.

This is not eccentric or strange or unlikely. It is utterly obvious. Say, for example, the EU negotiates a free trade agreement with the US or Japan or some other ­nation. It can give up any single ­interest that affects Britain to ­benefit companies in, say, France or Germany.

The biggest financial centre in Europe is London. Guess which is the second biggest financial centre? Edinburgh.

Under a soft Brexit, Brussels can make any regulation it likes to penalise London or Edinburgh and advantage Frankfurt or Paris, and London has no avenue even to complain, much less do anything. Britain ceases to be a full, representative democracy and ­becomes, politically and economically, a governed colony of Brussels.

Outside the EU and its economic institutions, Britain can ­easily compete with EU capitals, and change its own regulations if necessary. And it can entice business from the rest of the world. Brussels hates and is terrified of this possibility.

Similarly, inside the EU Britain can oppose policies that uniquely harm it, make coalitions with other similarly minded Europeans such as the Dutch, even find common ground with the anti-EU government in Italy.

That is why a clean Brexit, a no-deal Brexit managed in an orderly way, or continued membership of the EU, are both infinitely superior to the kind of soft Brexit May is moving towards.

Here again, the British people are stymied by having a pro-­Remain parliament that never had its heart in Brexit at all and only temporarily pretended to follow the will of the people.

London political insiders tell me May is determined never to enact a no-deal Brexit.

There are sharp parliamentary manoeuvres under way now for the bulk of the opposition to join with 20 or 30 or perhaps more pro-Remain Tories to legislate to make no-deal effectively illegal. They are prepared to overturn all parliamentary procedure so that the house majority, made up mostly of the opposition but with some Tory rebels, controls which ­motions are put, what legislation is considered and so on.

So the conflict is not just plebiscite versus parliament, but plebiscite versus parliament versus executive government.

Labour under Corbyn has been a study in ambiguity, not wanting to relieve Conservative divisions. Yet the latest polls actually put ­Labour six points behind the Conservatives, an astounding result for an opposition facing a government in this much disarray.

Corbyn has not said exactly what kind of Brexit he would favour but in general has sup­ported Britain staying in the EU customs union, the softest of soft Brexits and, as Downer argues, a terrible outcome.

If May goes down this path herself, there is probably a clear parliamentary majority for such a deal. But it would be a majority comprised overwhelmingly of ­Labour and Scottish Nationalists, with a few dozen Tories thrown in. It would very likely lead to a crippling, bitter split within the Conservative Party.

The proposal for a second referendum is much less democratic than it looks. Already there are myriad Remain proposals to rig such a vote. There would be pressure to reduce the voting age to 16, to let EU citizens living in Britain vote and to rig the question itself, offering some specific and unpopular Brexit deal against ­remaining in the EU as the only two options. And of course the whole contest would be incredibly divisive and bitter.

And if they get a halfway fair question, the British people could still vote to leave. What then?

No problem has been solved and Britain is back where it was in 2016: a people who want to live in a sovereign, independent democracy and a parliament too scared or incompetent to give them what they want

These are dark days for Western democracy.


What next for the populist revolt?

What next for the populist revolt  By Frank Furedi, Spiked Online, 2 January 2019

People have rattled the elites – now they need to go further.

In the West in 2018, we witnessed the intensification of a new conflict – that between anti-populist political elites and a growing grassroots movement that is hostile to these elites.

Many commentators have interpreted this conflict in classical economic language. This is fundamentally a struggle over the distribution of resources, they claim. Even an astute commentator like Fareed Zakaria, who recognises that the ‘yellow vest’ protests in France are underpinned by profound cultural tensions, especially between rural and urban France, is nevertheless drawn towards a narrowly economic explanation. ‘It’s part class, part culture, but there is a large element of economics to it as well’, he says.

Zakaria’s commentary – titled ‘The new dividing line in Western politics’ – is a good illustration of today’s widespread reluctance to face up to new cultural and political tensions, to recognise that people are moved to protest these days by concerns that do not fit into the 20th-century model of socio-economic class struggle.

The best way to view the current populist moment is as a delayed response to the top-down cultural revolution that occurred in the Seventies. In that decade, new attitudes towards marriage, family life, relations between the sexes, the role of the nation and the meaning of citizenship came to be codified in many Western societies. By the beginning of the Eighties, new forms of cultural authority had been established by the political elites.

