Liberal Yet Regressive – The Crisis in Mainstream Intelligence
On 16th September 2016, Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote an article titled ‘The Intellectual Yet Idiot’. It is a satirical take on the ‘intelligentsia’ that inhabit the mainstream spaces of public narrative – the same intelligentsia that had told the world that Brexit was an impossibility, and a win for Donald Trump in the U.S. Elections 2016 is a ludicrous fantasy.
All the polls, the political pundits, and the liberal journalists were busier spreading their pro-establishment pro-status-quo narratives, than trying to connect with the groundswell, or to focus on fair reporting and insightful analysis. Their speciality is to take few words or events, spin them to suit their narrative objectives, and hammer them on a 24/7 basis to the unsuspecting victims – the global ‘mainstream liberals’, who source their worldview from the narrow echo chamber of a segment of mainstream media. The ‘mainstream liberals’ are those who only digest what they see and hear on the ‘liberal’ television channels and press, and build their own narratives on that basis. They don’t know that 68% of the Americans no longer trust mainstream media – an increase of 7% this year. They don’t know that certain corporate channels and newspapers, which they worship as their ‘Gods of Knowledge’, are nothing more than PR extensions of the establishment. They don’t have a clue that many of the Global TV journalists they admire are shills and hacks, who parrot scripts which have been handed out to them. They haven’t learnt to explore beyond their echo chamber, and hence, the news of a Brexit, or a Trump victory, comes to them as a total shock, an attack upon their hallucinations. And their world comes crashing down.
The ‘mainstream liberals’ have a glaring weakness – they are very susceptible to exterior perception: how a person is dressed, their body language, their manners, and their speech. Their judgement of a person is governed by appearance. They don’t think of examining beyond that, nor to investigate real actions, policies and the consequences of them. Hence, they are good in spotting what is graceful, dignified, or conversely, uncouth. Their choice of heroes and villains are often based upon simple intellectual and emotional exercises. They like positive inspiring speech, and love images which warm their hearts. But they often don’t have the information or the courage or the ability to spot the hypocrisy, lies, deceit, crimes, and corruption of their liberal heroes and heroines.
They suffer from ‘selective righteousness’, are very poor at soul-searching, and will try to blame the cause of their turmoil on an external source. In the effort to hunt for the reasons behind the shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton, many mainstream media reports and TV analysts are pouring out their anger against the white supremacists, voters of third party candidates, the working class, misogyny, sexism, Julian Assange, FBI, Vladimir Putin, Russian hackers, and the Abominable Snowman.
Of course we should do thorough post-mortems of such a cataclysmic event of a total political outsider like Donald Trump becoming the President of the USA. But very few are even prepared to admit other possible factors – a protest vote against the legacy of Barrack Obama, the alleged corruption of The Clinton Foundation, the unfair sabotage of the ‘Feel the Bern’ Movement, an utter discontent against the elites of the neoliberal establishment, rising inequalities, and wars in the Middle East that has caused unprecedented migration and given rise to anti-immigrant sentiments – all of which are being exploited by right wing populism.
It doesn’t matter to ‘mainstream liberals’ that the most misogynistic regime on planet earth – Saudi Arabia – had contributed over 25 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation in support of Hillary Clinton’s ‘break-the-glass-ceiling’ Presidential campaign. It doesn’t matter to them that as per the WikiLeaks revelations, Hillary Clinton was herself aware of ISIS being funded by the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and this didn’t deter her in allowing billions of dollars of arms sale to them. Hypocrisy, corruption, crimes, and the double standards of their liberal heroes and heroines cannot shake their souls and open their minds
The liberals are horrified by the rise of right wing populism around the world. But they fail to see that it is the very ‘liberal’ mainstream establishment that has disenchanted a larger section of the citizens, to such an extent that they are prepared to clutch on to just about anyone who is promising them respite from the issues which are not even acknowledged by the liberal mainstream media.
The wonderland of ‘mainstream liberals’ which exists in the TV channels and press reports has sadly been overrun by reality. One can distort and misrepresent reality, but that cannot change the actual truths. Hence, the unthinkable is happening. The liberal mainstream class may be forced to look at themselves now – assess their own failures, their weaknesses due to vested interests, and their prejudiced ways of seeing. If this happens, it will be the right response, but I fear that their basic instinct is to blame everyone else but themselves. Hence, we have a crisis of intelligence, due to a class of mainstream liberals who are regressive. They are reluctant to understand the other perspectives which might exist in our world. They often don’t have access to wider information, and their analysis fail due to the lack of facts.
