Category Archives: Populism

Science Won’t Save the Planet, New Values Will

I don’t write much directly about climate collapse, even though by any measure it is by far the most important issue any of us will face in our lifetimes. And I can gauge from my social media accounts that, when I do write about environmental issues, my followers – most of whom I assume share my progressive positions – are least likely to read those blog posts or promote them.

I have to consider why that is.

As I explained in my last piece, the environment has been a concern to me since my teenage years, back in the early 1980s. It should now be a concern to everyone. And while polls in the UK show that most people are worried to some degree about climate change and the state of the planet, the majority are either still not concerned at all or concerned only a little.

Part of the problem, I start to think, is that we are approaching climate change all wrong. And that addressing it correctly is just too difficult for most of us to contemplate because it demands something profound from us, something we fear we are incapable of giving.

When I share climate change material on social media, it is invariably graphs produced by climate scientists showing the alarming trends of a warming planet. Others, I see, do the same.

But really is that what all this is about? Most of us – at least the ones sharing this stuff – understand that the science is now conclusive. Even, I suspect, those who deny climate change do so not because they believe the data are wrong but because accepting the reality is too overwhelming, too terrifying.

And this gets to the heart of what we need to talk about. Those persuaded by the graphs and the data no longer need those materials, and those unpersuaded aren’t going to heed the science anyway.

So maybe we need to talk less about the science, the graphs and climate change, and much more about ideology, about the inconvertible fact that the planet is dying before our very eyes and about how we have conspired in that act of ecocide. What got us into this mess wasn’t science, what got us here was ideology.

Consumerism our god

In my last blog I noted that scientists kept a low profile when they most needed to speak out, back in the 1990s and 2000s – in part because they were denied a platform, but chiefly because they failed to push themselves forward. That was when the evidence of climate collapse was irrefutable and there was time to start changing our societies to avoid it.

The reason the scientists held back is significant, I think. It wasn’t because they had doubts, it was because the dominant paradigm of our societies – the paradigm shared by almost all of us, the scientists included – was so deeply in conflict with what was needed to bring about change.

For decades – until the financial collapse of 2008 raised the first doubts – we were driven exclusively by a paradigm of endless economic growth, of ever-increasing resource exploitation, of a spiralling personal accumulation of goods. Consumerism was our individual god, and the Stock Market our collective one.

They still are. It’s just that the real, physical world – not the one we constructed out of narrative and ideology – keeps slapping us in the face to try to wake us up from our slumber.

The oceans didn’t fill with plastics last year. Some 1 million species didn’t start facing extinction this month. And the atmosphere wasn’t suddenly polluted with the greenhouse gas CO2 this week. These are trends that have been observable for decades.

The question we have to ask is why did David Attenborough and the BBC suddenly start noticing that everywhere they filmed – from the high seas to the deepest ocean beds – was polluted with plastic? This wasn’t new. It’s that they only recently decided to start telling us about it, that it was important.

Again, scientists haven’t just worked out that there has been a massive loss of biodiversity even in the remotest jungles, that insect populations needed to maintain the health of our planet have been disappearing. The mass die-off of species has been going for decades, even before temperatures started rising significantly. So why have we only just started seeing articles about it in liberal media like the Guardian?

And, fuelled by greenhouse gases, temperatures have been steadily increasing for decades too. But only over the past year have all the record highs, the wildfires and anomalous weather conditions been reported – sometimes – in the context of climate breakdown.

Identifying with the enemy

The cause of these failures is ideology. The reality, the facts simply didn’t stack up with the way we had organised our societies, the way we had come to believe the world, our world, operated. We didn’t see ourselves – still don’t see ourselves – as in nature.

Rather, we have viewed ourselves as outside it, we have seen nature as something to entertain us, as parkland in which we can play or as an exotic place to observe through a screen as a reassuring David Attenborough narrates. Instead of considering ourselves part of nature, we have seen ourselves variously conquering, taming, exploiting, eradicating it.

