The rhetoric of division has always been with us. My tribe against yours; your group against his; our gang against theirs. Historically, tyrants and dictators have often sought to use divisive rhetoric for their own ends, attacking enemies or scapegoats in order to unite their followers, or frighten their opponents, or hold onto power. But nowadays, you don’t need a tribune, a throne or a podium to play that game. Anybody can do it. Continue reading “Las Vegas and the Catalan referendum are fresh fodder for Julian Assange and other Internet demagogues”
It was a scene that could only have taken place in the globalized, interconnected, multicultural world that we now inhabit: Nigel Farage — a former British stockbroker, a Brexit campaigner, a wearer of pinstripe suits, a denizen of elite London eating establishments — appeared onstage this week in Fairhope, Ala., campaigning for former judge Roy Moore. He didn’t argue that Moore, who was tossed off the Alabama Supreme Court for disregarding the law, would actually be good for the people of Alabama. He didn’t have much to say about the Alabama economy or Alabama’s particular problems. Instead, he called on Alabama voters to support Moore because “it’s important for the whole global movement across the West that we have built up and we have fought for.” Continue reading “A Brit’s speech in an American election takes a Stalinist turn”
Back in 2013—an age ago, the calm before the storm— José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, gave a speech launching a new project. This was before the refugee crisis, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before the British voted to leave the European Union, before the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, London, and Barcelona.
Perhaps it’s a useful dose of realism: As it turns out, Germany is not so exceptional after all. It’s true that German voters have just given the ruling Christian Democratic Union yet another majority. It’s true that Angela Merkel will remain chancellor for a remarkable fourth term, according to exit polls. But Germany did not escape the Western populist wave altogether.
Few countries have ever been so closely associated with a single politician as Burma, whose public “face,” for many decades, was the brave and brilliant dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. I remember her appearance — via a prerecorded videocassette, smuggled out of the country — at the international women’s conference in Beijing in 1995. Aung San Suu Kyi had just been released from house arrest, but her speech was not about Burma, also known as Myanmar. Instead she used language designed to appeal to a surreally diverse audience, ranging from Indian activists and German feminists to Saudi women in abayas. Continue reading “Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from the pedestal is an old story”
Yes, it looks like a foregone conclusion. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the center-right candidate (with an emphasis on center) is comfortably ahead in the polls with 8 days to go in one of the most boring German elections anybody can remember. And no wonder: Merkel leads a country that hasn’t been this relatively rich or relatively powerful in many decades. Unemployment is low. The budget is in surplus. Germany is the undisputed leader of the euro zone, the club of countries that use the European currency. Continue reading “Merkel can’t ignore the far-right echo chamber”
It is a rare opportunity. Seldom does the voting public have the chance to watch their elected politicians confront very specific false promises in real time. Usually campaign promises are either too vague to be contrasted with reality (“Make America Great Again”) or too long term. By the time that “guaranteed growth” either arrives or doesn’t, the person who said it would happen is long out of office.
We now know the motives. In backing Donald Trump, Russia’s oligarchical class sought not only to disrupt U.S. politics but also to reverse sanctions, both those applied in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and those connected to the Magnitsky Act, which targeted officials involved in human rights violations. In seeking Russian support, Trump sought not only to become president but also to make money: Even as he launched his presidential campaign, he hoped to receive a major influx of money from a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.
He is the mad monk, the holy fool, the man whose mystical powers enthralled the tsarina and cured the tsarevitch. It is said that he was a hypnotist, a rapist, a cultist, a charlatan, a seer. Allegedly, he was immune to poison; when his murderers tried to drown him, his body floated to the surface. In the century since his death, Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, the Siberian priest whose relationship with Nicholas II and Alexandra, the last tsar and tsarina of Russia, helped bring down the entire Romanov dynasty, has been the subject of countless myths — so much so that it has become nearly impossible to disentangle the man from the legend. Continue reading “Destruction Myth – The rise and fall of the Romanovs”
In later years, there would be bigger demonstrations, more eloquent speakers, and more professional slogans. But the march that took place in Kiev on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1917 was extraordinary because it was the first of its kind in that city. The Russian Empire had banned Ukrainian books, newspapers, theaters, and even the use of the Ukrainian language in schools. The public display of national symbols had been risky and dangerous. But in the wake of the February Revolution in Petrograd, anything seemed possible.
There were flags, yellow and blue for Ukraine as well as red for the Communist cause. The crowd, composed of children, soldiers, factory workers, marching bands, and officials, carried banners—“Independent Ukraine with its own leader!” or “A free Ukraine in a free Russia!” Some carried portraits of the national poet Taras Shevchenko. One after another, speakers called for the crowd to support the newly established Central Rada—the name means “central council”—that had formed a few days earlier and now claimed authority to rule Ukraine.
Finally, the man who had just been elected chairman of the Rada stepped up to the podium. Mykhailo Hrushevsky, bearded and bespectacled, was one of the intellectuals who had first dared to put Ukraine at the center of its own history. The author of the ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus’, as well as many other books, Hrushevsky had spent much of his life in Galicia, the Polish- and Ukrainian-speaking region ruled by the Habsburg Empire, in order to escape persecution at the hands of the tsarist police. Now, in the wake of the revolution, he had returned to Kiev in triumph. The crowd welcomed him with vigorous cheers: Slava batkovi Hrushevskomu!—Glory to Father Hrushevsky! He responded in kind: “Let us all swear at this great moment as one man to take up the great cause unanimously, with one accord, and not to rest or cease our labour until we build that free Ukraine.” The crowd shouted back, just as crowds would shout back at Kiev demonstrations ninety years later: “We swear!”1 Continue reading “The Victory of Ukraine”