Trump & friends – where life imitates art

Trump, LePen, Brexit and the rest all share common fertilizer: it’s the disenchanted, disaffected and economically disenfranchised telling the system to f*^k off. Globalisation and its economic cousins have stolen self-respect and economic security from everyday people.

The right wing populism pushing Trump and his cousins into power comes from the movie-generated mythos of striking a blow against unresponsive institutions. Be it Spartacus, Robin Hood, Zapata, Ned Kelly or Butch & Sundance, the image of loners against power strikes a resonant chord among the powerless. Left-wing support for Bernie Sanders and assorted 99% and Occupy movements are different expressions of the same force.

Everyday people have always been divorced from power and the money that fuels it. The difference between today and Robin Hood’s day is the power of mass communications sitting in the palm of almost everyone’s hand.  Hollywood glorified the David and Goliath story in many different genres, but required people to invest time and money to see things on a big screen. Today’s propagandists don’t suffer from these limits. The formula’s simple: give the audience a good guy they want to identify with defeating a bad guy they recognize. Whether it’s a wrongly accused fugitive, Mr. Smith going to Washington, a Miracle on 34th Street, or ragtag rebels from a galaxy long ago and far away, nearly everyone loves to root for the lone wolf standing up to the wrong-doing powerful.

Today’s successful demagogues are simply using tools that work for their purpose. Ignoring or manipulating facts has always been a Hollywood staple as it spins its tales of us against the non-local, amorphous “other”.

Differing life experience and attitudes have long characterized the split between rural and urban voting patterns. Examine election totals across the planet and you’ll still see this split, from the US to Turkey and most places in between. Maps showing results from sparsely populated rural areas will dramatically overstate their power through simple graphics. When true but misleading statements of fact aren’t enough, outright lies repeated often enough fall on willing ears. While politicians shout about industrial jobs going to immigrants, the reality is that they’re going to robots installed by cost-cutting factory owners who contribute to politicians. America never had a gun-slinging old west until Hollywood and the NRA made it up. More on this in a piece I wrote a while ago:   https://www.jpmaney.com/old-west-guns/

One more thing about Trump: he’s not the first of his kind to succeed in America. And, unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be the last. https://www.jpmaney.com/american-tradition/

Oh . . . and about David and Goliath. It’s another hero story written by the winners. Malcom Gladwell has written an excellent book, called David & Goliath. He uses historical sources to show Goliath’s size was his disadvantage, making him an easy target for the skills shepherd David used to defend his flocks against wolves. If you don’t want to read the book, you’ll find Gladwell’s TED talk covers the topic, as well.

I’m done ranting for now. Anybody have some good news to share?

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