“They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic ‘world-view.’ ” That was George Orwell, speaking of his countrymen in a famous 1941 essay, “England Your England.” Writing during the Blitz, as “highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me,” Orwell listed the qualities that made the English English: their love of privacy, their almost religious respect for the law, their dislike of uniformed men barking orders. “All the boasting and flag-wagging, the ‘Rule Britannia’ stuff, is done by small minorities,” he wrote: “The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction.” Continue reading “Is it Britain’s turn for revolution?”
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”
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.
I am thousands of miles away, but I still turned to Chron.com , a website of the Houston Chronicle, to figure out what was going on in Texas this week. A widely shared video showing water pouring into the studio of KHOU, a Houston television station, was the first clue I had to the severity of the flooding. Even from afar, it was clear that local journalists were leading the effort to inform people on the ground, explaining how to get rescued, where to go and what to do. What if they hadn’t been there?
I was in Warsaw on Nov. 17, 1989, the day that the city decided to take down its statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky. Given that Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat and dedicated Bolshevik, was best known as the founder of the organization that became the Soviet KGB, and given that hundreds of thousands of Poles were murdered or deported by the Soviet KGB, this was a popular decision. Crowds converged on the scene and cheered loudly as a crane removed the figure from its base.