Derrick Jensen, sometimes described as an eco-philosopher, offers a simple, but telling life lesson. He observes that when you get your food from a convenience store and your water from a tap, your very survival comes to depend on the system that provides you with these essentials of life. You inevitably identify completely with the system that feeds and shelters you, however corrupt, however corrupting that system is. Even if it is destroying the planet.

If you hunt and forage for food, if you collect water from streams, then you identify with the land and its water sources. Their health means everything to you.

We saw those two identification systems playing out as a terrible, tragic theatre of confrontation at the Standing Rock protests through 2016-17, between those trying to stop an oil pipeline that would destroy vital natural resources, risking the pollution of major rivers, and heavily armed police enforcing the system – our system – that puts corporate oil profits above the planet and our survival.

Anyone watching footage of those protests should have understood that the police were not just there to carry out law enforcement. They were not just there on behalf of the state and federal authorities and the corporations. They were there for us. They were there to keep our way of life, our suicidal pattern of living, going to the bitter end. To the point of our extinction.

Like them, we are battle-ready, heavily armed enforcers of an ideology, an insane ideology needed to protect a self-harming, nihilistic system.

A virus killing its host

This is not a question of science. None of those charts and graphs and data are actually necessary to understand that the planet is dying, that we have become a virus gradually killing its host. That is obvious if we look inside ourselves, if we remember that we are not police officers, or civil servants, or arms makers, or oil executives, or tax collectors, or scientists. That the system is not us. That we do not have to identify with it. That we can cure ourselves by learning humility, by rediscovering our inner life, by being in nature, by reconnecting with others, with strangers, by protesting against the system and its values, by listening to those the system wants to denigrate and exclude.

In fact, most of the scientists are very much part of the problem. They, like the media, now tell us how bad things are only because the patient is on life support, because her condition is critical. But those scientists are not ecological doctors. They are not qualified to offer solutions for how to revive the patient, for how to get her back to health. Those scientists who worked their way up through the institutions that awarded their qualifications of expertise are as identified with this suicidal ideological system as the rest of us.

We need more ancient wisdoms, dying wisdoms, of the indigenous peoples who still try to live in nature, to live off the land and in harmony with it, even as we make the conditions to do so impossible for them. We urgently need to find ways to simplify our lives, to ween ourselves off our addictive consumption, to stop identifying with the system that is killing us, and to seek leaders who are ahead of us in that struggle for wisdom.

First buds of resistance

In my last blog post, I called for more populism – not the reactionary kind created by our current leaders to confuse us, to justify more repression, to strengthen their own hand – but a populism that seeks to take power away from those who rule over us in their own, narrow self-interest, to re-educate ourselves that the system is a menace, that we need new social, political and economic structures.

Some readers objected to my call for more Extinction Rebellions, more Greta Thunbergs, more school strikes, more Green New Deals, more climate emergencies. They believe these groups, these strategies are flawed, or even that they are colluding with our corporate rulers, coopted by the system itself.

Let us set aside for a moment the cynicism that assumes all protests to stop us killing the planet are pointless, not what they seem, or intended to derail real change.

Yes, of course, the corporations will seek to disrupt efforts to change the system they created. They will defend it – and their profits – with all their might and to the death. Yes, of course, they will seek to subvert, including from within, all protests of all kinds against that system. We cannot reach an accommodation with these structures of power. We must overthrow them. That is a given. There are no accolades for pointing out these obvious truths.

But protests are all we have. We learn from protest. From their response, their efforts to subvert, we identify more clearly who the real enemies of change are. We grow in wisdom. We find new allies. When we discover that the institutional and structural obstacles are even greater than we imagined, we learn to struggle harder, more wisely, both to change the reality outside ourselves and the reality inside. We find new values, new models, new paradigms through the struggle itself.

Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes aren’t the end of the process, our last shout. They are the very first buds of a rapid evolution in our thinking, in our understanding of where we stand in relation to the planet and the cosmos. These buds may be clipped off. But stronger, more vigorous shoots will surely replace them.

Real Populism is the Answer to Climate Crisis

It is worth considering what “populism” represents outside the kneejerk scaremongering of the liberal media. Conditions are created for populism when there is widespread loss of faith in a society’s traditional organs of authority: the political class, the “mainstream” media and expert institutions.

