2017: how we got here and how liberalism failed us

Counter-inaugural protests, 19 January 2016

An overview of how the events of the past 25 years have lead us to the situation we now find ourselves in.

Twenty-five years ago, western capitalism appeared indomitable. The USSR, its sworn nemesis for 45 years (longer if you count the time before the Cold War) had just collapsed, and many liberal academics labelled this event "the end of history". There were even those who predicted that this "new world order", with the United States as the sole remaining superpower, would lead to an unprecendented era of peace and prosperity. While world events such as the Gulf War and the atrocities commited during the disintegration of Yugoslavia soon put pay to this idea, the 1990s are a period generally associated with pre-9/11 optimism in the West. The new possibilities offered by the Internet were exciting, and nobody had yet considered the possibility that it may be used by the government to undertake mass surveillance of practically every single individual regardless of any kind of oversight.

Two decades later, and the zeitgeist has practically inverted. The year 2016 has come as a sudden wake-up call to the people of the developed world, and it becomes increasingly clear that the current system is socially, demographically and environmentally unsustainable. Yet despite all of this, no-one can imagine anything different. Socialism (here referring to social democracy and Marxism-Leninism rather than the original definition of collective ownership, as is common in the public imagination) is seen as unrealistic and unsustainable, and the void on the left is replaced by a disturbing tendency to blame society's ills on the weak and powerless, rather than the rich and powerful who actually maintain influence. The long-held classist prejudices of the political establishment (both practiced by social conservatives and social liberals) are instead turned against minorities and immigrants by the resurgent far-right represented by individuals such as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Frauke Petry, yet in such a way that appeals to the working classes, those who are most likely suffer in the West thanks to neoliberalism and globalization (now renamed by the far-right to "globalism"), redirecting their discontent towards the current system towards those who are even weaker than they are. While it is true that new wave of right-wing populism does utilize anti-establishment rhetoric, a quick look at their semi-official figurehead, Mr Donald J. Trump, a billionaire who first gained his wealth through inheritance and has even admitted to not paying taxes for several years 1, should quickly break that illusion.


The current vacuum on the left and the failure of liberals and the establishment centre-right to provide any viable alternative that captures public imagination can be traced back to the beginning of the so-called "Third Way" in the 1990s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decade of neoliberalism and privatization championed by Thatcher and Reagan, ostensibly in order to counter the crises of capitalism that took place during the late 1970s, social democratic parties in the West such as the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair, moved towards the centre rather than provided any real opposition to the ravages of neoliberalism. In a decade where the dominance of liberalism seemed inevitable, this appeared as a natural move. In 1997, Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following a landslide victory in the general election for the Labour Party, ending 18 years of increasingly unpopular Conservative Party rule. Their campaign song, "Things Can Only Get Better", by the pop band D:Ream, summed up the optimistic attitude of Blair's "New Labour". But his rule would eventually come to be defined by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003 respectively, under a US-led NATO coalition. On September 11, 2001, nearly 3000 people were killed following an unexpected series of co-ordinated plane hijacking by Al-Qaeda, a loosely organized Islamic fundamentalist group founded in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Ironically, the CIA had allegedly supported Al-Qaeda during this time as a way to fight Soviet influence, a common tactic during the Cold War. The shock left by the unprecedented scale of the 9/11 attacks marks the cultural end of the period of optimism that was the 1990s in the West. Hate crimes against those of Middle Eastern descent surged, and Western government used the attacks to justify passing laws allowing for mass surveillance of the entire population, such as the PATRIOT Act. Nine days after the attack, the then-recently elected US President George W. Bush infamously declared "War on Terror", a phrase that would go down in history to describe the US military's actions in the Middle East in the years since. Neither the overthrow of the Taliban government of Afghanistan, or Saddam Hussein's government of Iraq - whose alleged links to Al-Qaeda and weapons were especially dubious - led to a fall in Islamic fundamentalism in the long term. Rather, the fall of the international left lead to a perfect vacuum of anti-American sentiment generated by the invasions in the Middle East that reactionary forces such as Al-Qaeda and later on, ISIS, were eager to fill.


Meanwhile, back in the West, the new anti-globalization movement that flourished following the 1999 anti-WTO riots in Seattle began to stagnate following the 9/11 attacks. In the immediate aftermath, at least one World Bank protest was called off, and many NGOs which had supported the anti-globalization movement previously withdrew from involvement.2 On 15 February 2003, the largest series of worldwide simultaneous protests in human history took place against the Iraq War. However, these marches were largely peaceful affairs, especially compared to the Seattle riots of '99. The anti-war movement, strong in numbers but weak in power, ultimately failed to achieve much. One participant said that "the attendance was massive, yet it didn’t seem to amount to much more than marching in circles." Filmmaker Adam Curtis said in an interview in December 2016 said that "You could have stopped it [the war], but to do it you would have had to have given up the next three years of your life, to marching every day, to working against it, to try and change the mood." And as for the anti-globalization movement? At a November 2003 anti-FTAA protest in Miami, in the wake of this kind of climate of nationalism and surveillance, police deliberately targeted independent media, set up pre-installed mass detention camps, and attacked protesters with weapons such as rubber bullets, pepper spray, tasers, batons and more.