The victory of Trump is not a shock to me, neither for all those progressives who follow alternate media. I had predicted that Trump will win – in an article published here on 3 August. I feel the same now as I felt back then: by sabotaging Bernie Sanders, the DNC establishment has handed the Presidency to Trump. 13 million people (mostly the youth), who had voted for Sanders, were unlikely to vote for Clinton after the Wikileaks revelations exposed the bias and the unfairness of the DNC establishment against Sanders during the preliminaries. Those disgruntled Democratic votes didn’t go to Clinton, and thereby the margins of Democratic votes have fallen all over America.
When people are in deep water, they will grab on to anyone who is offering them a rope. In that situation it doesn’t matter, whether the person who is offering the rope is a xenophobe, a sexist, or a tax-evader. That rope is coming from the right wing populists because the liberal mainstream centrists are failing their own people. So all over the world, the trend of right wing populism is rising, and citizens are flocking to any glimmer of hope that offers to loosen the grip of neoliberal capitalism from their throats. They are over-riding many other regressive traits which the right wing conservative governments are sure to tap into and inflame, and the world suddenly appears to look bleaker and absurd.
Amidst the growing polarisations, fears, and uncertainty, from the East to the West, loose cannons such as Duterte and Trump have gained public approval and support. Europe is also seeing the rise of right wing populism, and the menacing trend doesn’t seem to show any sign of reversal. We, in India, are also busy trying to stem the fascist symptoms which periodically threaten to supplant the diverse plural character of the country.
The “other” liberals – the progressives on the left – are the ones who dominate the global alternate media space. They are the supporters of Sanders, Warren and Corbyn. They hold ideas which don’t gel well with the worldview of pro-establishment mainstream centrist liberals. The progressives have been talking and writing about all these issues for a very long time. But their voices are not represented well in the liberal mainstream media. The mainstream liberals need to hear the voices of the progressives. They need to hear narratives beyond their preferred echo chambers.
This is urgently required, in order to stem the menace of the right wing populism taking the world backwards. Otherwise, the crisis of intelligence in the mainstream narratives won’t reduce. It will continue to get more disconnected from ground realities, and continue to suffer due to misinformation and manipulation.
Author Zia Haider Rahman in an exasperated Facebook post wrote: ‘Over two decades, the American people have been shafted by a political and economic machinery dedicated to the enrichment of a handful. That machinery includes a media that has reduced half the country to bumbling morons dependent on stupid TV…’
But I feel that the ‘half of the country’ isn’t the ‘basket of deplorables’. A large section of the mainstream liberal class also falls under the category of ‘bumbling morons’. This is the grave and present danger in our world now – the crisis in mainstream intelligence. We need to erase that crisis; otherwise our world will get even more splintered than it is now.
The four types of political mindsets get naturally formed in the world. Every generational change also shifts and evolves these four fundamental political mindsets. Presently in the 21st century, we have the ultra-orthodox conservatives, pragmatic conservatives, centrist liberals (who can partially lean both to the right or the left), and the liberal left or the liberal progressives. A consolidation between the liberals – the centrists and the progressives – is required to stem the right wing populism and the dangers they pose to our world. The mainstream centrist liberals need to understand the perspectives of the liberal progressives. And the liberal progressives need to reach out to the liberal centrists. An exchange of ideas and a dialogue is required.
This won’t be easy, especially due to the growing crisis of intelligence in mainstream liberal media and press. They refuse to whole-heartedly criticise the disastrous socio-economic-ecological effects of neoliberal capitalism, which continues to splinter the world into the 1% and the rest; further, they refuse to criticise their liberal heroes and the heroines, whose actual actions and the consequences of those actions are contrary to the values and the objectives they tend to espouse.
So perhaps, the social media and the alternate media is the only hope now to spread the word and generate a conversation. But it is time. We cannot continue to sleepwalk to an abyss. We need to soul-search. We need accurate analysis. We need facts. We need to enquire. We need to understand. We need to shift our views and our positions for greater good. We need to dissent, to speak up. It won’t be easy, but there is no doubt left anymore: we need to wake up.
Devdan Chaudhuri is the author of Anatomy of Life. He occasionally contributes essays, short-fiction and analytical pieces for independent literary magazines and independent alternate media.
Edited by Siddhesh Gooptu
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