Is Populism Really a Problem?

We’re supposed to think it is.

Just look at the havoc populism has wrought on our once stable, orderly and deeply contented Western societies. The seismic shock of Brexit, the Trumpocalypse, the rise of Front National and Germany’s current coalition woes are just a few examples of populism’s pernicious and harmful effects.

At every turn we see populism on the rise, more often than not defined as an entirely negative cultural and political force. We can be certain in our analysis because our moral, intellectual and social betters inside the commentariat bubble have declared it to be so. You know the people I’m talking about; those highly educated, highly paid and infallible analysts who told us Britain would sink into the ocean the day after a Brexit vote. The ones who were certain Donald Trump had a less than 2% chance of becoming president. The ones who wrote off Jeremy Corbyn as a joke.

Whilst it’s abundantly clear that the populist appeal of Corbyn’s Labour Party is very different from that of Germany’s AFD, the measureable rise of both groups is clear, present and tangible evidence that the populists are firmly in the ascendancy and the establishment doesn’t really know what to do. This lack of political, cultural and economic imagination shouldn’t really be a huge surprise when we consider how the Oxford English Dictionary defines populism as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.”

In other words, ordinary voters from across the political spectrum are united by an underlying belief that their societies have been usurped by a self-serving, narrow clique of political, media and business interests who actually despise the very people upon whom they rely for either money or votes…and often both at the same time. Whether the prescribed cure is civic nationalism or Soviet style socialism, the diagnosis of a self-serving and sneering elite is pretty much uniform across the Western world at this point.

Millions of elite media words have been expended in the examination of populism’s rise, offering both explanation and solution to this dangerous and unpredictable social force. Naturally most of them are completely wrong because they’re looking out from within the very same media bubble which has fuelled populism’s rebirth and inexorable rise. From their vantage point, they cannot see the simplest and neatest explanation for this mystifying and troubling trend.

The populists are right.

For more than three decades now, the ruling political, financial and media class has controlled Western societies very successfully through their complete domination of the Overton window. For those who don’t know, the Overton window is the range of views that any society considers to be within acceptable political discourse. Any idea outside the Overton window is considered extreme or fringe, and therefore not worthy of serious discussion.

Here in the UK, the most obvious example of Overton control has been a pathological reluctance to seriously question the benefits of continued EU membership. For decades, that subject was summarily declared off-limits by all mainstream political parties, and ruthlessly suppressed by their media enablers.

The result? Growing frustration, anger, and eventually Brexit.

Naturally this political, social, and cultural strategy of Overton control is dependent upon the policies inside the acceptable space being largely successful. However the Iraq war, terrorism, the banking crisis, growing inequality and borderless nations have exposed a con trick by a cynical cartel rather than ushering in the comfortable, centrist utopia we were implicitly promised. As the number and magnitude of problems has grown, the establishment’s response has been to shrink the Overton window still further, allowing fewer and fewer possible remedies to be discussed within polite society. This has naturally and inevitably led to an unsustainable tension between an increasingly embattled elite and an increasingly alienated population.

Something had to snap, and those once unthinkable ideas like enforcing immigration law and famous people paying the same tax as everyone else have poured into the public consciousness and gained significant mass appeal. After all, that’s all we ever really wanted in the first place. If only they’d asked us.

So, is populism really a problem? No…it’s the only civilised solution.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Goodbye Hollywood

That’s it. I just can’t take any more!

I’m done with Hollywood.

As an avid movie fan, I thought that statement would be a painful one to write, but to be honest I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my system. I feel free, cleansed, liberated. Already I can feel my mind repairing itself, my critical faculties renewed and reinvigorated.

The break has been coming for a long time, and it’s not the latest round of revelations, accusations and denials swirling around Los Angeles that have hardened my resolve. Instead it’s the increasingly shrill, haughty, condescending and downright hypocritical finger wagging from an embattled and self-regarding gated community. Who the hell told a bunch of pampered actors that they have a duty to harangue the unwashed masses about exactly what they should think on any given social, moral or political issue?