At the same time, premonitions of what would happen in the mid-2010s would happen in the West, in response to 9/11. According to FBI data, hate crimes in the United States against those perceived as Middle Eastern surged by 1600% in the days following the attack. According to one study carried out from October 2002 to April 2003, 69% of people in New York City of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent believed that they had been subjected to "one or more incidents of discrimination or bias related harassment". In the 2002 French presidential elections, Jean-Marie le Pen (Marine's father), leader of the far-right Front National since its establishment in 1972, caused an international outcry when he beat the centre-left Socialist Party candidate, Lionel Jospin, for second place in the first round of the elections. This put him through to the second round, where he was up against the centre-right incumbent Jacques Chirac of the RPR. While he was defeated by a massive margin of 70 percentage points in the second round, FN were far from finished. That same year saw the rise and fall of Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, a xenophobic populist figure who would foreshadow Wilders, Farage, Trump, and perhaps even Milo Yiannopoulos. Fortuyn, an openly gay former communist, became leader of a populist movement called Leefbaar Nederland (Liveable Netherlands), and rather than openly aligning himself with the traditional far-right, emphasized the need to "protect" secular liberal values from Islam. Even prior to 9/11, Fortuyn had claimed in an August 2001 interview with Rotterdams Dagblad that he was in favour of a "cold war" with Islam. In February 2002, well after 9/11 and a few months before elections were due to be held, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant published a controversial interview with Fortuyn. In this interview, he spoke in favour of abolition of Article 1 of the Dutch constitution, prohibiting government discrimination, saying "if it were legally possible, I'd say no more Muslims will get in here", and claimed that while he didn't hate Islam, he considered it a "backward culture". Following this interview, he was sacked as leader by other LN members, and founded his own party, the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF), two days later. And with Fortuyn went the voters. Whereas the LPF quickly attained 17% in opinion polls, LN was left with 2%, their figure before Fortuyn was selected as leader. Exploiting popular discontent in a way that would seem awfully familiar when figures like Trump rose, Fortuyn appeared to take support from voters from across the political spectrum. However, on 6 May, just nine days before the election, Fortuyn was shot dead after giving an interview to a radio station. His assassin, Volkert van der Graaf, said during his trial that Fortuyn was exploiting "the weak parts of society to score points" in order to gain personal power. He wasn't wrong. Following their idol's martyrdom, the LPF became the second largest party in parliament following the elections, and two months later, entered into a coalition with two centre-right parties, the CDA and VVD. However, without their dear leader uniting them, the LPF soon disintegrated into internal warfare, leading to the break-up of the coalition government, and a new election was held in January 2003 where the LPF shrank to just eight seats. the LPF eventually disbanded in 2008, but by then Pim Fortuyn and the LPF had a replacement - Geert Wilders and the PVV.


During the mid-late 2000s, Western public opinion began to shift against their present leaders. Although Bush was re-elected to a second term in office in 2004, and Blair to a third term in 2005 - albeit in his case with a paltry 35% of the popular vote, despite which the Labour Party managed to retain a parliamentary majority, thanks to the first-past-the-post voting system - their popularity waned, as people, long since past the initial shock of 9/11, grew weary of the War on Terror. In 2007, Tony Blair resigned, contrary to his promises during the 2005 election that he would serve a full term, and was replaced with the notoriously dull Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Meanwhile, Bush's Republican Party lost control of both houses of Congress during the 2006 mid-term elections in the United States, an omen of things to come.
In 2007-2008, the US housing bubble burst, leading to the greatest international financial crisis since the Great Depression. Symbolized by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, this proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Republican Party's hope for the 2008 presidential election. The Democratic Party candidate, the charismatic Barack Obama, received the highest amount of the vote share for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Obama, with his symbolic "HOPE" campaign poster, portrayed himself as representing a new path forward for America, becoming the first ever non-white president of the United States. He promised to withdraw from Iraq (just a month after his victory he was already claiming that "tens of thousands" of troops would be left behind), reform healthcare (although despite right-wing uproar, his reforms were didn't come close to the universal healthcare offered across most of Europe) and close the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where thousands of people of mostly Middle Eastern descent were - and still are - labelled as "terrorists" and held for years without charge, regularly subjected to torture techniques such as waterboarding and music torture. Interestingly, he also pledged to secure the border, although you won't hear many Democrats talking about this in the wake of Trump. While he did finally withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011, the US would end up returning just 3 years later to provide air strikes against ISIS, which had emerged from the vacuum left after the fall of Saddam. He failed to close Guantanamo (merely managing to shrink it), and the bankers responsible for the 2008 crash largely continued unscathed. Although the United States eventually recovered from the recession, the majority of the population didn't feel the benefit. Unemployment remained high for much of the early 2010s, and in 2014, in spite of an increase in economic growth, only a quarter of Americans believed that the economy was improving. This disconnect between the statistics and the feelings of Americans about the world around them was later exploited by Trump. His policies largely lead to a political retread of the Clinton years, rather than causing any real change.


Meanwhile, in Europe, Greece was the country that experienced the real brunt of the Great Recession. Greece was one of the initial EU members that adopted the Euro as its currency in 2002, replacing the previous drachma, intertwining its economy with that of the other member states, such as France and Germany. In late 2009, the Greek economy succumbed to the chaos of the Great Recession, revealing that the levels of government debt were much higher than previously thought. The centre-left ruling party, PASOK passed unpopular austerity measures that affected the worst-off - who were already reeling from the direct impact of the recession - the hardest, in order to ensure a bailout of the government from the EU and the IMF. On 5 May 2010, riots and strikes against the government broke out across the country, killing three people, only for the government to pass an additional austerity package the following day, as financial agencies continued to downgrade credit ratings in the following months. Protests continued through 2011 as additional austerity packages were passed, before Prime Minister George Papandreou finally resigned in November, as the economic situation continued to worsen. Amidst all this, Greece was popularly portrayed in the media of more well-off Northern and Western Eurozone members - particularly Germany - as being a nation of greedy scroungers, transferring the classist prejudices commonly portrayed in modern media against those on social welfare to a prejudice against an entire country.34 Along with Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, other Eurozone members with similar debt problems - although with Greece being the most significant and severe of these countries - Greece was labelled one of the [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIGS_(economics)]PIGS or PIIGS[/url] in financial circles, a term assembled out of the first letters of all of these countries and with obvious derogatory connotations.