Those most exercised about populism, unsurprisingly, are the professional class in charge of those very same institutions. Their job has always been to guard the economic interests of the ruling elite.

The rise of populism in both its rightwing and leftwing manifestations, and the more general political polarisation in our societies, are the symptoms of a breakdown in trust, a collapse of consensus, a rupture of the social contract. And the reasons for these developments are staring us in the face.

Brexit, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn and Ilhan Omar aren’t the causes of our problems. They are the products of increasingly confused, frustrated and angry electorates desperate to smash the stranglehold on our societies of failed “experts” – the political, media and academic class – that have so clearly betrayed us on behalf of the real power-holders: the corporations that run our societies.

Estranged from nature

One doesn’t need to be a Marxist to see that more than 150 years ago Karl Marx offered profound insights into the society of his time – and of our time too. He correctly observed that capitalism contained within it the seeds of its own destruction, and that industrialised workers suffered from “alienation” – they had lost any meaningful sense of their own humanity as they became little more than cogs in the vast, compassionless machinery of production processes. As a result, they were increasingly estranged from the natural world.

What was obvious to Marx then should be far easier for us to comprehend now.

Even so, his analysis was inevitably limited to what it was possible to imagine about the industrialised economies of that period. He could not have properly understood then that capitalism’s logic was as much a threat to the planet’s climate as it was to the working class, or that social media would one day offer the potential for us to liberate ourselves from official propaganda, even if at the same time it overwhelmed us with so much information, good and bad alike, that many of us have been left seeking solace in simplistic counter-narratives, turning real life into our very own version of Game of Thrones.

Nonetheless, these twin developments are very much the logical outgrowths of our highly corporatised societies. Climate change highlights capitalism’s inherent self-destructiveness, making it unmistakeable to growing sections of western publics. And at the same time the information revolution embodied by social media offers the hope of personal and collective transformation, a path to change and to ending the alienation that has brought us to the brink.

Easy bogeymen

Today, the battle is between those who wish to cling to the sinking wreckage of the existing order – a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism – and those who urgently want to encourage us down the path of radical change.

In the US context, the struggle is between the new insurgency politicians, on the one hand, and the Russiagaters who dominate the political and media landscape, on the other. Between those trying to reshape the political conversation so that it addresses for the first time in living memory issues that actually matter – the US imperial role in foreign wars; America’s long-standing anti-black racism, which Trump is formalising into an explicit white supremacism; the power of the gun and banking lobbies; the rule of the corporations – and those reassured by a lazy patriotism that pins America’s woes on easy bogeymen like Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In the UK context, the battle is between devout Remainers – those who beatify the European Union, thinking it can somehow save us from ourselves – and the activists of Extinction Rebellion, who understand that we need radical new thinking and ideas, not a return to the 1970s. The divide is between those infuriated by peaceful demonstrations that briefly disrupt major highways and those warning that the near-permanent congestion on roads is one sign of our civilisation’s imminent demise.

Forget the politicians and the media: the issue is not whether the Brexit or Remain camp is right. Rather, the debate itself is an evasion, an endless displacement activity from the reality that we have a few years left to save ourselves; that we are just one of those 1 million species on the verge of extinction; and that all these species, us included, will either sink or swim together. No exceptions.

The Brexit-Remain debate is a symptom of our continuing arrogance, our refusal to confront the real challenge of what it means to be in harmony not only with other human beings but with life itself.

Waking from a slumber

Climate breakdown should be the wake-up call for us all, and yet there are still those who wish to distract themselves from the natural world from which we have been so deeply alienated. They still want to debate whether climate change is real; whether it is imminent and serious; whether human beings are responsible; whether we can fix it with technology; whether we can escape it by living in space.

Until we understand that these debates are an illness, a pathology that capitalism cultivated in us, such arguments will continue even as the planet’s colours, viewed from space, turn from green and blue to a scorched yellow and a burnt black.

