politics

Progressives and SJW-critics alike should be aware of Russian efforts to amplify extreme voices on the left.

As a starting point – check out the Wikipedia page for Foundations of Geopolitics .

The book is used in many Russian institutions and proposes various Russian geopolitical strategies.

Relating to the United States, there is this paragraph:

Russia should use its special services within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism, for instance, provoke “Afro-American racists”. Russia should “introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.”[1]

It is generally accepted by the media and political establishments that Russia did indeed play a role in the 2016 US Election – with reports of paid trolls and bots.

For a progressive then – it is easy to dismiss or be wary online that some pro-Trump twitter person may infact be a bot or paid troll.

And pro-Trump talking points is part of the strategy – normalising an opinion by making it seem like many others hold it.

But the other side of the coin – that I think many progressives have a blindspot to – is the liberal agitation from Russia.

Reports are coming out that Russia paid for ads supporting Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders as well as Donald Trump. There are reports that Russia paid for geographically targeted ads supporting Black Lives Matter. There’s also the now suspended @bostonantifa Twitter account that recently posted a tweet geotagged in Russia, whatever that means:

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This image shouldn’t be taken seriously. This Buzzfeed article has a pretty good summary. 

This highlights the need for two things:

  • Progressives need to apply critical reasoning to all political actions, and not blindly go along with, or tolerate any political activity just because it’s anti-Trump. For example, in the wake of Charlottesville there was a wave of doxxing coordinated by the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist,    that did end up doxxing someone innocent. 
  • There’s a brand of ideology I’ll call SJW-critical Trump apologism. While not explicitly #MAGA Trump supporters – these people tend to be critical of progressives (and often with well founded criticisms), but also turning a blind eye to Trumpism, or selectively applying different standards of proof or reasoning as needed.
    This ideology often points at anti-free speech or fascist tendencies among the left, with the unsaid

Now to be clear – this isn’t to say that every example of extreme behaviour on the left is the work of Russian agents. I don’t think that Zara Joshi of Hugh Mungus fame is a Russian agent, nor do I think the 2016 Dallas cop shooter  was. Similarly – I don’t think all the people who marched in Charlottesville were Russian agents.

But – we should all be aware that while some people genuinely do hold extreme views – often the prevalence of those views are being amplified by the internet, to make them seem like they are more prevalent than they really are. (I think too the media plays a role – as controversy sells while more moderate, and likely more common views do not).

In short:

  • Progressives shouldn’t be tempted to adopt anti-liberal tendencies, because the extreme political climate warrants it. They should be aware that a lot of the extremism is manufactured.
  • SJW-critical Trump apologists should be similarly aware that a lot of the liberal extremism is manufactured, and also that – just as Trump supporters can be duped – so can liberals.

 

 

 

 

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politics

Who’s to blame? Cynical establishment politicians

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

I think it’s a fair criticism that Hillary Clinton must have been a bad candidate to have lost to Donald Trump.

That isn’t to say that I necessarily think she would have been a bad president. After all – Obama did make her his Secretary of State, and I do respect Obama’s judgement on many things. I don’t know what to make of the ‘Hillary Clinton is a corrupt warmonger, in the pockets of wall street’ arguments, they smell of fringe conspiracy theorying to me.

But I do think that Hillary Clinton appears to be an insincere politician who panders to political winds, rather than bravely sticking to idealism.

Her about turn on the TPPA is a good example, from calling it ‘the gold standard of trade agreements’ to saying she opposes it. I’m not sure I believe her when she says she no longer thinks it’s right for the US.

It’s fair to say that a huge amount of Trump’s support base was from people who felt that neither Democrats nor Republicans represented their interests. This video here gets into it well:

I sympathise with the sentiment – but I can’t abide accepting Trump’s hateful rhetoric as the price to pay for shaking up the system. I’d much rather have a slow moving establishment politicians, than four years of Trump’s rhetoric.

The 2016 election wasn’t just defined by Trump though – there was also Bernie Sanders who gathered a significant chunk of Democratic support in the primaries, and polled  better than Hillary in head to head polls vs Trump.

The pet peeve I have is politicians’ resistance to announcing that they’ll end the drug war. I think that there are many policies, like this one, that politicians agree with, but don’t want to announce, because their research shows that it won’t be politically popular with certain demographics (eg. social conservatives, religious).

Especially in a two party system, there is an incentive to remain as politically close to the opponent as possible – the idea being that it’s more about winning those swing votes, than winning over people who are already aligned your political leaning.

But I think people see through this game playing. If politicians were willing to be a bit more honest about their genuine political views – then they’d at least appear more credible – even if they piss of some of their potential support base.