In May 2012, new elections were held in Greece, which saw the popular vote swing against PASOK by over 30 percentage points. The top two parties were the centre-right New Democracy and SYRIZA, a left-wing populist anti-austerity party which had up until then been fairly minor, being smaller than the established Marxist-Leninist KKE. In a more disturbing turn that would come to mark the west over the next few years, Golden Dawn - [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Dawn_(political_party)#Allegations_of_Nazism]a party much more openly fascistic and neo-Nazi than the standard European right-wing populists or even a party like the BNP[/url] - entered parliament for the first time, winning 7% of the vote. However, even with a law in Greek elections that gives 50 additional seats to the party that wins a plurality of the popular vote, no parties were able to form a majority coalition. Another election was held just a month later, which saw a further shift towards both SYRIZA and New Democracy. The election saw a narrow victory for New Democracy, which then formed a coalition government with PASOK and the pro-European party "Democratic Left". However, this new government soon lost popularity as they unsurprisingly continued with austerity measures, yet the financial situation failed to improve much. In January 2015, new elections were held yet again after the parliament was unable to elect a new president of Greece - a largely ceremonial role - because the government's candidate wasn't able to win the required majority. SYRIZA won, and formed a coalition with the right-wing Eurosceptic party ANEL (Independent Greeks). Yanis Varoufakis, a charismatic, Keynesian-leaning economist and author of the book "The Global Minotaur", was appointed Minister of Finance, and SYRIZA promised to lessen austerity measures and to renegotiate the amount of debt owed to the European Union. The European Central Bank's (ECB's) liquidity provisions were set to expire on 28 February, the result of this being that Greece's privately-owned banks would have shut down. Varoufakis successfully lobbied with other Eurozone members for this time span to be extend until the end of June. In spite of this initial victory, things did not turn out in Varoufakis' favour. The "troika of lenders", consisting of the ECB, IMF and the European Commission, were not pleased by this attempt to change the agreements reached with the previous New Democracy-led government, and certainly not by attempts to renegotiate debt. According to Varoufakis, the troika soon demanded that implement the old fiscal reform plan, despite having claimed that they would allow negotiations, and the fact that SYRIZA had run on the campaign promise of a new plan. Over the next few months, the Greek government attempted to make concessions, but the troika refused to budge. On 25 June, five days before the new deadline, the Eurogroup (the collective finance ministers of Eurozone members within the EU) issued Greece an ultimatum. Either they accepted their terms for a new bailout that Varoufakis and the government that ruled out, or the banks would closed and the country would go bankrupt. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum to be held on 5 July (which was opposed by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission), and during the intermittent time the deadline passed and the banks were forced to close. Varoufakis announced that he would reign in the face of a "Yes" vote. The people of Greece rejected the bailout terms by a strong majority of 61% to 39%. However, a few hours after heralding the result, Varoufakis, claimed that he "was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my… ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement". Varoufakis soon after claimed in an article for the Guardian that Germany had "an interest in breaking us".

And so a new agreement was reached with the EU, as neoliberalism swept the man who stood in her path aside, and a new deal was reached, as taxes rose and the government announced plans to raise the retirement age to 67 by 2022. Tsipras succumbed to pressure, and sacked left-wing members of his cabinet. Members of his party rebelled, splitting to form a new party called "[url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Unity_(Greece)]Popular Unity[/url]". Tsipras resigned and new elections were held on 20 September. Although SYRIZA won again, again forming a coalition with ANEL, they won with a voter turnout of just 56.6%, the lowest since the end of military rule in 1974. One of the ANEL cabinet members appointed, par for the course with European right-populists, had made posts on his official social media accounts where, among other things, he compared the EU to Auschwitz and claimed that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy. While he quit within hours, this incident demonstrates SYRIZA's betrayal of its own principles in the face of political convenience, a theme that can also been seen in the rise of New Labour and the movement of historic democratic socialist parties towards social democracy, adopting strong anti-communist stances. Historically, this can be demonstrated most strikingly with the November Revolution in Germany following World War I. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, founders of the (then) non-Leninist Communist Party of Germany, were killed by Freikorp militias, after a bounty of 100,000 marks had been placed on their heads by government minister Philipp Scheidemann, a high-ranking minister and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Western World, although ruling centre-left parties were defeated by centre-right and centre-left parties by centre-right, the fundamentals underlying the economic system were largely unchanged. Neoliberalism - at least initially - carried on, albeit with a few interruptions in some of the worse affected countries, most notably in Greece as discussed above. Gordon Brown's Labour government in the UK was defeated by the centre-right Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron in 2010, entering into a coalition with the generally centrist Liberal Democrats, which had captured much of the typically left-leaning student vote after promising to abolish university tuition fees. Instead, by November, the Lib Dems were supporting coalition plans to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year. 153 people were arrested following student demonstrations that winter, which was noted for police usage of "kettling", a tactic where groups of riot police cordon off specific crowds of individuals, sometimes not permitting them to leave for several hours. Unsurprisingly, the protests were soon over, and the government continued on an unpopular austerity program, aiming at first to end the austerity program around 2015-16, then 2018, then 2020, and after the outcome of the Brexit referendum, Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed that not even this goal was "achievable". The government passed laws penalizing people living in public housing who happened to have spare bedrooms, with two-thirds of those affected suffering from disabilities. "Workfare" laws, where welfare recipients were obliged to undertake unpaid ‘work-related activity’, typically at firms such as Primark or Debenham's, or even charities such as Barnardo's - which was founded during the Victorian era in order to care for orphaned children living in poverty in the East End of London - or risk losing access to welfare benefits - were passed. In the face of all of this, the Labour Party under the leadership of Ed Milliband failed to provide strong opposition, and in spite of low popularity and a Labour Party lead in opinion polls in the months leading up to the election (although they were roughly neck-in-neck by election day), the Conservative Party were able to form a majority government, albeit with just 36.9% of the popular vote, thanks in part due to the collapse of their Lib Dem coalition partners in popularity and the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s landslide victory in the traditional Labour stronghold of Scotland. However, in an effort to avoid being leeched of support by the Eurosceptic/nationalistic UK Independence Party (UKIP) 5, he pledged a referendum on membership of the European Union - a move that would come back to haunt them, as we will get to later.

[img]https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Mótmælendur_við_Alþingishúsið.jpg[/img]
In Iceland, a country of just 300,000, which had lowered corporate taxes from 30 to just 18% in 2002, and had adopted a flat income tax rate in 2007, all three of the major banks collapsed at the end of 2008, and the GDP dropped by nearly 7% in 2009. (between the third quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of 2010.) In April 2009, following widespread public protest, dubbed the "Kitchenware Revolution", the historically dominant centre-right Independence Party, which had presided over these policies of neoliberalism, suffered one of its worst ever results, losing to a new centre-left coalition government made up of the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, only to lose power yet again to an Independence Party-Progressive Party coalition government in 2013, amidst unpopular austerity policies. Meanwhile, Iceland began to experience a tourism boom, and in 2015 it was announced that several music venues that had played a part in the rise of the renowned Icelandic music scene would be replaced with tourism-related businesses such as souvenir shops by a real estate company, showcasing that nowhere no matter - how small - is immune from the plague of gentrification.

