Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Blame Game

I'd best begin with a confession. Upon waking to Donald Trump's victory speech my first reaction was to smirk and giggle. It wasn't shock. It wasn't fear. It was really happening. The United States of America had chosen a parasitic clown over the TPTB's(*) chosen one. Yes, America, and by extension, the rest of the world had gotten what they deserved; there could be no more appropriate personae to become 'the leader of the free world'.

I fell asleep last night with an inkling this was going to happen. Around 3am Central European time I made the call that the election wasn't going to be called any time soon and had better just get some sleep and see the results in the morning. I had just enough sense to hit the print screen with the tally in Florida until that point:

A 28 vote difference, click on it, with almost 8 million counted.

Predictably, upon switching over to Facebook after watching the Donald's speech, I was met with a slew of memes and status updates expressing utter incredulity. From the cliche Jean Luc Picard facepalm to the brilliant
Britain: Brexit was the stupidest, most self-destructive act a country could untertake
USA: Hold my drink.
A random sampling of status updates:
- As my lovely mother would say: "HORSESHIT".
- i think we may all be fucked- what is happening.... this isn't real.
- go home 2016. you're drunk.
- Don't even know what to post. This is truly depressing. Uneducated white male kills hope in one single night. Time to go eat nuts and gum.
- god help us all
- Sronald Sramp. Really?
- Sits in dark, nervously bouncing right leg up and down, scratching head, rubbing eyes, hoping I'm hallucinating with what I see as the results of this election 
- OMG. I feel sick.
The obvious question I have is how is everyone so surprised? Given that the times we live in afford us access to so much information, how could so many people be so wrong about the result? Obviously, the answer is in the question. It was precisely that information that not only made a Trump presidency an inevitability, but also ensured that the majority of the world woke up to the same WTF feeling. Like scared animals, most will lash out, but instead of asking what's the matter with handing more power to control the information narrative from Hollywood to our houses to our corporate overlords (ie. the ATT - Time/Warner merger), to poison us in order to provide us with pills (the Monsanto - Bayer merger), to dominate our bar tabs (SABMiller - AB InBev merger), and tell us what to think about it (FaceTwitAmazOogle), most will be asking what's the matter with Kansas.

Living here in Poland has given me a near-unique view. Not only do I keep abreast with news from across the Atlantic and the pulse of how people are reading it but I'm also granted insight into how the media lens of non-Americans is focused on world events. My first inkling that the world was in for a surprise came early on election day (3am EST in America) as both my writing classes were devoted to the US election. A quick straw poll of my students gave Clinton the presidency unanimously. Every. Single. Student. 

Now, you have to realize that nothing is unanimously agreed upon here in politics, in fact, there may be just as much polarization in Poland as in America. So the obvious follow-up question was how was it that they all shared the same opinion. The answers all had the same theme, Trump's a racist pig. And, I queried, how do you all know that? Where did you get your information? To a man (and woman), Facebook, a few youtube clips. A combination of memes, celebrity comments and debate song parodies. And Hillary, what did they know about her? Well, um, experience. She had lots of that. And health care, and children, won't anyone think of the children? So, I had to ask, what of their policies? What did the candidates propose to actually, you know, do as president? Beyond build a wall, nothing, crickets.

So, having been exposed to a non-stop barrage of anti-Trump propaganda interspersed with the odd reminder that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a woman, and you know, it's time that America elects a woman, of course every one of my students woke up to a November surprise this morning. So, what about my Facebook wall? The majority of reactions came from the Americas, surely, living close to the source they should have been better prepared for the eventuality of a Trump victory. Um, yeah, er, I mean no. From what I can tell, most people were no better, and by better I mean in a more balanced way, informed than my Polish 22-year-old students. Just as these kids were caught off-guard by the election of a nationalistic whack job party here at home last October, Europe was stunned by an island kingdom choosing to push away from the continent this summer and the world was blown away by a pumpkin turning into a president after the clock struck midnight today, and we can all thank our self-imposed media bubbles for the deception.