But even as we try to wake up from our long slumber, we risk stepping into another trap. We have become so distrustful of experts and of our institutions that the starker the reality, as the facts of climate change reveal themselves physically, the more some people start to believe the dawning reality is a lie too.

This is another kind of evasion, but one that hides from itself – posing as dissent, as radicalism. These “dissidents” argue that the climate science is bogus, that the scientists are distorting the data to justify their salaries and funding, and that corporations are really behind what is simple alarmism.

This approach forgets that context is everything. Climate change is not new, even if many of us are waking up to it only now, very belatedly. It has been measurable for more than a century, even if the necessary intellectual framework for making sense of the science was absent.

The tree museum

British scientist James Lovelock, who had worked for Nasa on predictive modelling of the climates on other, unexplored worlds such as Mars, published the Gaia hypothesis in the 1970s, offering western publics the chance to understand Earth and its life systems holistically.

Of course, for decades his work was derided, including by other scientists, as a form of crackpot new ageism – even though today the idea that the planet is governed by a delicate balance of forces that can be easily disrupted and set off in dramatic new directions by feedback loops is the very basis of climate science.

Ecologists and a few artists of the time started to sense too that the western way of life was out of sync with nature, and that our species arrogance was endangering other life forms. In her song “Big Yellow Taxi” of 1970, Joni Mitchell not only condemned both our preference for the tarmac of parking lots over nature and the ecocidal habits of intensive agriculture, but reminded us of our ultimate alienation from the living world in this memorable and prophetic rhyme:

They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum /
And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em

The 1980s were my formative political years. Throughout that decade I dabbled in a simplistic environmentalism that focused on the responsibilities of individuals and the free market, rather than the state, to sort out the trail of ecological damage we were leaving.

I helped set up one of the first newspaper recycling banks in the UK and did my postgraduate journalism project on global warming. (Being trained as a “mainstream” journalist, I made sure not to alarm readers, concentrating instead on a jokey angle about the – admittedly very real – threat that ever larger herds of cows, farmed for McBurgers, were emitting through their farts vast quantities of the ultimate greenhouse gas, methane.)

Short-term fixes

The 1980s were probably the last chance we had to manage climate change in a controlled manner. And yet there was almost no pressure to make even the most superficial changes to our way of life. This was before most towns and cities had installed even rudimentary bicycle lanes, and before most shops sold long-life light bulbs – technology that had been around for almost a century and discarded because it was not profitable to the bulb manufacturers.

At that point it was all about short-term fixes that would not harm the profits of the big corporations, or better still might increase them: taking the poisonous lead out of petrol, and removing CFC chemicals from deoderants and fridges that were creating a hole in the protective ozone layer that surrounds the planet.

There were almost no scientists speaking out then, or at least not in ways that made any impact. Climate science was in its infancy, there was no funding for climate change research, and the academies trained scientists with a set of assumptions that precluded, or penalised, investigating climate change.

In a cautionary tale from that period, it was discovered that ground stations at the north and south poles had unwittingly identified the ozone hole many years before the alarm was raised in the late 1970s. But scientists had programmed the computers watching the skies to ignore anomalous results, such as large-scale ozone depletion. The data was there but the scientists’ own limited imaginations had meant they looked straight past it.

And that was what happened with climate change for many decades. It was staring the scientists in the face, but most were unable to see it – or comprehend its significance – because they were programmed, like the rest of us, to ignore it.

Secret climate research

During the 1980s that began to change. The evidence became so overwhelming, so evident on so many fronts, that most of the leading scientists were already agreed about the threat of climate change as I was mocking up my “green” newspaper front-page at journalism school in 1987.

In fact, we now know that by 1982 scientists working secretly for ExxonMobil had already plotted the future course of global warming. The science, even then, was so exact that the scientists predicted the critical moment would arrive in 2019 – 37 years hence – when carbon dioxide levels would reach 415 parts per million in the atmosphere and the mean global temperature would rise dangerously, by 0.9C. At that point, they warned, it would be impossible for the oil corporations to dissimulate any longer by pretending climate change was normal weather fluctuations.

