Showing posts with label The War On Democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The War On Democracy. Show all posts

January 23, 2019

NPR Buss Editor Analysis: How The Rise Of The Far Right Threatens Democracy Worldwide

Image result for jair bolsonaroImage result for jair bolsonaro


A new president is elected. Within days of being sworn in, he pulls his country out of a U.N. migration pact. His path to power has been pockmarked by disparaging comments about women, including a congresswoman. His preferred choice for top posts are members of the armed forces. When he appoints a fifth military official to his cabinet, he makes the announcement via Twitter, his favored means of communications.

Sound familiar?

These are the tactics of Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who was sworn in to office on Jan. 1, 2019.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro will headline the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual gathering that attracts heads of state — 65 of them this year — corporate CEOs and billionaire investors. Bolsonaro's nationalistic rhetoric is in sharp contrast to a gathering that has long stood for globalization and has pushed to strengthen international ties. 

Right-Wing Populist Jair Bolsonaro Sworn In As President Of Brazil
His tactics may remind many of the American president's. But it is actually symptomatic of a global wave that started almost a decade ago and has only strengthened in recent years. From Turkey and Hungary, to India and the Philippines, the voices of nationalism and the far right have become dominant forces that begin with the election of a charismatic, influential and powerful man.

Hungary, for instance, was once a leader in the drive for democracy in East Europe. But after strongman Viktor Orban rose to power as prime minister in 2010, Hungary's democratic institutions have been dramatically weakened.

In his first year in office, Orban's party amended the constitution 10 times. A wholly new constitution was put in place. It whittled down the power of courts, changed how elections are supervised and dramatically curbed media. New positions were created and filled with Orban allies. The moves have been broadly condemned, including by the European Parliament and the United States. 

Hungary Has A Xenophobia Problem
Orban is one of the strongest symbols of this shift. He was one of the first Western leaders to endorse Donald Trump and pursue friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last year, Orban won a third term in a landslide victory after pledging to create a "Christian homeland."

Similarly, in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte swept to power in 2016, promising to be tough on drug criminals. As he carried out that promise, it resulted in the deaths of thousands of alleged drug dealers across the country. Human rights groups say the innocent poor have borne the brunt of these killings. Duterte uses profanities with abandon, he has compared himself to Hitler and has insulted world leaders. He too wants to change the constitution in Philippines. 
Duterte Pulls Philippines Out Of International Criminal Court.

And Turkey, once a bastion of secularism, today is rife with religious conflict. Its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president since 2014, has crushed dissent and jailed journalists. Last year, the government's Directorate of Religious Affairs ordered all of Turkey's nearly 90,000 mosques to broadcast a verse from the Koran through loudspeakers on their minarets. The move led Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to declare that Sharia is gradually taking over long-secular Turkey.

And then there's India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world's largest democracy. Under his Hindu nationalist party, the country has pursued laws that hurt the minority Muslim population. For instance, his party declared that eating beef is "against the idea of India." This led to a ban in the sale of cows for slaughter. While beef is taboo for Hindus, it isn't so for Muslims and the decree led to the closing of many slaughterhouses and meat shops, traditionally owned by Muslims in India.
India's Ban On Beef Leads To Murder, And Hindu-Muslim Friction
The nationalist zeal has also led to curbing of charities operating in India. Tens of thousands of foreign-funded non-government organizations, like Greenpeace India, Ford Foundation and Amnesty International, were either put on notice or had their licenses revoked. Amnesty, which often accuses the Indian government of human rights violations, said a raid of its offices was aimed at silencing critics.

In Brazil, President Bolsonaro pushed forth an almost identical move after taking office earlier this month. He used an executive order that gave his government far-reaching and restrictive powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.

Ultimately, it is moves like these that have global hackles rising for proponents of democratic values.

In almost each of these instances, the leaders have swept into power on a promise to accelerate economic growth and create new opportunities for those left behind by globalization. But the promises are often laced with undercurrents of nationalism that harp on race or religion and closing borders.

These leaders often have a strong base of support. And often they have a pro-business agenda, which stock markets cheer. The American stock market has been on a roller coaster — calmer now after a rough ride at the end of the year. But for many months after Trump's election, investors gave the U.S. president a clear thumbs up. Brazil's investors are doing the same, and Bolsonaro has tweeted about it.
Trump To Davos: 'America Is Open For Business'
Last year, Trump told the crowd at Davos: "I'm here to deliver a simple message: There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business." Bolsonaro will likely echo the same sentiments.

Trump also said: "America First does not mean America alone." Undoubtedly, Bolsonaro believes in Brazil First. And Orban in Hungary First. Likewise, Erdogan for Turkey and Modi for India. But if it is everyone for himself, and keep the others out, who really wins?

Pallavi Gogoi is NPR's chief business editor.

