Discussion Group Issues
Bill Schrader Pavilion
7 December, 2016
12 noon to 13:30
A B D E F C
A – Trump’s ability to vacuum up media coverage obscures the fact that the most interesting question is how will Democrats win the next time. It will be difficult in view of the fact that the republicans will control most states, and the Supreme court. In fact Republican mistakes are likely essential to a Democratic recovery. But what else?
B – Many see a general dissatisfaction with democracy, muttering Brexit, USA, Italy, France … Do you? Supporters generally claim democracy is robust. Are they right?
C – In spite of its formidable economic power, the spate of optimism and class mobility from the 1978 launch of a market driven economy China’s prosperity is no longer widely shared among all groups. The new jobs require education and no longer absorb villagers; and the emerging middle class in the cities is creating an underclass of servants. See article. One would have thought that the single child policy would give the Chinese youth economic advantages, but this is not apparent. Is this a problem?
D – While most of us are aware of significant forest loss in places like the Amazon basin, recent data shows that current forest growth, both natural and as a result of higher CO2, significantly outstrips current losses. How important are trees, relative to carbon-replacing energy technology?
E – Thanks to modern psychology, advertising easily overwhelms common sense, and government counter adds, in purchasing. Should it be limited? How?
F – Dengue mosquitos are common lakeside. Are you taking precautions? Should we all?
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.