Thursday, 10 November 2016

Is Trump's extremist rhetoric going to end up on the same scrap heap as the Vote Leave lies?


It is pretty much impossible not to see the parallels between Britain's vote for Brexit and America's vote for Trump. Both outcomes stemmed from a deep public fury at the political establishment, both campaigns were riddled with similar measures of shambolic pseudo-policies, extreme-right scapegoating tactics and outright dishonesty, and both votes handed victory to wealthy hard-right establishment insiders posturing as everyday men of the people.

Anyone who watched Trump's victory speech can't have failed to notice that several key issues from his gratuitous election campaign were suspiciously missing from it. 
Gone were calls for his old pal Hillary Clinton to be thrown in jail (replaced with talk of the country owing her a "debt of gratitude"). 
Gone was talk of trump's ludicrous $25 billion wall on the Mexican border (replaced with talk of how America is going to rebuild their highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals, but no mention of building a wall whatever).
Gone was the threat to introduce deeply unconstitutional religious purity tests at US borders to prevent all Muslims, including US citizens, from entering the country (replaced with a pledge to serve as President for "all Americans", which presumably includes US Muslim citizens).
Pretty much all of the extremist rhetoric that turned Trump rallies into delirious baying right-wing mobs was gone, replaced with a load of orthodox political waffle about "binding the wounds of division" and "working together" that is pretty much identical to what anyone would have expected Hillary Clinton to say had she not thrown the election away with her vapid be thankful for the crumbs you've got campaign.

It remains to be seen whether Trump's deeply controversial policies resurface once the President elect takes over from Barack Obama, but familiarity with the Brexit campaign in the UK suggests that his headline-grabbing policies are likely to go into the same political scrap heap as "£350 million for the NHS" and the much-lauded "points-based immigration system".

Within hours of the Brexit result the right-wing populists who had been gleefully touring the country in a bus adorned with the £350 million for the NHS lie couldn't abandon it quickly enough. This furious display of backtracking resulted in hoards of blinkered Brexit fanatics putting on the most extraordinary feats of demeaning mental gymnastics to make excuses for the lies told by their ideological champions (Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith ...).

How soon will the Trump supporting mob forget about Trump's threats to eradicate his political opponents, build a ludicrous Mexico wall and ban Muslims from entering the United States? Or when the scale of Trump's dishonesty becomes clear will they immediately slip into the same extraordinary apologias as the Brexiters by claiming that Trump was justified in telling a pack of outright lies because people should have known all along that he was just lying?

Media commentators have begun to refer to current era as "post-truth politics", but this placid phrase simply doesn't do justice to the fact that populist right-wingers feel so relaxed about relentlessly lying to the public. More worrying even than the ease with which the right-wing ideologues lie is the way huge swathes of the public now seem absolutely content to be repeatedly lied to by stinking-rich elitist members of the establishment class as long as they posture themselves as ordinary everyday men of the people.

Interestingly many people on the left saw Tony Blair's deceptions over Iraq as an unforgivable betrayal which ended up being by far the biggest nail in the coffin of the New Labour brand of pseudo-left neoliberalism, but right-leaning people seem so much more content to be brazenly lied to.

Blair's lies over Iraq were bloody enormous, but David Cameron was such an inveterate liar that it often seemed that he would even choose to lie even when it would have been easier to tell the truth.

Cameron was never properly held to account for his six years of extraordinary displays of dishonesty either by parliament or the mainstream press, and now we're left with an even more insidious situation where right-wingers like the Brexit mob in the UK and Donald Trump in the US feel comfortable telling such brazen lies that all but the most gullible of their audience most surely recognise what is being said as contemptible bullshit as clearly as the right-wing ideologues who are spouting it.


If Trump is intent on proving himself an egregious liar by immediately dropping a load of the most outrageous and divisive policies from his campaign then he has conclusive proof that he could easily get away with it. The Brexit campaign has proved beyond doubt that right-wing ideologues can easily get away with spreading outright lies and then immediately abandoning them at the moment they achieve what they wanted to, and that their supporters won't just accept it, but will actually perform complex and demeaning displays of mental contortionism in order to try to defend it!

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