Dawn of the new age: right-wing populism

Ashutosh Shaktan

Democracy’s fatal flaw: There are more dumb people than smart people. Welcome to the new Dark Ages!”- Oliver gaspirtz.

A spectre is looming over the world: populism or I must say the Right wing populism. The label populist is often used to emphasize that these politicians use the rhetoric of aggressively defending the interests of the common man against the privileged elite.
It is right now the most important force in global politics. First in 2014 general elections, India voted for Narendra Modi, then earlier this year Britain voted for Brexit and now America has voted for Donald Trump and moreover in the forthcoming French presidential elections france is about to vote for Marine Le Pen, a right wing favorite. With these things happening it looks like Liberalism has died a painful death at the hands of the likes of Populism, Anti-intellectualism, Nationalism and authoritarianism which actually looks like a rage against reason.

So what is the reason behind this anti intellectual populist movement. as far as I remember during my school days (pre IT revolution) the most popular students used to be the smart ones, the hard working ones, every student used to look upto their hard working colleagues, but as i entered college, things changed, those smart hardworking students became outcasts and trolls became cool, not being smart became Cool and now we have came to the point where rejecting the collective wisdom of scientists, economists, academics, and journalists is being applauded. Activists and journalists who fight for the just causes are targeted and questioned everyday. I must say IT revolution has played a major part in it. Democratization of information which was the sudden effect of this revolution also has a downside. Easy access to internet has made everybody believe that their opinion is as good as that of the experts and consequently we have became a society of debate loving and argumentative individuals adding up to more noise than any clarity.

Moreover there is a kind of oversaturation of information today which is making people highly informed and deeply wrong as they find it difficult to connect the dots. Opinions are cherry picked to fit the ideology and claims are vouched in sophisticated language to prove points.

Finally, while a lack of knowledge and disconnect from factual information is concerning, a potentially more threatening stand of anti intellectualism and denialism (a subset of anti-intellectualism) is the complacency and apathy in the desire to know more. The idea that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge” is too dangerous for a world which is already going through such economic and social upheavels.

With the stagnant economic growth, global financial crisis and euro migration crisis, people around the world are increasingly unwilling to listen to experts and establishment figures who say they have a solution and are turning to radical, often unknown, alternatives.

Today with the rise of fundamentalism all around the globe this populism is working perfectly fine for right wing radical and extremist parties. We’ve entered a new era where ideas of nationalism and authoritarianism enforced by technology are controlling and manipulating human beings. The nationalist far right is emboldened, and the left is becoming more isolationist and less economically liberal in line with it. Politics, so long dominated by the relatively sensible centre, is creeping out towards its polarities once again. It is the reverse of 1980s-90s, when left and right converged on the centre-right strategies of globalization.

This right wing populism along with terrorizing minorities also undermines the quality of public debate by proposing poor reasoning and black-and white arguments to the disillusioned electorate. Using their charisma, their rhetorical skills and new social media they have oversimplified complex societal issue, divided social groups and proposed complete demagogical solutions.
The worse part is that it has just started, Trump’s victory in one of the strongest democracies in the world will encourage Marine le pen in france , Geert Wilders in Netherlands, viktor Orban in Hungary and their counterparts all over the world to take the same route. Nigel farage has already hailed Trump’s victory a ‘supersized Brexit’.

This extremism needs to be challenged to protect citizen’s fundamental rights and global democracies. But it needs to be done in a democratic way. Simply refusing to give these parties a platform would be both undemocratic and inefficient. It is a fine line to walk between preventing the damages radical populism may cause and the maintenance of the democratic principle.
There is neither “magical” solution, nor definitive one but this issue needs to be deeply thought and thus analyzed at all level of powers, in a transversal and exhaustive way. What is sure is that hateful speeches, populist discourses, xenophobic violence and authoritarian drifting should be addressed collectively at the Global level, by all institutions and actors and moreover it should be kept in mind that it is impossible to sustain democracy if we cant intellectually analyze the times around us.

We must know as Hannah arendt said that The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge or information, but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly, so thinking and thus analyzing gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in the rare moments when the chips are down.

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