Addendum: Perhaps this comes back to being the fault of the public again. Politicians do what they do, because research shows that it works. If people were more ok with voting with politicians who honestly expressed opinions that the voter disagreed with, then perhaps we’d have more honest politicians.

politics

Who’s to blame? Racists and hateful people who are sick of being polite about it.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

 

It’s quite clear that a significant chunk of the US hold anti-mexican or anti-muslim attitudes, and these people loved Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

This video contains examples:

Obvious caveat: This is from a comedy show, and obviously they’ve cherry picked their interviews to find the most interesting and outlandish soundbites.

Also – this shouldn’t be taken to say that this represents all Trump supporters – but I think it’s clear a significant amount of Trump’s support is from people who don’t like immigrants  and/or gays/transgender people, and don’t want to be polite about it.

politics

Who’s to blame? Unprincipled Republicans.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.
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I googled ‘unprincipled republicans’ to get this image. 

When Donald Trump eventually won the Republican primaries, all Republicans by and large got behind him and endorsed him at the Republican National Convention.

It seems like Republicans desire to gain power and push their agenda, trumped their unease with Donald Trumps alarming rhetoric or basic incompetence.

Even Republicans who seem like a voice of reason, like John McCain endorsed Donald Trump John McCain endorsed Donald Trump – though he later withdrew his endorsement.

For context here’s:

politics

Who’s to blame? The media.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

tv

During the Republican primaries, I think the media saw Donald Trump as boon.

Not seen as a serious contender, I think he was seen as a good source of interesting soundbites that would draw viewers and sell advertising. Trump was always saying something crazy, such as attacking one of the other Republicans, which the media would then pick up and make the focus of the news that night.

Essentially – the media the fed the troll – giving the air of attention to the person saying the most outlandish stuff.

This has been part of an ongoing trend of dumbing down in the media. I think the media have got lazy and instead of providing intelligent, informed news, they’ve been providing the public with news that the public wants to see. This is reflected in the clear trend of soundbites getting shorter.  A provocative Donald Trump insult is a more attention grabbing sound bite that an informed policy outline can fit in nine seconds.

Addendum: The public is also to blame. The media produces inflammatory content, because that’s what the public chooses to view. If the public were more discerning with what they choose to watch or click, the media would be more incentivised to produce more intelligent content.

 

politics · wellbeing

Is ignoring politics a reasonable course of action?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being in a fairly perpetual state of anxiety about incoming Trump presidency.

Take a look at this Google trends chart:

trump 1.png

However, for balance – the search volume for anxiety doesn’t appear to have particularly spiked, it just has a continuing steady upward trend.

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I find myself spending a lot of time thinking, and watching news commentary about whether this means Russia is going to invade its neighbours, what’s going to happen to the economy in the light of Trump protectionism, etc.

Thing is – there have been plenty of political crises in my lifetime, and even before I was born. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Thatcher government, the collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11.

While all of these events have clearly shaped the world we live in, it’s reasonable to say that my paying attention to them or not hasn’t had any effect on how they’ve played out.

If paying attention to and engaging with the current climate of politics is causing me anxiety and is disrupting my life, then perhaps the best individual course of action is for me to quit engaging.

But: Lack of voter engagement and uninformed voters seems to be precisely one of the things that got us into this mess in the first place.

While the Trump phenomena can’t be explained by any single dynamic – I think that out of touch politicians doing what they want to do without regard for their voter base, and disenfranchised voters is one of the key contributing factors that elected Trump.

It would seem that me dropping my engagement would indicate a further exasperation of this dynamic. That’s concerning.

One positive is that this does increase my empathy for low-engagement voters. When potential voters say ‘I don’t really pay attention to politics’ or vote along the lines of a single buzzword, or say ‘voting doesn’t change anything’ – I’m a lot more sympathetic – because it seems true – whatever happens is going to happen anyway – I might as well spend my effort worrying about something I can change.

 

 

 

politics

A justified cynicism as a result of the 2016 US election.

Without pretending that any democratic system is perfect and involves all parties working in what they perceive as the best interests for the country, I think many of us believe that while flawed, democratic systems make slow progress toward a better society.

During Obama’s presidency, we’ve seen cynical attempts by the Republicans to disrupt progress, notably:

  • The government shutdown in order to try stop Obamacare.
  • Refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

Before the result of the election, my opinion was that ‘Yes, these are cynical ploys, but they’re not going to work. Hillary is going to win, and Merrick Garland will be confirmed, and the Republicans will lose credibility’.

But the Republican refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing has worked. Merrick Garland will not be confirmed, and now that Supreme Court Justice pick gets to be chosen by Donald Trump.

This fills me with a deep sense of cynicism; these underhanded and cynical tactics apparently do work. 

What are the Democrats likely to do in response during the next four years? Will they similarly use these tactics?

If I’m to retain a thread of optimism, it would be that that the Republican tactics did work, demonstrates a hole in the system that needs to be patched, presumably next time the Democrats control the house.