This so-called cultural turn is often attributed to the influence of ‘Cultural Marxists’ burrowing away in universities. But this analysis overlooks something important – that the cultural turn took place right under the noses of Thatcher and Reagan. It was in their era that the new post-Sixties cultural values were institutionalised by Anglo-American cultural elites.

In retrospect, it seems clear that the anti-traditional cultural turn that occurred under the watch of the Thatcher / Reagan political order was an attempt by Western political elites to establish a new foundation to their authority. Most strikingly, the emergent cultural oligarchy perceived themselves as mediators and gatekeepers in a globalised world where public life is impacted on by issues and problems that supposedly transcend the nation state and national control.

They devoted much energy to de-nationalising public life, and delegitimising the attitudes and values held by citizens. This was the era when the dogma that there is no alternative to globalisation really took hold. The belittlement of sovereignty – both national sovereignty and popular sovereignty – was a central task of the new cultural establishment. In a very short period of time, many people found that their long-held belief in the values of community, nation and family was being dismissed as outdated, irrelevant and even prejudiced.

We witnessed the pathologisation of customary attitudes towards family, community and human relationships. And the end result has been the crystallisation of a powerful sense of cultural insecurity in European societies. Over the past two or three decades, significant sections of European societies have been dispossessed of the values they lived by and which made great sense to them. Many of them felt silenced and defensive about voicing their concerns. They felt unable to raise their reservations about multiculturalism, diversity, immigration and the sacralisation of identity politics. In comparison to the younger generations – who are often influenced by the cosmopolitan ethos that is dominant in their schools and universities – older citizens felt culturally insecure and sometimes helpless. Those who lived outside the culturally privileged, globalist urban neighbourhoods felt very strongly that their way of life was despised and scorned by the new cultural elites. They felt like strangers in their own homes.

Most establishment commentators are reluctant to face up to the scope and nature of the current culture war in Europe. That is because disputes over values are more intractable than conflicts over resources. Values pertain to the meaning of life itself. Not even the most skilled negotiator can resolve the tension between someone who has a patriotic outlook and someone else who despises national sentiments. It is far easier to find a compromise in the sphere of industrial relations than it is to find a middle ground between two fundamentally different approaches to life. Values have become politicised to the point where there is little room for negotiation.

Meanwhile, the new elites have tried to de-politicise certain public-policy issues. Why? Because they know their policies go against the grain of public sentiment. So they portray migration as strictly an economic issue, never a political or moral one. They frame their arguments against Brexit entirely in economic terms, overlooking the political and cultural drivers of the movement against the EU.

Both the old and new left have adopted this line of economistic thinking. Typically, left-wing commentators describe protests like those in France as being driven essentially by economic grievances. They frequently criticise working-class and populist movements for not understanding their real economic interests and being too obsessed with issues of cultural insecurity. This idea that supporters of populist movements are not able to grasp their own ‘true’ interests, and are being led astray by wicked demagogues, is a left-wing version of the classical anti-democratic ethos that has prevailed since the days of Ancient Greece.

Whether the positive, democratic potential in the new populism can be developed further remains an open question. As the protests in France show, people are searching for a language through which they might express their very 21st-century form of solidarity. But they seem to lack the intellectual resources and leadership necessary to give their aspirations clarity. In the UK, millions feel empowered by the vote for Brexit. But none of the political parties represents their interests; the pro-Brexit majority is bereft of an institution that might enforce its ideals.

Unless populism can develop greater political clarity, and develop an inspiring view of democratic citizenship, it will struggle to make progress. In face of the considerable power of the political and cultural establishments, it can only advance if it develops a coherent alternative to the values of the prevailing order. There is a lot at stake in the coming years. An enlightened, democratically informed version of populist politics is what we need.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Centuryis published by Bloomsbury Press.


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About Peter Senior

I'm a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I've reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations - large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants. Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University. This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, 'management 101' and applying lessons from years of management experience. Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident. So what's gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix 'it'? I hope there are like-minded people 'out there' who will share their thoughts enabling 'us' to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public. If you just accept bad management, you don't have the right to complain! If you'd like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com . My latest project has the interim title 'You’ve been conned. Much of what you were taught and read is largely irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong – this is the REAL story of life: past, present and our possible future.' The working paper so far comprises 105 pages, many listing references and interim conclusions. The main problem is finding sufficient credible evidence, and realising the more Iearn, the more I realise I don't know!
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