Barack Obama, in spite of breaking his campaign pledges, was comfortably re-elected as US President in 2012, albeit with a reduced margin. However, the Democratic Party failed to win back the House of Representatives, which they had lost in 2010 amidst the early Tea Party-typified conservative backlash against Obama, a result which was blamed on gerrymandering by the Republican-controlled House following their 2010 victory. Meanwhile, the African-American community was protesting the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, a Miami native, had been temporarily living at a rented home in a gated community for the past week in the city of Sanford with his father Tracy and Tracy's fiance, in order to, according to Tracy, "disconnect and get his [Trayvon's] priorities straight". Martin was killed by Zimmerman after Zimmerman had reported him to the police for "suspicious" behaviour after Martin had bought a packet of Skittles and an Arizona Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail (commonly mistaken to be an Arizona Iced Tea). Since 2004, Zimmerman had made 44 calls to the Sanford Police Department, typically on black males for "suspicious behaviour". When the 911 respondent had asked Zimmerman if he was following Trayvon, he affirmed that he was, and was told "we don't need you to do that". Zimmerman ended the call shortly after, and Martin's girlfriend, who he had been having a phone call with, reported hearing him ask "What are you following me for?". A confrontation broke out between the two, and Martin was shot dead. According to Robert Zimmerman, George's brother, Martin had attempted to disarm Zimmerman, which means that he was likely feeling threatened by the presence of an armed stranger following him. Zimmerman was initially arrested by police, but was released just five hours later. Over the next few weeks, media coverage of the case increased, and on 23 March, nearly a month after the shooting, President Obama stated during a speech that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon".


In spite of the outcry, the court found Zimmerman not guilty of murder at his trial on 14 July 2013, over a year after the incident. This lead to the advent of the anti-racism and anti-police brutality Black Lives Matter movement, initially as a hashtag on Twitter. Another year later, Black Lives Matters became a household name as protests following the death of another black teenager, Michael Brown, at the hands of a police officer, turned to riots in Ferguson, Missouri, part of the St. Louis metro area. Tensions had reportedly been inflamed when a police officer allowed his dog to urinate on to a makeshift memorial. Another death that helped to mobilize the movement was that of a middle-aged man named Eric Garner. He died from suffocation after police held him in a chokehold position because he was accused by a policeman of selling cigarettes without a license. His death was caught on camera and the footage was publicly released, in a situation reminiscent of that of Rodney King, whose video-recorded police beating 23 years prior helped to spark the LA riots of 1992. Amidst this increase in racial tensions, a cynical, shrewd businessman saw the perfect opportunity to capitalize on a mixture of White America's prejudices and anti-establishment sentiment for his own self-aggrandizement. He planned to redirect potentially anti-system sentiments to ones that boosted the opposition party he set had set out to comandeer, ones that would merely replace the current leaders with ones that had dropped any pretence of egalitarianism in order to demonize the "other" to win support of the "normal" people, redirecting their anger against their masters to anger against the serfs. This man came in the shape of celebrity egomaniac, Donald Trump.6


Donald Trump was born in Queens, New York City on the 14 June 1946. He was the fourth son of Fred Trump, a real-estate agent and landlord who was the child of German immigrants, who had once been arrested at a KKK rally in 1927 as a young man. According to a 1999 obituary from the New York Times, unlike his son, he "did not believe in displays of wealth". In an incredible coincidence, one of Fred Trump's tennants during the 1950s had been none other than the famed American folk singer, Woody Guthrie. During Trump's presidential run, scholar Will Kaufman discovered in one of Guthrie's notebooks from this time, that he had written lyrics condeming his landlord, "Old Man Trump" for formenting "racial hate". Trump Senior was investigated by the US Senate in 1954 for illegally profiting from public contracts. Nineteen years later, in 1973, Fred Trump was once again investigated by the Senate, this time as part of a race-related civil rights case involving African-Americans being refused accommodation. As for "the Donald" himself, he took over his family's business in 1971, renaming it from "Elizabeth Trump & Son" to "The Trump Organization". In 1978, he made his first major deal in Manhattan. He had purchased the rights to remodel the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan - with help from a loan from his father, of course. According to the Washington Post, however, his father's involvement went beyond the loan - "the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself". In 1983, he completed construction of the Trump Tower, a luxury apartment complex which today serves as the HQ of the Trump Coporation and also houses the penthouse where the Trump family lives - or rather lived, since his inauguration. Throughout the 80s, he made his name purchasing various buildings, resorts, casinos and hotel, plastering his name on to such establishments as the Trump Parc, the Trump Plaza, Trump's Castle, and even a bike race called the Tour de Trump which was greeted with protesters holding signs with messages such as "Hungry? Eat the Rich", "Die Yuppie $cum" and "Fight Trumpism". They certainly proved ahead of their time. In 1988, he bought the unfinished Taj Mahal Casino, situated in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was opened in April 1990, at a cost of $1.1 billion, which was largely funded by junk bonds running at a 14% interest rate. The casino promptly went bankrupt the following year, which proved to be the first of six different times that his various projects have went bust over the past 26 years. In 2004, he became a reality TV star, getting his own show on NBC called the Apprentice, where groups of entrepreneurs compete for his approval. Local versions of the Apprentice have since been broadcast [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apprentice_(TV_series)]all over the world[/url].