The uncomfortable truth is that Tinseltown has been sick for some years now, becoming psychologically isolated, increasingly embittered and disdainful of the very audience on whom it ultimately relies. We’ve all noticed it, even though we politely pretend that we haven’t. The dizzying blur of remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and spin-offs has had us all a little worried for a quite a while now. Like an increasingly forgetful relative, we pretend that the mounting evidence of creative constipation is nothing serious, hoping it’s a phase…although deep down we know it isn’t.

Hollywood is done, diminishing fast as a cultural force. Nobody wants to hear yet another multi-millionaire railing at this or that supposed injustice while the guy driving his limo sweats on minimum wage. The Oscars audience steadily shrinks as more and more moviegoers have come to see the A-list glitterati as they really are; a decaying, out of touch and increasingly parasitical class who have no right to lecture anybody about anything.

For me though, the final straw came when I discovered I couldn’t simply rent Rogue One from Amazon. I had a choice of either buying it outright or taking a hike. Talk about service with a sneer.

That was the moment I realised I am no longer viewed as a consumer with choice and agency, I am merely a cash cow to be herded and farmed by both the big studios and tech giants at will. In short, Hollywood thinks nothing of me, yet still believes it has some kind of divine right to pocket my hard earned cash while I give thanks for whatever overly loud, formulaic schlock they condescend to dollop in front of me.

Screw you, Hollywood. You’ve treated me like crap for the last time.

Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing will satisfy the Eurocrats now

With Theresa May’s heavily trailed Europe speech rapidly approaching, the commentariat have gone into a kind of speculative overdrive as they feverishly try to second guess the shape and form of any revised Brexit offer the Prime Minister might make. Tales of a two year transition period and a £35 billion Brexit bill have been bandied about for the last week, and will no doubt become even more speculative as the big day draws closer.

People shouldn’t get their hopes up. As I explained in my earlier article, it seems unlikely that any deal offered by Britain will be sufficient to satisfy the EU negotiators, regardless of what each member state might privately think.

If, and it’s a big if, the figure of £35 billion is even reasonably accurate, it cannot simply be forked over without expecting something in return. Such an offer will surely be conditional on the UK exiting both the Single Market and the Customs Union in March 2019. This would allow the UK to negotiate trade on its own while retaining tariff free access to the Single Market for a short period. It will also deliver on Britain’s commitment to the current EU budget period which ends in 2020. This all seems quite reasonable, generous even, but Michel Barnier et al have thus far proved completely unwilling to accept any offer which is not an exact continuation of the current status quo.

Britain is often accused of wanting to have its Brexit cake and eat it, yet it’s the European Union which has steadfastly sought to retain every advantage it currently enjoys and give nothing in return.

For reasons that have never been fully explained, the EU seems to believe it can easily extract tens of billions of pounds from a leaving member state in return for a vague promise of future trade talks, with no certain outcome. Nobody in their right mind would accept that kind of dodgy get rich scheme pitch, and the Prime Minister must know the political and financial folly of such a lopsided arrangement.

Instead of engaging in constructive discussions, Brussels has embarked on a counterproductive campaign of deliberate discourtesy every time the UK has offered a solution to any Brexit problem. This cannot be an accident, just look at their responses so far…

Theresa May is “living in another galaxy” when it comes to the colossal, nebulous and ever-changing “divorce bill.”

Proposed customs and border arrangements are “a fantasy.”

An offer regarding citizens’ rights is a “damp squib.”

The Irish border proposals are “magical thinking.”

Conclusion: the EU has no interest in reaching any kind of pragmatic, mutually beneficial accommodation with the first nation ever to cut ties with this increasingly authoritarian bloc. They can’t risk setting a dangerous political precedent as they know for sure that other nations will follow. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the no-deal Brexit scenario was probably decided within hours of the referendum result.

