Discussion Group Issues
Bill Schrader Pavilion
23 October, 2016
12 noon to 13:30
A B D E F C
A – There are 43 million people living in poverty in this country. What will you do about this? *
B – Mr Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics — a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power. And he is not alone. Members of Poland’s government assert that a previous president, who died in a plane crash, was assassinated by Russia. Turkish politicians claim the perpetrators of the recent bungled coup were acting on orders issued by the CIA. The successful campaign for Britain to leave the European Union warned of the hordes of immigrants that would result from Turkey’s imminent accession to the union. What can be done about “post-truth” politics? [Rick]
C – A research article argues that the only way to contain global warming is to remove carbon from the carbon cycle. This has always seemed too expensive, but may need reevaluation, given the exponential nature of the warming process and a sluggish response. Do you agree this idea is worth implementing?
D – In the 1970s, American women were roughly in the middle of the pack of wealthy nations in terms of life expectancy, but now they are near the bottom. Their relative decline is not explained by changes in obesity, age, or other health indicators. Instead the most relevant factors are their increasing work force participation rate coupled with more heading single parent families, and wether or not they live in states with comprehensive family support. Do these findings demonstrate the need for social programs?
E – This shocking article offers the best explanation for no closure to the Syria’s civil war – interveners with deep pockets have no need to accept defeat. Be sure to look at the graphic on how Syrians die, and then try and describe a solution
F – Would you like to discuss my outline (see below) on the nature of demagogs? In particular, is their rise an inevitable source of failure to all democracies.
*The NYTimes has posed 16 questions for Hilary and Donald which we will answer over this season as if we are constructive presidential candidates.
Some philosophers have argued that Athens’ democracy was destroyed by the demagog, Cleon. Wicki notes four characteristics of all demagogs:
1They fashion themselves as a man or woman of the common people, opposed to the elites.
2Their politics depends on a visceral connection with the people which greatly exceeds ordinary political popularity.
3They manipulate this connection, and the raging popularity it affords, for their own benefit and ambition.
4They threaten or outright break established rules of conduct, institutions, and even the law.
Indeed, a section called “Methods of Demagogs” outlines 12 tactics that Trump has been accused of. But the statistics show some 455 revisions to the article in the last 365 days, so that these findings may not be the result of disinterested scholarship.
Far more acute insights are found in Aldous Huxley’s “The Devils of Loudon”. a history of a witch burning in France that he uses to illustrate, then contemporary, McCarthyism. But even the appendix to the history, where he highlights its contemporary lessons, is so rooted in his religious views, that his insights would not be recognized by many modern viewers. Accordingly, I wish to translate them in the rest of this brief note.
1 – He believes that demagogs are extraordinarily good at persuasion, and they become addicted to practising it.
2 – He also thought that their reach had been extended by the emerging radio-based media. If he is right, how much more effective the contemporary demagog who can overnight voice lies on cyberspace.
3 – He emphasizes the importance of the demagog’s target group’s demand for a solution to their (maybe real) problems.
4 – Finally he notes that a demagog must find a purely evil group that embodies everything holding his people down. The group may be the plutocrats running a democracy, or it may be existing unpopular groups – Hitler’s Jews; Trump’s immigrants and blacks. This demonization is a fundamental tool of the demagog, and the foundation of his power because they create an existential emergency for him to fix.
Thus the cultivation of a demagog’s target group requires the demonization of some unfortunates outside that group.
Demagogs are bad news. QED
So lets discuss if Trump is a demagog and weather you believe Huxley’s insights are as important as I do.