The theory of “post-truth politics” is a counsel of despair

post
Observer 14 January 2017

Post-truth politics isn’t a coherent description of the world but a cry of despair. Propositions have not stopped being right or wrong just because of the invention of Facebook. Whatever the authoritarian cults who rage across Twitter say to the contrary, the Earth still goes round the sun and two plus two still equals four.

“Everything is relative. Stories are being made up all the time. There is no such thing as the truth,” cried Anthony Grayling. But unless the professor has abandoned every philosophical principle he has held, what Grayling and millions like him mean is something like this. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and other liars the like of which they cannot remember, have made fantastical promises to their electorates. They said they could build a wall and make Mexico pay for it or make Britain richer by crashing her out of the EU.
Continue reading

Russian treachery is extreme and it is everywhere

russia
The Observer, 7 January 2016

Nationalism always breaks its promises because nationalists hate enemies in their countries more than they hate the enemies of their countries. Millions of American conservatives proved it when they voted for Donald Trump, even though he was an open admirer of a hostile foreign power.

Local hatreds, not national security, moved them. They hated Obama more than they feared Putin. They hated political correctness. They hated – not without reason – the attacks on freedom of speech. They hated rich liberals and defence lawyers. They hated Black Lives Matter and immigrants speaking Spanish in the shop queue. They hated the “experts” who told them that fossil fuel caused global warming and gun ownership caused crime. For all their patriotism, when it came to the crunch, they cared as little for national security as the “reds” their ancestors condemned in the 20th century.
Continue reading

Why are leavers angry? What the hell do they have to be angry about?

anrgy

The Observer, 18 December, 2016

The only thing worse than sore losers is sore winners. They have the victory, the field is theirs, but still they scream bitter abuse at the defeated.

The millions who know that Brexit will shrink their world have every right to be angry. The young who voted to remain because they wanted to learn, work and love where they choose, without facing restrictions on which university they could study at and which husband or wife they could bring home, have every right to be furious too. As for EU immigrants in Britain and British immigrants in the EU, it is fair to imagine them directing an emotion more intense than anger at the 17 million people who took the cold-blooded decision to risk their future happiness.

Yet, instead of seeing the losers’ anger, we are witnessing a novel and graceless phenomenon: victors’ rage. Continue reading

Everyone grovels at the court of Queen Theresa

may

The Observer 11 December 2016

The Downing Street press office has given selected journalists “exclusive” interviews with our new prime minister. By one of those million-to-one coincidences that must make spin doctors believe a supernatural power watches over them, every journalist they graced with their favours interviewed Theresa May on bended knee.

“It must be hard for someone so reserved and modest to become one of the most public figures in the world,” gulped the reporter from the Sunday Times, as her head ducked so low, onlookers must have feared whiplash injuries to the neck. “How do you steel yourself for making tough decisions?”

Continue reading

If liberals want to stop losing, they must change

3211

The Observer 12 November 2016

When respectable commentators tell us the crisis will blow over, they are usually right. Most of the time, the shock passes and the status quo reasserts itself. Most of the time, men of the world can lie back in their comfortable chairs and guffaw at the Chicken Lickens who thought the sky was falling down.

But most of the time is not all of the time. And it most certainly is not our time. In the revolutionary years of 1914, 1917, 1929, 1933, 1939, 1979, 1989 and 2008, those who said we would soon be back to normal were history’s fools. This year is a revolutionary year for the radical right. It is at once predictable and extraordinary that authoritative voices are telling us to keep calm and carry on.
Continue reading

Only true liberalism can thwart the demagogues

3396

The Observer 24 September 2016

When underdogs become overdogs, everything changes. They are the masters now, however much they try to pretend otherwise. Their power to change and ruin lives demands relentless and unforgiving scrutiny.

The hangover from the long age of globalisation has hidden the existence of a new elite, let alone the need to hold it to account. The neoliberal order began from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, perhaps earlier with the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in 1979/1980. You have to be in your 50s to remember another time. It ended with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Its death was disguised because no new system stepped forward to replace it.

Now its successor is shambling into view, like a figure from a bad dream you hoped you had forgotten. Continue reading