January 20, 2017: The Day Democracy Died

A few days ago, I published a piece that carried the following title: “How The Alt-Right Blogosphere Is Destroying Society.”

Unsurprisingly, some members of the very same alt-right blogosphere were displeased with my indictment of their verbal crusade.

To be clear, it was never my intention to suggest that everyone who writes under the populist banner is a bad person. In fact, implicit in the article linked above is the proposition that many of those who spend their days spilling digital ink in defense of what I consider to be an indefensible cause do so not because they believe what they’re writing is credible, but rather because one can make a good living by churning out content that caters to the swelling ranks of impassioned nationalists that frequent the sites in question.

In short: I’ve met some of the folks who pen the propaganda and I can say with a high degree of confidence that many of them aren’t buying what they themselves are peddling on their websites.

But many people are. And therein lies the problem. I’m a realist at heart. I’m also not known for passing up opportunities to improve my own economic lot at the expense of idiots. That is to say, I’ve nothing against becoming a millionaire by exploiting the collective stupidity of the masses.

It’s just that this time is truly different. The Donald Trumps, Marine Le Pens, and Frauke Petrys of the world represent a very real threat to Western democratic values. The ideologies they preach are poisoning the gullible who mistakenly believe they’ve found their champions in nationalist candidates pushing a noxious brand of populism.

Now to be clear, there’s an argument to be made that pushing an agenda you know to be dangerous when you don’t believe in it yourself is hypocrisy at its worst. Seen in that light, the alt-right blogosphere could be vulnerable to allegations that its echo chamber of snake oil salesmen are perhaps even more pernicious than bloggers who write because they actually eat their own cooking (so to speak). That’s a fair accusation, but as noted above, everyone has to make a living.

At the end of the day, it’s the candidates that are dangerous and I think it’s incumbent upon anyone who might have had a hand in spreading their message to repent before it’s too late – if it’s not already.

On that note, I present some poignant excerpts from a new piece published today in Foreign Policy:

On April 2, 1917, in the course of a speech asking Congress to declare war on Germany, Woodrow Wilson delivered one of the most resonant lines in the history of the presidency: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” A generation later, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, committing the World War II allies to protect “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.” Since then, all U.S. presidents have insisted that America’s national security depends upon the spread of democracy and individual rights abroad.

But Donald Trump, who will take office on the centenary of Wilson’s famous address, may be the first president since America became a world power who simply does not believe that. We should tremble for the consequences.

The president-elect’s unstinting and often ugly attacks on journalists, critics, and political opponents show clearly enough his contempt for democratic norms. He has demonstrated zero regard for such principles of international law as the obligation to accept refugees, or to refrain from the use of torture. His interest in democratic rights abroad is even more negligible. The foreign leaders he has most consistently praised, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, are strongmen who put their critics in jail, and sometimes in the grave. 

Some skeptics of America’s self-assigned global mission of reform, like the diplomat-scholar George Kennan, have argued that the United States will serve its interests better by practicing democracy at home than by promoting it abroad. That may be so; but it’s not a proposition that a President Trump — with his nonchalance toward the First Amendment and his newfound devotion to the Second, as well as his steady promotion of crackpot theories and outright lies on Twitter — is likely to test. In all likelihood, the United States in years to come will neither seek to incarnate nor to inculcate the virtues of democracy.

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6 thoughts on “January 20, 2017: The Day Democracy Died

  1. H this is what happens every time in history when money changers get control of the reins, because of greed it all collapses

  2. H and another thing as invaluable as the information is that you freely put out, thank you ! Thank you! In many ways you are with out a doubt a bad Samaritan (ha-joon-Chang) you made it to the top of the mountain!, and it is clear you took the ladder with you

  3. Wait a minute. You have no problem making a million on the stupidity of the masses, yet you are surprised when the masses rise up and revolt against this very thing?

  4. If I am reading you correctly, this is the third time in the last few days where you have equated populism in Europe with a right-wing political movement. This is incorrect.

    Populism is neither right or left but involves an appeal to the interests of the citizens against those of the elite. There are populists of the right in the the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. There are populists of the left in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy.

    You also seem to believe that right wing populists are anti-democracy. I don’t see any real sign of that. They are all running in democratic elections and none of them overtly oppose democracy. Would Marine Le Pen move to curtail democracy if she was in power? I think so but it’s just conjecture on my part. The only two EU countries I am aware of where democracy is under attack are Poland and Hungary whose controlling political parties are hardly populist.

    If populism in Europe is one thing, it would be against the agenda promoting inequality to which the EU/EZ institutions require adherence. The only populist party I’m aware of that is in favor of austerity/neoliberalism is the AfD (They’re German. What did you expect?). The EC, ECB, finance ministers, et. al. require reforms to be implemented by EU countries that include reduction in wages, reduction in job protections, reduction in benefits to protect the unemployed, and curtailing the ability of unions to represent workers.

    For the most part the EU centrist parties (left and right) buy into the neoliberal agenda of inequality. They also, for the most part, buy into the anti-immigrant/ nationalistic right wing agenda. In France, where I live, Fillon, the center-right candidate fits that description but so does the leading candidate from the center left Socialist party, Valles. BTW as a senator Fillon voted against decriminalizing homosexuality. As Minister of the Interior Valls called for the expulsion of the Roma people because they were incapable of becoming French. The last time France expelled an ethnic minority it was the Jews in the second century.

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