2016 was not the first time Trump had ran for president. As early as 1987, he had considered running for president when a Republican activist named Mike Dunbar launched a "Draft Trump" organization for the upcoming Republican presidential candidacy - despite the fact that Trump was a registered Democrat at the time. Trump promptly changed his registration to Republican - the first of five different times that he has switched party affiliation over the years, in line with his numerous contradictory political statements. After taking out adverts in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe for a sum of nearly $100,000 in September, he them claimed in December in People magazine that he wasn't running because he, the man who by now was already putting his name on every piece of upscale property he could get his hands on, and had cultivated a brand centred around his own wealth, "[didn't] like publicity". In 1999, he announced he running for the 2000 nomination of the populist Reform Party that had grown out of Ross Perot's independent candidacy in 1992 - the most successful such run in decades. He had been persuaded to enter again, this time by Jesse Ventura, WWE wrestler-turned-Governor of Minnesota, who had suggested he enter at a Wrestlemania event that Trump had attended. Ironically, early on in the campaign, he accused his main rival, paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan of being a "Hitler-lover". In a book he published on New Year's Day of 2000, entitled "The America We Deserve",
several of his claimed policy positions conflicted with those he espoused during the 2016 campaign. On trade, he said that "we need tougher negotiations, not protectionist walls around America". He also appeared to support single-payer healthcare, and a tax aimed at wealth distribution from the upper class to the middle class. However, some of his stances didn't change too much. He supported further intensification of the US prison system, claiming that "America doesn't use prisons much more than any other civilized nation". In actual fact, according to World Prison Brief the United States had an incarceration of 683 per 100,000 people in 2000, one of the world's highest. He also supported increased military spending, and supported increased border controls in statements riddled with xenophobia. Perhaps he inherited one of his few principles from his father. However, he withdrew on Valentine's Day, citing Reform Party infighting and Jesse Ventura's recent departure. Finally, in 2011 he announced his intention to run for the 2012 elections, and hopped on to the already well-trodden bandwagon of questioning Barack Obama's birthplace. He was mocked by comedian Seth Meyers and even President Obama himself at a White House Correspondents' Dinner whilst attending in person, and was not amused. Just a few weeks later, on May 16, he announced that he had decided to not to run for president.


Four years later, on June 16, 2015, Trump announced his bid in a speech at the Trump Tower, a speech that will live in infamy. It was in this speech where Trump pledged to build a massive wall across the entire stretch of America's 3,200 km long wall along the southern border with Mexico. He also said the following of Mexican immigrants: "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (Ironically, rape accusations against Trump himself surfaced later, but we'll talk about it once we've got there.) It was also marked by populist economic rhetoric against China, another key feature of his campaign. Following the remarks several companies such as NASCAR, Macy's, Univision (he responded by banning them from his properties) and even NBC, broadcasters of The Apprentice, severed ties with Trump. But things had only just begun. By mid-July, Trump was already leading in opinion polls of potential Republican candidates, in the face of a weak and divided party establishment. In spite of this, many people were yet to take Trump seriously. Politico ran a clickbait-style article entitled "the 10 best lines from Donald Trump's announcement speech". This proves especially problematic in retrospect looking at the behaviour of Trump supporters online, who made extensive use of memes and a sense of humour which seemed to at times remove the distinction between "laughing at" and "laughing with" when it came to their own group, with a disposition towards self-parody.


Just like Trump himself, users from communities such as /r/The_Donald on Reddit became self-charicatures. If you want to get an idea of what this kind of humour entails, here is a screenshot of the top voted posts on all time on /r/The_Donald as of me writing this. When it came towards humour directed towards their foes however, there was no such distinction. And of course, it went beyond mere "humour". In one incident, Trump supporters targeted and stalked a random person who happened to be visible in a photo of an anti-Trump rally, and encouraged others to find photographs and videos of this person. The Reddit admins typically gave the mod team no more than a slap on the wrist for behaviour such as this, despite claiming to prohibit harassment. This kind of culture that Reddit had developed dates back to the founding of Reddit, where the admins implemented minimal rules on content and behaviour (initially prohibiting vote manipulation, such as using bots or other people to upvote posts on someone's behalf, illegal content or non-consensual posting of personal information), which lead to the growth of a subreddit called /r/jailbait devoted to sexually suggestive pictures of minors (not explicit to remain within the fringes of legality). This subreddit was eventually closed in October 2011 after TV presenter Anderson Cooper covered and criticised it on his show on CNN. Reddit admins have proved to lack much of a spine ever since, in 2015 only closing the subreddit "/r/FatPeopleHate" after they posted photos of the staff of the image host Imgur, which Reddit relies upon for much of its image hosting links. That September, they also opted merely to "quarantine" subreddits containing "extremely offensive" content, which simply means that adverts don't appear next to them (carrying favour with those whose brands don't want to be associated with hate speech), and meaning that they can only be viewed by logged-in users with an approved email address, so the admins don't have to deal with the PR embarrassment of having them appear on Google search results. This kind of "libertarian" approach to dealing with hate speech within Anglophone Internet culture has only helped to increase the acceptability of such rhetoric. One far-right YouTube channel, Black Pidgeon Speaks, with video titles such as "Why Women DESTROY NATIONS * / CIVILIZATIONS - and other UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS", "Cult of White Privilege IS EthnoMasochism" 7, " The Transgender: Normalizing MENTAL ILLNESS", and of course, "ELECTION 2016 - MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN", has over 150,000 subscribers as of January 2017. According to a survey from Defy Media, as of 2016, 13-24 year olds watch an average of 12.1 hours per week of content on "YouTube, social media and other free online sources", compared to just 8.1 hours of TV. This shows us that if the far-right can become popular on YouTube, it can have a vast influence on its spread and normalization among the younger generations.

In some ways, this kind of culture can be traced back to the increasing anti-feminist bent of the "New Atheism" movement spearheaded by figures such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. In 2011, the atheist blogger Rebecca Watson mentioned an incident where she said she felt uncomfortable after a man hit on her at a conference. After receiving harassment and abuse, Richard Dawkins himself then decided to write a sarcastic comment addressed to a woman from the Middle East called "Muslima", whom, in a very thinly veiled jab at Watson he calls thin-skinned for complaining about genital mutilation and not being allowed to drive. The controversy that ensued was labelled "Elevatorgate", and I mention it here because it marked a turning point to anti-feminism in the online atheist community. Over time, YouTube atheist figures such as TheAmazingAtheist and thunderf00t became more well-known as "anti-SJWs" than as atheists. In fact, until 2013, /r/atheism was one of the default communities users on the aforementioned Reddit were subscribed to upon joining. Elsewhere on the Internet, the 4chan "politically incorrect" board /pol/ helped to breed far-right and neo-Nazi sentiment on 4chan, an anonymous imageboard known for its vast influence over online culture. These people also became a major part of the "anti-SJW" community, which had expanded to attack transgender people, Muslims and Black Lives Matter, helping to radicalize many of the New Athiest and right-libertarian/classical liberal types in a white supremacist direction.