November 14, 2017

The Worse Weakness For Western Democracies is Us

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’” Trump wrote in his tweet, referring to the leader of North Korea’s ruling dynasty. “Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!”
 Trump with Viet Nam's President and Phillippines president Fresh from admitting last week he had killed a man
Before their bilateral meeting in Manila on Monday, President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte posed for pictures. Reporters were late for what is known as the "pool spray" because, according to the pool report of the meeting, they were held up by security.
When they finally got into the room, reporters asked questions of the two leaders regarding Duterte's controversial human rights record and whether Trump would raise it with him. Here's what happened next:
Duterte: "We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and ... with you around, guys, you are the spies."
"Hah, hah, hah," Trump said laughing.(CNN)
Tweeted, sigh, President Donald Trump on Saturday. Proving, yet again, that the leader of the free world is a particularly callow 14-year-old girl trapped in the body of a 70-year-old man. I can foresee a day when all global diplomacy is conducted via silent YouTube video in which world leaders will lay out their narratives on hand-written black-and-white cue cards. 
It’s tempting to see Trump as exceptional, but, perhaps he isn’t. Most U.S. Presidents have had the benefit of weighty biographies, often written by Pulitzer Prize-winning academics and authors. Imagine if a president as daft as Andrew Jackson had Twitter? Or someone as vicious and corrupt as Lyndon B. Johnson? As outrageous as Teddy Roosevelt? 
Perhaps it would not be so easy to lionize the past if we had access to the real-time unfiltered thoughts of our heroes. But that really gets to the heart of it all, doesn’t it? 
Social media ruins everything. 
The U.S. Congress seems to be cluing to this very fact. Over the past few weeks, Congress has been grilling lawyers from Facebook and Twitter, scrutinizing the extent to which Russia may have tried to sow social discord or manipulate the U.S. election with a targeted bot and disinformation campaigns that spread unfettered across these platforms. More recently, the hearings have turned their attention to questions of whether Russia is trying to manipulate U.S. energy markets and undermine domestic oil and gas production through these means. 

Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter’s Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, are sworn in for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election activity and technology, on Capitol Hill in Washington. JACQUELYN MARTIN /  AP PHOTO

Whether Russia succeeded in helping Trump get elected will long remain an open debate, but there is now little question that the country certainly tried. Its American operations were of a piece with similar campaigns in Ukraine, Germany, and France. 
Congress is now debating the Honest Ads Act, which would subject ads on social media to the same kinds of transparency requirements now demanded of advertising on traditional mainstream media outlets. 
During congressional hearings, the U.S. government released a trove of Russian-backed ads that appeared throughout the election cycle: everything from associating Hillary Clinton with Satan to posts that mimicked the rhetoric coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement or Bernie Sanders supporters. Fake news, much of it, but all of it meant, essentially, to broadly undermine public trust in public institutions, including media and the government.
Any attempts to clamp down or censor the way information moves on social media networks will necessarily be met by alarm by free speech critics. Indeed, there are no easy answers here. 
One of the things that struck me most about the Russian ads was how similar much of it was to the advertisements, stories, and social media posts now routinely displayed by perfectly legitimate political actors — even congressmen and women themselves. 
The role of states aside, it’s the platform itself that is atomizing.  
No one has to craft largely appealing messages to broad coalitions anymore. Social media allows us to tailor messages down to the narrowest demographic, ideological and geographic blocs. 
It allows us to use confirmation bias and the backfire effect to devastating effect: The people who want your vote, your money or your time know very well that you are more likely to reject stories that challenge your ideology and accept, uncritically, the ones that agree with it. 
If you think Clinton, for example, is an odious, dodgy creep, you were infinitely more likely to believe there was something to the claim that she was heading up a child sex trafficking ring from the basement of a Washington-area pizza joint. 
Cue, here, the letter-writers who are already crafting thoughtful and personal responses to this column explaining that their sense of distrust and outrage is perfectly justified thanks to liberal and/or conservative bias in corporate mainstream media. The better of these writers will even point to entirely fair and legitimate examples of such. They are not wrong. There is always fair criticism to be leveled.
But most can no longer point, exactly, to where this sense of dislocation begins. Rather, they consume media like the Rebel or Breitbart or Occupy Democrats. Or they remember, vaguely, seeing some things on Facebook that stoked the distrust. As long as it’s not mainstream, few seem to apply the level of scrutiny or skepticism that is, rightly, expected of outlets like this one. 

Congress is now debating the Honest Ads Act, which would subject ads on social media to the same kinds of transparency requirements now demanded of advertising on traditional mainstream media outlets.NOAH BERGER /  AP PHOTO

What is happening on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms right now will go down as one of the greatest experiments in mass manipulations in human history. 
Not only are these platforms addictive — the social validation they evoke are consciously evocative of slot machines — but the messages, advertisements, and posts you see on them are designed to be both viral and influential. Often times, the intent is benign. Sometimes it is not. 
Companies, governments, individuals, brands — the whole lot — are fine-tuning algorithms and psycho-graphics, using real-time analytics, experimentation, and a/b testing to find the psychological triggers of entire groups of people with ever-improving accuracy. 
We all imagine ourselves to be great, independent, thinkers. We are lab rats pushing a lever for our daily outrage or humor pellet. 
The profit ain’t in truth. It’s in telling people what they want to hear. 
This is the kind of influence that works in inches, over years. And every year, the polarization of the U.S. electorate has become more obvious and more difficult to reconcile. 
None of this is Russia’s fault, but one can’t be surprised that Russia would try to exploit it. The greatest weaknesses in Western democracies is us.
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