This will be the background behind the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday. She may be gracious and accommodating, or combative and confrontational. In fact it doesn’t really matter which approach she adopts because the response has already been decided. It’ll probably take under an hour for the inevitable hoots of laughter and derision to pour forth from the Brussels bureaucrats and their metropolitan media enablers.

We’re wasting our time.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is “Rudderless” Trump Preparing to Outflank the Establishment?

At first glance, that seems like an outrageous question with a self-evident answer, but the last two years should caution us all against taking anything for granted. Received wisdom just ain’t what it used to be.

As I’ve watched the US media establishment abandon any pretence of objectivity to declare war on their elected head of state, it’s been tempting to buy into the narrative that President Trump is indeed an overgrown man-baby who is morally and intellectually incapable of holding high office.

Tune into CNN,
MSNBC or ABC; visit the New York Times, the Washington Post or any other mainstream media outlet and we basically hear the same story. This week has been Trump’s worst. It’s a disaster. His White House is ineffective and chaotic. Staff are fighting each other and the leaks just won’t stop. He’s bound to fall at any moment. Stay tuned…here it comes…

Sure, on the face of it that seems like a pretty reasonable assessment, but the normal rules no longer apply and this president is following a different playbook.

Does anyone else think it strange that Trump continually goes out of his way to pick fights with an unashamedly partisan media class?

Why?

Why would anyone deliberately antagonise such a powerful and influential group? Either this president is too stupid to understand the damage he’s doing to himself, or perhaps he’s deliberately goading the commentariat to ensure they stay good and mad at him for the foreseeable future.

Something’s been bothering me about Trump for a long time now. It’s been at the back of my mind and on the tip of my tongue ever since he took office. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite figure out who it was. Then at last the answer came to me, and his actions during the last month or so have solidified that idea.

I’ll ask those readers who are old enough to cast their minds back to Gulf War one, and what was arguably the world’s first live-streamed media conflict. Enter one General Norman Schwarzkopf, or stormin’ Norman as he was colloquially known. Bull-necked and large of stature, Schwarzkopf was almost a walking stereotype. A loud, brash, rootin’ tootin’ hip shootin’ American that we oh so cultured Europeans look down our noses at. A cab driver with stars on his collar. How ridiculous, and how embarrassing for the civilised world

History has since disproven that undeservedly condescending assessment. In fact that loud, brash and caricature-ish facade disguised a razor-sharp intellect and a superb tactical mind. Schwarzkopf used the media saturation of that conflict to hoodwink the entire world and pulled off a brilliant flanking manoeuvre. By swinging up through the empty desert of western Iraq, Schwarzkopf ensured the destruction of Iraqi forces fleeing Kuwait and the successful encirclement of the elite Republican Guard. Only politics saved them.

The political events of the last fortnight have led me to wonder if we aren’t seeing a similar manoeuvre unfolding on the media and cultural battlefield.

Let’s look at the facts. Bannon is back at Breitbart where he belongs, and now Gorka is suddenly gone. Despite previous statements to the contrary, more troops are heading to Afghanistan and Donald Trump has spoken at length about healing and togetherness. This has coincided with a significant uptick in antagonism towards entrenched political and media interests, just to keep them boiling with rage at the very idea of President Trump even existing.

Instead of analysing every tweet and condemning every word not spoken as they believe it should be, what remains of the credible media might want to take a look at that dust cloud forming on the horizon. There may be nothing to it, but they’d best send some scouts out to check. It just might be evidence of Trump’s considerable cultural forces advancing to occupy the centre ground they’ve so recklessly abandoned in their obsessive pursuit of him. If that is the case, and if the mainstream media don’t change course fast, then they can expect to find themselves stranded on America’s lunatic fringe just in time for the midterm elections.

If that really is Trump’s strategy and the establishment refuses to adapt to a changing reality, there will be a cultural and political bloodbath the likes of which any nation seldom sees. The war will be over. For good.

Image courtesy of czoborraul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net