The scientists’ forecast of 415ppm was exactly right. The threshold was crossed this week. They were slightly out on the temperature rise: it ocurred two years earlier than they had expected. The rapid track upwards of their graph from 2019 onwards should have us all terrified.

The climate memo was one of several fascinating documents unearthed in 2015 by a Pulitzer-finalist series of stories by reporters

If this research was concealed, the public evidence was soon so incontrovertible that the oil corporations briefly abandoned trying to deny it. By 1991 the Shell oil company had funded a half-hour video on the dangers of climate change for showing in schools and colleges. The film was not intended to be controversial. It simply outlined the standard scientific view of the period, noting that a serious concerns about climate change were “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990.”

This was a moment of reckoning for Shell and other oil corporations. The film was part of its public efforts to look responsible and serious about a well-documented threat to the planet, while at the same time, behind the scenes, the oil firms actively sought to subvert the science, to make sure it would soon have no impact on the public debate – or the industry’s profits. Those of us who lived through that period know exactly how the battle was won.

Clouded by uninformed opinion

As the science of climate change became stronger, and those studying it more expert, the noise about the danger it posed grew weaker. The science became clouded by uninformed opinion. Suddenly Margaret Thatcher’s former finance minister Nigel Lawson was regularly wheeled out by the BBC to pontificate on the climate – a subject he had precisely no qualifications to speak about. Lawson was just one of many other, self-appointed experts who were given plenty of room in the state-corporate media. They reassured us constantly that there was no reason to be concerned, that it should be big business as usual – a subject Lawson, for one, was eminently well paid to speak about.

The problem was not just climate denial. Through the 1990s a belief in what was then called environmentalism quickly came to be seen as cranky, fringe, alarmist. We were told – I was told – it reflected unresolved father issues, or a childish need for attention. We were just the modern equivalent of those Victorian doom-mongers with their blackboards warning that “The end is nigh!”

For nearly two decades the scientists seemed to be largely absent, and I – and probably a lot of other activists and potential activists – drifted away to find other issues to be concerned about (in my case Israel-Palestine). How were we to fight the general climate of climate denial if most scientists were not there to support us? How were we to persuade a confused public of the urgency of the matter if no one else, including the scientists, seemed overly concerned? If climate change really was the pressing threat we claimed, why were the BBC and the Guardian not treating it as an emergency too?

In the 1990s and the 2000s, climate change was treated as a far-off, theoretical problem, and one there would be plenty of time to think about should it turn out to be real.

Science didn’t stand a chance

It is hard for me to judge whether the scientists really did disappear. Was it the innate conservatism of the academy in capitalist societies that kept them quiet: the need for tenure, for corporate funding, for the approval of colleagues? Was it the fear of tarnishing their professional reputations by speaking out?

Or were the scientists afraid of being sent into the gladiatorial arena of the corporate media, where paid propagandists would disembowel them with soundbites, where trivialising news agendas would make them look comically earnest, where the journalists themselves would be bound to side with their billionaire owners over the science?

Or was it simpler still: that these scientists rarely, if ever, got invited by the media to offer their expertise?

It barely matters. What this period teaches us is that the whole structure of our societies ensured that the science – and the scientists – didn’t stand a chance.

Capitalism has a use for experts only in so far as they fulfil a narrow institutional role: to inflate the profits of the corporations, to shore up the media-manufactured consensus in favour of a rapacious neoliberal capitalism, to provide a veneer of legitimacy to a deeply corrupt and corrupting system of power. The science – which showed that our continued use of hydrocarbons would start killing us in a few decades – had to be coopted or silenced. And that is exactly what happened through the 1990s and the 2000s.

Time for genuine populism

Change only began in the 2010s, and alarm – the required response – has only just begun to register with a significant proportion of the population in advanced western societies, at maybe a third or so.

But the sudden concern about climate collapse among sections of the professional class – among some politicians, journalists, and academics – as well as among almost all of the expert class – the climate scientists – isn’t a reason to be distrustful. It isn’t evidence that we are being conned again by our elites, that the masters of spin are winning once more.