Through the latter part of 2015, Trump, although leading polls, still seemed like an unlikely president. On the day of his announcement speech, Mashable ran an article entitled "All the times Donald Trump has pretended to run for president", detailing the previous times he had mentioned he was considering running for president. In late June, Politico asked "Are Trump's poll numbers too good to be true?" And even by October, Mike Leibovich, writing for the New York Times Magazine, headlined an article with "Donald Trump Is Not Going Anywhere". But go places, he did. Meanwhile, it wasn't only the Republican Party that was being rocked by an outsider candidate. On April 30, Bernie Sanders, an ageing senator from left-leaning Vermont and self-described "democratic socialist", who supported social democratic policies such as the abolition of tuition fees and increased taxes on the rich, announced his intention to run for the Democratic candidacy, in spite of being politically independent until that point. Sanders gained a reputation as an anti-establishment populist, who refused donations from super PACs, instead relying on donations from individuals and grassroots support. Unlike the divided Republican Party race, Sanders was the only candidate other than party favourite and incumbent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to win any states during the party primaries. Sanders gained a large online following, with the Facebook group "Bernie Sanders' Dank Meme Stash" having reached around 450,000 members as of May 2016. In September 2015, Sanders said he was "stunned" by polls showing he was closing in on Clinton. He was noted for his strong white working-class support base, a demographic which felt unappreciated by the Democratic Party which they had traditionally supported. He has a particularly strong showing in the "Rust Belt" region in the Midwest, an area which had suffered strong economic decline as manufacturing jobs were outsourced overseas, a process which has gone on for several decades. While Clinton continued to dominate among African-Americans - an overwhelmingly pro-Democratic demographic, thanks to the... let's say, "colourful" history of race relations on the American right, the Clinton-Sanders gap between black voters was in fact noticeably smaller in the Midwest, as opposed to the massive margin of victory in Southern states, with their histories of slavery and segregation. While Clinton ultimately won the primaries and was selected as the Democratic candidate, Sanders pulled off a better-than-expected performance, winning 23 states and 1,863 delegates.

In spite of his impressive performance, the Democratic Party elites were not pleased with old Bernie. On July 22, WikiLeaks published a collection of over 19,000 internal e-mails from the Democratic National Congress. In one e-mail, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC described the Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver as a "damn liar". In others, DNC members mocked and derided the Sanders campaign. After the Sanders campaign announced that its requested agreement for a debate in California had been fufilled, Luis Miranda, communications director, simply responded "lol". One series of emails showed DNC members discussing wherever or not to emphasize Sanders' atheism in an attempt to damage his results in the strongly religious states of Kentucky and West Virginia. This kind of derision and outward hostility from the Third Way western liberal establishment even towards relatively moderate social democrats such as Sanders, who had a strong working-class support base, helps to explain the rise of the xenophobic right-wing, when the centre-left8 abandons them in the name of neoliberalism and perpetual economic growth, even when they usually don't deny the existence of climate change and ecological limitations. As early as December 2015, Sanders had acknowledged that in many cases, he was fighting for the same demographics as Trump, and following Trump's victory, he said in an interview on CBS This Morning that he was "deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from [the working class]".


Meanwhile, in the UK, the EU membership referendum was approaching. In an extraordinary turn of events, Jeremy Corbyn, a leftist anti-Blairite figure in the Labour Party, had been [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_2015]elected leader[/url] following Milliband's resignation in light of the party's 2015 election defeat. Early on in the leadership race, Corbyn, a long-term backbench MP since 1983, had been given odds of winning as low as 100-1. Yet in defiance of seeminly insurmountable odds, the impossible happened, something which would become a common theme over the next 18 months. Corbyn attracted a large amount of new members into the party to support him in the campaign. The total party membership swelled to over 600,000 as registrations to vote in the leadership election closed, ahead of just 200,000 during the general election. This was aided by registration rules that had reduced the sign-up fee to just £3. Before long, minor far-left anti-capitalist parties were accused of using entryist9 tactics in favour of Corbyn. But it seems rather far-fetched to claim that a swelling in membership of this size is solely attributable to a bunch of irrelevant Trotskyists. Rather, it reflected a feeling of alienation from the traditional working-class support base of the Labour Party that the party had decided to abandon under Blair in the name of "electability". He triumphed over his three forgettable centrist and centre-left rivals. However, things were not plain sailing. The right-wing media savaged him, with The Times even describing his bicycle which he regularly rode as "Chairman Mao-style", somehow. According to one study, nearly 60% of the coverage of his victory in major UK newspapers was "critical" or "antagonistic", and less than 10% "positive". The difference between him and Trump or even him and Sanders, however, is that these attacks appear to have been more effective. In spite of his victory, Corbyn isn't someone known for his charisma, and wasn't able to effectively unite his party. But the fact that people gravitated towards him, shows us how the people hunger for someone not as polished, not as sterile as the fake and phony "professional" images the powerful like to cultivate. Unfortunately, "anti-establishment" can mean many different things.

In the United States, Trump sailed to victory in the Republican Party primaries. Even as the field thinned out to just him, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, no-one proved strong enough to stop him. There was some speculation that Trump would be shot down by a brokered convention,1011 where no candidate obtains a majority of delegates, but any chance of this faded when Cruz dropped out of the race. By this point, he had long since started advocating for a national registry of Muslims in the USA and to suspend all Muslim migration. This came as the number of refugees coming to Europe mostly from the civil war in Syria reached record figures, along with an increase in the number of Islamist terrorist attacks since the rise of ISIS. These events which were exploited by populists in order to cultivate xenophobic and nationalist sentiments across the West, becoming a key factor in the right-wing surge of the mid-2010s. There were multiple incidents of violence at his rallies, and he was accused himself of delibrately inciting them. This behaviour from Trump started in October, when he said of a protestor "maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing." By March, tensions had to risen to an extent that when a rally in Chicago was cancelled after authorities were concerned by the presence of protestors, four people were injured. That same month, a 15 year-old girl was groped and pepper sprayed by Trump supporters at a rally in Wisconsin.