Yes, another shock. Your media isn't unbiased. It isn't balanced. It isn't independent. It is owned and controlled by the same people that have been the beneficiaries of the current system, the one that Hillary Clinton represented. Is it any wonder that reading the Washington Post or the New York Times over the past couple of months must have been much akin to the experience of Soviet's had reading Pravda in the 1980s? Sure, Trump got lots of free publicity thanks to his misogyny/racism/ignorance, but it certainly wasn't flattering. Meanwhile, any Hillary howler was glossed over and attributed to either something those crazy conspiracy theorists say (Bengazi! e-mails! Clinton Foundation!) or, if not, then obviously the work of the Putin because you know, it's somehow alright that she delivered speeches to Goldman Sachs for millions in which she said the opposite of what she told the public, or that Clinton Foundation benefactors were richly rewarded by her state department so long as it's Russia's doing in informing us. Wikileaks is so much worse than quid pro quo. Let's face it climate change, a subject on which 97% of scientist agree, is given a more balanced treatment, with a denier on on one side and a scientist on the other in any on screen debate, than the candidates were given in this election.

What's that? You don't personally know anyone from Buchanon County, Virginia, home of Trump's staunchest supporters. Guess what? Most Brits that we're exposed to don't know anyone from Boston (the one in England), the area that voted Leave most vehemently. Nor do I know anyone from Siedlce, halfway between Warsaw and Belarus, the stronghold of the current Polish government, PiS. Well guess what? Many of these people haven't shared in the rewards of system over the past few decades and many of them vote. Neither you, me, nor the New York Times have any contact with what has increasingly become 'the other'. Americans no longer move to new towns for economic opportunity but to be near like-minded people, we work in fields where our colleagues all wear the uniform of the same team, and we watch the same TV series as the people we stay in touch with on Facebook. That's why the result probably blindsided you as badly as it did the New York Times; here's a graph charting the percentage chance of victory last night. Oops, they did it again:

If we live in a democracy then we need to expect that when the majority is receiving an ever diminishing slice of the economic pie, eventually they'll stand up and say no. When a broken system offers two bad choices, we shouldn't be surprised that the people make a bad choice. The previous PO government in Poland offered many people nothing. Even worse, the Brexit referendum itself should never have been held as there are other issues that the will of the people is being more egregiously contravened such as the privatization of the NHS, but Cameron believed he could use it to woo UKIP support. That's right, it was nothing but a political ploy. Well, that sure backfired, didn't it? Surprisingly, 52% took the opportunity to rid themselves of what they see, justifiably, as an undemocratic weight around their necks.

And America? Would I have voted for Donald Trump? Of course not. But I'd have never voted Clinton either. You mean a continuation of her husband's economic policies, you know, the ones that set the scene for the financial meltdown in 2008. Yes, it was every bit as much Bill's fault as George's thanks to his support for NAFTA (hello TPP!) or the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, aka the Financial Services Modernization Act, aka, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, aka, allowing banks to run the economy. No thanks. So maybe we should have been sold on her foreign policy, you know, her vaunted experience as a senator and Secretary of State? Oh, you mean supporting a war hawk who voted for the war in Iraq, helped orchestrate the coup in Honduras, installed Victoria Nuland in Eastern Europe to help foment the putch in Ukraine and advocates a no-fly zone in Syria, the last two being nothing short of openly attempting to instigate a war against Russia?

Hmmm, with apologies to Donald Rumsfeld, I think I'll take the known-unknown over the known-known. Yes, Trump is a joke, but he's a damn good one played upon a world that deserves him. Yes, I admit my smirk is fading by the moment as I realize the Republicans now control the House, Senate and White House, the latter meaning there will soon be a right leaning Supreme Court. However, the Democratic Party, with the support of America's liberals, didn't need to conspire to nominate Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Bernie would've won this election in a landslide as it wasn't so much a bunch of racists voting for a pussy-grabbing business failure as it was a protest vote against the current system. Trump knew it, just watch his final ad. If you're angry today, don't blame Billy-Bob in North Carolina, instead take a look in the mirror and decide if perhaps you look a little like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (yike, I know).

*The Powers That Be

If you managed to get this far, you must have some time, so here, watch this: