Monday, June 27, 2016

Self Harm-- A New Political Goal To Contend With... From Brexit To Trumpism


Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn genuinely thought he could bring all factions of the Labour Party together or perhaps he felt he just didn't have the power to cast the Blairites out, but after he was elected party leader, he formed a shadow cabinet filled with his political enemies. Now they're using Brexit and a likely snap election as excuses to oust him. The slimeball behind the effort is shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn-- since fired-- who claims to have persuaded a majority of the shadow cabinet to resign if Corbyn doesn't step down. But if you think Brexit has roiled Labour, keep in mind the Trump-like Boris Johnson is likely to take over as Conservative Leader whose prime minister announced he's stepping down after a reaction against his austerity policies overturned the established order. And the Liberal Democrats... well they're basically launching an election campaign based on ignoring democracy itself.

Lib-Dem leader Tim Farron says they'll run on a clear platform of setting aside the Brexit results and keeping the U.K. in the E.U., calling the vote a "howl of anger at politicians and institutions who they felt they were out of touch and had let them down. The British people deserve the chance not to be stuck with the appalling consequences of a Leave campaign that stoked that anger with the lies of Farage, Johnson and Gove. The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the United Kingdom in the European Union, not out."

Now let's look at that in the light of what we've been calling at DWT "life's losers," the people with no stake in society and who hate everything, even their own families and themselves, i.e.-- an average Trump supporter. Don't say it can't happen here-- it can, especially with a candidate as disliked and mistrusted as Hillary Clinton as the alternative-- and playing the establishment card to the hilt. British sociologist Will Davies addressed this in an essay about why so many Labour voters went for Leave.
One of the most insightful things I saw in the run-up to the referendum was this video produced by openDemocracy’s Adam Ramsey and Anthony Barnett discussing their visit to Doncaster, another Labour heartland. They chose Doncaster because it looked set to be a strong pro-Leave location, and wanted to understand what was at work in this. Crucially, they observed that-- in strong contrast to the Scottish ‘Yes’ movement-- Brexit was not fuelled by hope for a different future. On the contrary, many Leavers believed that withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t really change things one way or the other, but they still wanted to do it. I’ve long suspected that, on some unconscious level, things could be even stranger than this: the self-harm inflicted by Brexit could potentially be part of its appeal. It is now being reported that many Leave voters are aghast at what they’ve done, as if they never really intended for their actions to yield results.

This taps into a much broader cultural and political malaise, that also appears to be driving the rise of Donald Trump in the US. Amongst people who have utterly given up on the future, political movements don’t need to promise any desirable and realistic change. If anything, they are more comforting and trustworthy if predicated on the notion that the future is beyond rescue, for that chimes more closely with people’s private experiences. The discovery of the ‘Case Deaton effect’ in the US (unexpected rising mortality rates amongst white working classes) is linked to rising alcohol and opiate abuse and to rising suicide rates. It has also been shown to correlate closely to geographic areas with the greatest support for Trump. I don’t know of any direct equivalent to this in the UK, but it seems clear that-- beyond the rhetoric of ‘Great Britain’ and ‘democracy’-- Brexit was never really articulated as a viable policy, and only ever as a destructive urge, which some no doubt now feel guilty for giving way to.

Thatcher and Reagan rode to power by promising a brighter future, which never quite materialised other than for a minority with access to elite education and capital assets. The contemporary populist promise to make Britain or American ‘great again’ is not made in the same way. It is not a pledge or a policy platform; it’s not to be measured in terms of results. When made by the likes of Boris Johnson, it’s not even clear if it’s meant seriously or not. It’s more an offer of a collective real-time halucination, that can be indulged in like a video game.

The Remain campaign continued to rely on forecasts, warnings and predictions, in the hope that eventually people would be dissuaded from ‘risking it’. But to those that have given up on the future already, this is all just more political rhetoric. In any case, the entire practice of modelling the future in terms of ‘risk’ has lost credibility, as evidenced by the now terminal decline of opinion polling as a tool for political control.

One of the complaints made most frequently by liberal commentators, economists and media pundits was that the referendum campaign was being conducted without regard to ‘truth’. This isn’t quite right. It was conducted without adequate regard to facts. To the great frustration of the Remain campaign, their ‘facts’ never cut through, whereas Leave’s ‘facts’ (most famously the £350m/week price tag of EU membership) were widely accepted.

...In place of facts, we now live in a world of data. Instead of trusted measures and methodologies being used to produce numbers, a dizzying array of numbers is produced by default, to be mined, visualised, analysed and interpreted however we wish. If risk modelling (using notions of statistical normality) was the defining research technique of the 19th and 20th centuries, sentiment analysis is the defining one of the emerging digital era. We no longer have stable, ‘factual’ representations of the world, but unprecedented new capacities to sense and monitor what is bubbling up where, who’s feeling what, what’s the general vibe.
As rightist David Stockman wrote over the weekend, Bravo Brexit-- "the tyranny of the global financial elite has been slammed good and hard... The central bankers and their compatriots at the EU, IMF, White House/Treasury, OECD, G-7 and the rest of the Bubble Finance apparatus have well and truly over-played their hand. They have created a tissue of financial lies; an affront to the very laws of markets, sound money and capitalist prosperity... On the immediate matter of Brexit, the British people have rejected the arrogant rule of the EU superstate and the tyranny of its unelected courts, commissions and bureaucratic overlords. As Donald Trump was quick to point out, they have taken back their country. He urges that Americans do the same, and he might just persuade them."

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At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn genuinely thought..."


His thoughts and his reality seems to be completely disconnected.


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