The UK referendum on EU membership was held on 27 June. A potential British withdrawal from the EU became known as "Brexit", and through early 2016, most polls indicated that Britain was set to remain in. In the UK, as in most of Northern and Western Europe, Euroscepticism is traditionally associated with nationalism, manifested by sentiments against foreign bureaucrats deciding "their" laws, and by xenophobia directed against Eastern European migrants. As referendum day approached though, polls showed the gap was closing. Prior to the referendum, the Leave campaign had claimed that £350 million was being given to the EU by the British government every week, money which the Leave campaign had pledged to spend on the National Health Service (NHS), a source of national pride for many Britons. Just hours after the referendum, Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and Britain's national figurehead of Euroscepticism disavowed the claim and pledge, and denied having any involvement in it, despite not having said a word about this before the referendum had been held. Seven days prior to the referendum, Jo Cox, an MP for the Labour Party was killed by Thomas "Tommy" Mair, in the first political assassination in the UK since 1990. Mair, with a history of links to far-right organizations, who was apparently visible in a photograph holding a banner for the far-right party Britain First, and indeed had been reported by multiple witnesses to have shouted "Britain First!" as a slogan as he attacked Cox. Following the attack, the parties temporarily stopped campaigning, resuming on the 19th with a more "respectful" tone. In defiance of most expectations, the Leave side won, prompting David Cameron to resign, the value of the pound against the US dollar to drop to a 31 year-low, and for the rate of hate crimes to increase five-fold in the days following the result. UKIP proved successful in redirecting popular discontent in order to suit its own agenda, just like Trump would go on to do. Meanwhile, within the Labour Party, Corbyn faced opposition from the majority of his own centrist and centre-left MPs who accused him of weak campaigning on behalf of the Remain camp. Corbyn, with his anti-neoliberal sentiment, had expressed Eurosceptic sentiments in the past, actively opposing the Maastricht Treaty which transformed the European Community into the EU in 1993 and voting against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. While some members of Labour's Blairite and "soft left" factions" had accused him of lying over his stance on the EU, and others accused him of supporting Remain only to appease his own MPs,121314 he may very well have faced a dillemma similar to many others on his spot on the political spectrum: "Should I oppose the European Union on grounds of principal, or support it in order to prevent the country lurching even further to the right?" Whatever he may have thought, the Blairites were not pleased. Following a series of divisions, firings and resignations in the Labour shadow cabinet, and after Corbyn refused to resign, the Parliamentary Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn 172-40. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_2015]A new leadership election was prompted[/url], and Corbyn, refusing to back down, stood again. Of the two opposition candidates, Angela Eagle, considered a Blairite who supported the Iraq War in 2003, cancelled her bid after just eight days, having suffered harassment. This left Owen Smith, who attempted to capture some of the more democratic socialist-leaning Corbyn supporters while retaining palatability to the party establishment. His official campaign page on he Labour Party website emphasized that "Owen has been a Labour member, trade unionist and socialist since he was old enough to know what they all were". On the issue of nuclear weapons, he claimed to be a former member of CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and claimed he supported a world without nuclear weapons, but then claimed in the same interview that Britain "needed" nuclear weapons and subsequently voted in Parliament to renew the Trident nuclear program five days later. Unsurprisingly, Corbyn was re-elected, but being re-elected didn't serve to significantly unite the party or to cure it of its dysfunction.

Trump's presidential bid looked to be doomed in October when backstage tapes from a 2005 episode of Access Hollywood where Trump was heard remarking in a conversation between him and Billy Bush - the show's host and cousin of George W. Bush - that "when you're a star, they [women] let you do it, you can do anything ... grab them by the pussy" were leaked. The second televised presidential debate between Trump and Clinton was held two days after the release, he attempted to deflect the focus on the scandal by bringing up the sexual abuse allegations against Bill Clinton, but according to polls, was judged by the public to have lost the debate. A few days after the release of the tape, Clinton's lead over Trump in opinion polls reached into the double digits. Over the next few weeks, several different women came out with stories of sexual misconduct to the press. By October 27, there were at least 24 different such allegations against Trump. During this time, one poll of voters in the strongly conservative predominantly-Mormon state of Utah showed Trump level with Clinton, and just two points ahead of Evan McMullin, an independent conservative anti-Trump candidate, former CIA agent and Utah native. Notably, he was ahead of Trump among voters who identified themselves as members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism). However, fate was not on Clinton's side. On October 27, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and one of Trump's highest-ranking associates, claimed on Fox News that a "surprise or two" was coming. The very next day, and just 11 days before the election, James Coney, the head of the FBI, announced that the organization was re-opening previously closed investigations on Hillary Clinton's email server. All throughout the election campaign, Clinton had been embroiled in controversy after it was discovered that she had used her personal email server rather than the official government one while serving as Secretary of State under Obama, thus raising security questions as many of the emails were marked as containing classified information. In spite of the aforementioned evidence of the DNC actively attempting to undermine Sanders, drone strikes carried out under Clinton's tenure killing innocent civilians and the well-established system maintained by the PACs, this was the main stick that had been used by the Trump campaign to batter Hillary throughout the campaign, in spite of the irony of essentially allowing Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks to align himself with them in the process. In the days following this announcement, Clinton's lead in polls dropped by a few percentage points, putting her within Trump's striking range. On election day, data aggregator FiveThirtyEight gave Donald Trump a 28.6% chance of victory, a figure which while tilted towards the likelihood of a Clinton victory, left a window noticeably open for Trump.


On the morning on the 9th of November, the world woke up to news even more startling than Brexit. Clinton, by failing to provide a viable alternative to the decline inflicted by neoliberalism on the portions of the working class living in the Rust Belt, had lost the position of the most powerful person on Earth to a megalomaniac celebrity rapist with an appetite for piss. In spite of winning the popular vote, unexpected victories in the typically "blue" Democratic Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, along with victories in the Midwestern swing states of Iowa and Ohio, placed Trump ahead of Clinton thanks to the United States' indirect "electoral college" system. How could this happen? Could it have been that running a candidate with one of the highest popular unfavourability ratings in history and hoping that she would pull through on the concept of "lesser of two evils" was a bad idea? Was it the condescension displayed by the Democratic establishment - and indeed many Clinton supporters - towards their downtrodden support base? No - it was those goddamn unenlightened pease- sorry, hillbillies, who weren't convinced milquetoast liberalism would relieve them of their social ills! On November 14, one thread on the subreddit /r/EnoughTrumpSpam was entitled "Dear the Rust Belt: kindly go fuck yourselves" and proceeded to preach about how people in the Rust Belt should be grateful to the Democrats for bailing them out after the 2008 financial crisis while completely ignoring the forces of globalization that led to the decline of the area in the first place. The liberal feminist website Jezebel had to publish an article entitled "Please Stop Saying Poor People Did This". One widely circulated story in the media around this time was that of a woman who, alienated with the financial elites, had voted for Trump, only for him to name Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary, a man who had owned a bank which had foreclosed on her home during the Great Recession. Rather than display any sympathy for the woman who had a reason to vote based on anti-establishment sentiment, Clinton supporters, as seen in the collage to the right,15 preferred to make fun of her, when their sentiments should've been targeted against the powerful who target the powerless for their own gain, not using the white working-class as scapegoats. This kind of classist scapegoating from Clinton supporters is little different to the racist scapegoating from Trump supporters. And this didn't just stop soon after the election. In February, anti-racist campaigner Tim Wise tweeted "maybe white rust belt folk should develop nu skills, go 2 school & stop relying on entitled mentality that "muh daddys job" will b there 4 u". Other scapegoats included Russia for alleged interference in both the campaigning and vote count, so-called "BernieBros" (young white men who were enthusiastic about Bernie and strongly anti-Clinton and were accused of supporting Trump over her) and even voters of third-party and independent candidates, but none exemplified the disconnect between the Democrats and their traditional blue-collar base better than the vitriol flung by urban liberals against the Rust Belt.

