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Social Media Era
The Mirage of Populism

Populism is a great campaign tool in the age of social media—but not necessarily much more than that.

Published on: December 22, 2017
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  • FriendlyGoat

    The narrow win for “populism” (Trumpism) in the United States at this time is properly attributed to church people being unable or unwilling to recognize economic truth in the face of spun baloney. It’s possible that this problem also accounts for takeovers by “populism” anywhere else and in all other times. People who don’t know the machinations of money matters in the stratosphere above them just don’t know, and they don’t know what they don’t know. Real Christians are supposed to tell them, but it doesn’t happen much.

    • Dale Fayda

      High-end tax cuts are coming! Yahoooo!

    • Tom

      Of course, it would probably help if the populists’ opponents weren’t blatant shills for the money people…

    • Anthony
      • FriendlyGoat

        Thanks. This was all the result of Reaganism, unfortunately. The idea of actually appreciating workers completely evaporated in the wake. But how and why people have been so brainwashed for so long—–35 years—– really is a mystery to me. So much mis-messaging.
        Meanwhile, here comes Trumpism to make it all dramatically worse. Whether anyone from church leadership ever helps people know how negative this all was is an open question.

        • Anthony

          FG, its been almost two Generations of a hard Randian pull in both our Corporate Class and our Republican politicians. There has been now since Reagan (though in terms of policy not much but giving voice and ideological patois Reagan was instrumental) a hard edge opposition to the mixed economy and especially labor’s respected place in it. Combine that with the Right-Wing media apparatus and willingness, Pomerantsev mentions, of our factious inclinations to be manipulated and you began to better appreciate how we’ve come to this point. The danger is to continue to allow a governing formula (cater to elite economic interests while expressing free-market righteousness) electoral success at the expense of middle, working, and lower class Americans. Your video – of Robert Reich – provides sketches of an action plan to counter said formula. And, you’re welcome.

        • Anthony

          “An America that moves away from Christianity will be an America that ultimately moves from tolerance, pluralism and respect for individual conscience.” (Walter Russell Mead)

          Here’s a Christmas Gift: https://providencemag.com/2017/12/the-thirteen-posts-of-christmas-2017-18-edition/

          • FriendlyGoat

            Thanks, Anthony. The TAI of old, no? Hope you had a good Christmas.

          • Anthony

            Yes, I did. And, WRM reminded why I started responding to his blog (around 2009). You’re welcome and a belated Merry Christmas to you.

          • Anthony
          • FriendlyGoat

            Thanks. I wish I could agree more with Professor Mead on this one. If he is correct in 20th and 21st paragraphs about “For Christians, Jesus’ role as a teacher — significant and inspiring as his teachings may be — is the least important thing about him”, then he just explained why Christianity has acted morally “off the rails” through much of history, from errant Popes, to unnecessary wars, to Calvinistic economics, to slavery, to the rise of both Putinism in Russia and Trumpism in America.

            I’m not one to go about casting aspersions on either the Virgin Birth or the Immaculate Conception for some unnecessary provocation of doctrinal sensibilities, but if we can believe in those WHILE making other grievous spiritual policy errors with regularity, it is possible we are putting way to much emphasis on the wrong things. I would appreciate Jesus just as much if those concepts happened not to even be a part of the Bible and I wish everyone could say the same.

          • Anthony

            You know, FG, everything you write caused pause and ought to compel reflection. WRM’s take is his protestant (layman) grappling with the meaning. For me (a layman), I shared the 3rd Day because over the years it has resonated with me. And, I thought you would appreciate thoughts it raised (and you do). You’re welcome, by the way.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I ALWAYS appreciate anything you share with me, because I appreciate being “shared with” by a good guy with a good heart and spirit.

            As for Virgin Birth, I’m (again) not one to go around being critical of it or expressing skepticism just to agitate people or “make trouble”. It is a subject I would generally “leave alone” from my own initiative. I “wish” it wasn’t a required feature for some—–a thing necessary for some in order that they permit themselves to believe in Jesus or to want to follow a simpler and better teaching path on all matters religious. Through the years of writing comments, I have found myself distilling my own thoughts on these things in ways I didn’t when in church for 40 years. Jesus is actually more important to me now than then. The hope of our gentle societal love for each other, even among strangers, is the reason for that. If He says this is the most important thing, I want to believe exactly that.

            Practical note. I have told you before that I like a free (advertiser-supported) website called biblegateway.com. It is the coolest thing ever for whole-Bible search of any words or concepts in dozens of translations. Before writing to you, I searched on “Mary”. Searching like that is always a revealing exercise and we are the first era in theological history to have such a tool for everyone/anyone’s access. Just sayin’.

          • Anthony

            Well, the blessings of instruments used productively – just saying!

            I don’t want to presume that any of this is minimized – love your neighbor as yourself; put God first; duty before pleasure; don’t use people as things; judge by realities, not superficial appearances; be generous and merciful to the weak and the poor; act like a parent to orphans; treat strangers well; don’t steal, don’t lie; honor your parents; et al – because as you I think the “teachings” are as essential as the religious deferral. I think its inclusion has more to do with rhetorical contrast than a lessening of its tremendous Christian messaging. Maturity and growth are essential to both appreciating immanence and transcendence.

            Thanks for the link and kind 1st paragraph.

  • Marathon-Youth

    President Trump is an American Nationalist. His slogan “Make America Great Again” puts the interests of America ahead of the world. He maybe the first true American Nationalist President we have had in a long time.
    Obama was a Globalist. he put the interests of the world ahead of America. The world loved him for that

  • Anthony

    The essay’s theme brings to mind: “tens of millions of Americans are repeatedly overconsuming today and regretting it tomorrow: whether by overeating, overborrowing, overgambling, excessive TV viewing, overblogging/commenting, or indulging in yet other addictions (Digital Populism,perhaps).” (The Price of Civilization)

    Yet, Peter Pomerantsev writes a very informative essay and provides three takeaways:

    1) …But there might might be another angle from which to view the phenomenon, one that looks at it from the perspective of the campaign manager – a perspective that sees populism not so much as a result of socio-economic forces, but as a strategy for success.

    2) But before one rushes into whole-heartedly copy-catting populism as a strategy, one should consider its fatal flaw. Having sold itself in such different ways to different groups, it struggles when it comes to actually governing.

    3) That’s the thing about this digital ‘populism’: its great at campaigning, less good at creating any sort of sustainable politics. It’s of no surprise that those who have used it best continue in an ersatz campaign mode once they have won, constantly searching for new enemies to maintain coherence.

    In short, Peter Pomerantsev updates Edward Bernays’ engineering consent proposition – the art of the hidden manipulation of the public’s unconscious urges combined with the public’s tendency to run in herds (the mirage of populism).

  • Gary Hemminger

    All of this would be bunk if the electorate had some education, wisdom and historical perspective. Unfortunately they don’t. and I think that the electorate is more stupid that at any time I certainly remember in my life. Half the people couldn’t identify canada on a map. These people, not the elites, the progressives, the conservatives, nor the neo-nazi or antifa are the real problem. These groups just use the sheer idiocy of our electorate to further their causes. I don’t ever get on social media, I don’t carry my cell and text every second, and I sure wouldn’t be hoodwinked by any of the above mentioned social media junk. I don’t vote for either democrats or republicans in an consistent way. Anyone that votes always for the same party no matter what is the problem.

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