Rather it is a sign that, despite the best efforts of the corporations to deceive us over the past four decades, the game is up, the truth is out. Climate collapse is so close at hand, the window to avert our fate so narrow, that only the insane, the deeply propagandised and those so alienated from the natural world that they have lost all sense of themselves and what matters can still ignore the reality. We are teetering over the precipice.

Incredibly, a survey of the UK suggests that this alienated, propagandised group is still in the majority, at about two-thirds of the public. That is the true scandal, an indictment of the professional classes – the politicians, the journalists, the professors – for failing to speak out earlier, for failing to speak out more clearly, for leaving it so late.

The problem of our societies was, and is, not populism. We needed a genuine populism in the 1980s when the damage to the planet’s life-support systems became clear. Back then we needed the professionals and the experts to represent the interests of the public, the interests of themselves and their descendants, the interests of all the planet’s species, not the interests of a tiny corrupt elite determined to ignore the science and their own humanity to drive onwards oil-based economies they knew we were heading for the abyss, that would take us to the brink of extinction.

Today, we desperately need the populism of Extinction Rebellion, of Greta Thunberg and the school strikes, of politicians prepared to stand by a Green New Deal and declare real climate emergencies. Yes, the corporations – pathological to the bitter end – will try to coopt these groups and derail their actions, and produce their own versions of populism, the reactionary kind.

That is not reason to abandon populism. It is reason to stop trusting those who represent not us, not the planet, not its bounteous species  but the corporations, wherever they are found – in our parliaments, in our media and in our universities. It is time to listen not to them, but to the still small voice inside each of us that was long ago battered into silence and submission.

The War on Populism

Remember when the War on Terror ended and the War on Populism began? That’s OK, no one else does.

It happened in the Summer of 2016, also known as “the Summer of Fear.” The War on Terror was going splendidly. There had been a series of “terrorist attacks,” in Orlando, Nice, Würzberg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach, and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, each of them perpetrated by suddenly “self-radicalized” “lone wolf terrorists” (or “non-terrorist terrorists“) who had absolutely no connection to any type of organized terrorist groups prior to suddenly “self- radicalizing” themselves by consuming “terrorist content” on the Internet. It seemed we were entering a new and even more terrifying phase of the Global War on Terror, a phase in which anyone could be a “terrorist” and “terrorism” could mean almost anything.

This broadening of the already virtually meaningless definition of “terrorism” was transpiring just in time for Obama to hand off the reins to Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew was going to be the next president, and who was going to have to bomb the crap out of Syria in response to the non-terrorist terrorist threat. The War on Terror (or, rather, “the series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” as Obama rebranded it) was going to continue, probably forever. The Brexit referendum had just taken place, but no one had really digested that yet … and then Trump won the nomination.

Like that scene in Orwell’s 1984 where the Party switches official enemies right in the middle of the Hate Week rally, the War on Terror was officially canceled and replaced by the War on Populism. Or … all right, it wasn’t quite that abrupt. But seriously, go back and scan the news. Note how the “Islamic terrorist threat” we had been conditioned to live in fear of on a daily basis since 2001 seemed to just vanish into thin air. Suddenly, the “existential threat” we were facing was “neo-nationalism,” “illiberalism,” or the pejorative designator du jour, “populism.”

Here we are, two and a half years later, and “democracy” is under constant attack by a host of malevolent “populist” forces …. Russo-fascist Black vote suppressors, debaucherous eau de Novichok assassins, Bernie Sanders, the yellow-vested French, emboldened non-exploding mail bomb bombers, Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult, and brain-devouring Russian-Cubano crickets. The President of the United States is apparently both a Russian intelligence operative and literally the resurrection of Hitler. NBC and MSNBC have been officially merged with the CIA. The Guardian has dispensed with any pretense of journalism and is just making stories up out of whole cloth. Anyone who has ever visited Russia, or met with a Russian, or read a Russian novel, is on an “Enemies of Democracy” watch list (as is anyone refusing to vacation in Israel, which the Senate is now in the process of making mandatory for all U.S. citizens). Meanwhile, the “terrorists” are nowhere to be found, except for the terrorists we’ve been using to attempt to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad, the sadistic nerve-gassing Monster of Syria, who illegally invaded and conquered his own country in defiance of the “international community.”