For all the media and online hype about the "eternal curse of 2016", there was one thing that should've caused social upheaval, but - with one exception - didn't. The Panama Papers. On 3 April 2016, 2.6 TB of internal documents - the largest such leak in history - from the Panama-based corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca were released by an anonymous whistleblower to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Germany. These documents detailed decades of information about secret offshore accounts used by the rich and powerful to dodge taxes. This list included 12 current or former national leaders, 128 other officials and politicians, and individuals from over 200 different countries. Connections were made to figures such as David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. And yet the only country where this lead to any large-scale public dissent was Iceland, a country where the tiny population has helped to create a close-knit national community. Another demonstration that apathy reigns supreme in the West. And with the wounds of the 2008 crisis still fresh, dissent quickly spread through the small population. On 4 April, thousands of people gathered in the Austurvöllur, a major public square in Reykjavik, to demand of resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who had been named in the papers, and for early elections. Some estimates put the number of demonstrators as high as 22,000, roughly 6.7% of the entire population. The following day, he announced his resignation, only to then claim days later that he was just temporarily stepping aside for an "unspecified amount of time", and that he would continue to serve as chairman of the Progressive Party. Wherever or not this resignation was temporary soon proved to be a moot point, however. Opinion polls showed that the leading party was the pro-transparency and copyright reformist Pirate Party, which previously only had 3 seats in the Althing and had only been formed in 2012. One poll taken during 4-5 April showed them gaining over 40% of the vote. Yet in spite of this, by the time new elections finally came in October, the Pirate Party gained only 14.5% of the vote, making them the third-most popular party, behind the long-dominant Independence Party - part of the fallen coalition - and the Left-Green Movement. This translated to 10/63 seats in the Althing. While Sigmundur Davíð's Progressive Party had lost over half of their vote share from the 2013 election, the Independence Party, lead by Bjarni Benediktsson, who had also been named in the Panama Papers, actually increased their vote share. After months of negotiation, he ended up as the new Prime Minister of Iceland in a new coalition government with two small liberal parties. One boss had merely been exchanged for a new boss.

Elsewhere, political events even more outlandish than the rise of Trump took place. Park Geun-hye, the president of South Korea was impeached following massive protests triggered by the revelation that she had been under the influence of Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a shamanistic cult leader. Choi even formed her own secret so-called "shadow cabinet", who would advice Park on policies, handle classified documents, order firings of their enemies, extort money from corporations and even write the president's speeches. By mid-November, her approval ratings had fell to record lows of 5% (just 1-3% for under 60s). As an aside, Park Geun-hye is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the military dictator who ruled South Korea with an iron fist for 18 years until his assassination in 1979. Although South Korea may have democratized since then, incidents such as these show how hierarchy and centralized leadership will always breed corruption and abuse, no matter the way in which said leadership is selected. Meanwhile, populism also reared its head in the Philippines. Rodrigo Duterte, the new president promised a brutal anti-drug campaign, targeting addicts as well as dealers, openly encouraging police as well as ordinary citizens to slaughter drug users on mass. In his first 100 days in office, at least 3,600 people were killed. Previously, as mayor of the city of Davao, he had allowed death squads to operate which kiled hundreds of street children and petty criminals from 1998 onwards. One reporter said "I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness". And of course, he claimed that Trump had endorsed his bloodthirsty campaign. Demagogues always need someone to victimize in order to survive, and it is easier to eat the weak alive than to even attempt to grab the bull of the institution by its horns.

And where does this leave us? Trump is president, and Le Pen and Wilders are leading in the polls in France and the Netherlands receptively. But on the bright side, many people are beginning to recognize that tepid liberalism will not cure the ills of a world destined for implosion. As the developing world industrializes, capitalism, a system that requires perpetual growth has no place left to expand to. Automation - the lack of need for labour, of all things - becomes a threat to the welfare of millions, and most pressingly, we are on the brink of global ecological catastrophe and the responses of the world governments vary from "umm, if we build a few wind farms it might go away" at best to "la la la I'm not listening"16 at worst. In spite of this, we must not be led into deluded attempts at recreating the left of the 20th century. Attempts at reform have time and time again failed to end the domination of the many by the few. Attempts at revolution, through replacing the state rather than destroying it, have proved even more disastrous, leading to states where rather than workers controlling the means of production, it is all under the control of an "worker's state", which neccessitates authoritarianism in order to effectively maintain the grip on the country. The only way a just, sustainable world can be achieved is to overcome the very concept of hierarchy itself. All we can do is to make sure that we are ready, to defend ourselves and each other from whatever wrath our world's spiral into self-destruction may bring. Oh, and one last thing -

Comments

Spikymike
Mar 22 2017 16:23

''...on the bright side....'' - one paragraph doesn't much balance the rest. Not a lot of new content in this text but putting it all together like this is a bit depressing if true - certainly the level of even defensive struggles leaves much to be desired, but then maybe we have to hit bottom before rising to the challenge?

im_mad_as_hell
Mar 25 2017 01:57

Well, I can't say optimism is my forte. But I'm sure there are other people who are better at it than me.

Ed
Dec 15 2017 14:12

Hey, so I notice the video at the end of this has been removed from Youtube. Does anyone know what it was/where another copy can be found?