All this madness has something to do with “populism,” although it isn’t clear what. The leading theory is that the Russians are behind it. They’ve got some sort of hypno-technology (not to be confused with those brain-eating crickets) capable of manipulating the minds of … well, Black people, mostly, but not just Black people. Obviously, they are also controlling the French, who they have transformed into “racist, hate-filled liars” who are “attacking elected representatives, journalists, Jews, foreigners, and homosexuals,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, the anointed “Golden Boy of Europe.” More terrifying still, Putin is now able to project words out of Trump’s mouth in real-time, literally using Trump’s head as a puppet, or like one of those Mission Impossible masks. (Rachel Maddow conclusively proved this by spending a couple of hours on Google comparing the words coming out of Trump’s mouth to words that had come out of Russian mouths, but had never come out of American mouths, which they turned out to be the exact same words, or pretty close to the exact same words!) Apparently, Putin’s master plan for Total Populist World Domination and Establishment of the Thousand Year Duginist Reich was to provoke the global capitalist ruling classes, the corporate media, and their credulous disciples into devolving into stark raving lunatics, or blithering idiots, or a combination of both.

But, seriously, all that actually happened back in the Summer of 2016 was the global capitalist ruling classes recognized that they had a problem. The problem that they recognized they had (and continue to have, and are now acutely aware of) is that no one is enjoying global capitalism … except the global capitalist ruling classes. The whole smiley-happy, supranational, neo-feudal corporate empire concept is not going over very well with the masses, or at least not with the unwashed masses. People started voting for right-wing parties, and Brexit, and other “populist” measures (not because they had suddenly transformed into Nazis, but because the Right was acknowledging and exploiting their anger with the advance of global neoliberalism, while liberals and the Identity Politics Left were slow jamming the TPP with Obama and babbling about transgender bathrooms, and such).

The global capitalist ruling classes needed to put a stop to that (i.e, the “populist” revolt, not the bathroom debate). So they suspended the Global War on Terror and launched the War on Populism. It was originally only meant to last until Hillary Clinton’s coronation, or the second Brexit referendum, then switch back to the War on Terror, but … well, weird things happen, and here we are.

We’ll get back to the War on Terror, eventually … as the War on Populism is essentially just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end, it’s all the same counter-insurgency. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgency (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The “character” of the internal enemies might change (e.g., “Islamic terrorism,” “extremism,” “fascism,” “populism,” “Trumpism,” “Corbynism,” et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.

The way I see it, the global capitalist ruling classes now have less than two years to put down this current “populist” insurgency. First and foremost, they need to get rid of Trump, who despite his bombastic nativist rhetoric is clearly no “hero of the common people,” nor any real threat to global capitalism, but who has become an anti-establishment symbol, like a walking, talking “fuck you” to both the American and global neoliberal elites. Then, they need to get a handle on Europe, which isn’t going to be particularly easy. What happens next in France will be telling, as will whatever becomes of Brexit … which I continue to believe will never actually happen, except perhaps in some purely nominal sense.

And then there’s the battle for hearts and minds, which they’ve been furiously waging for the last two years, and which is only going to intensify. If you think things are batshit crazy now (which, clearly, they are), strap yourself in. What is coming is going to make COINTELPRO look like the work of some amateur meme-freak. The neoliberal corporate media, psy-ops like Integrity Initiative, Internet-censoring apps like NewsGuard, ShareBlue and other David Brock outfits, and a legion of mass hysteria generators will be relentlessly barraging our brains with absurdity, disinformation, and just outright lies (as will their counterparts on the Right, of course, in case you thought that they were any alternative). It’s going to get extremely zany.

The good news is, by the time it’s all over and Trump has been dealt with, and normality restored, and the working classes put back in their places, we probably won’t remember that any of this happened. We’ll finally be able to sort out those bathrooms, and get back to paying the interest on our debts, and to living in more or less constant fear of an imminent devastating terrorist attack … and won’t that be an enormous relief?