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By branding Donald Trump a “populist,” the Establishment reveals its anti-democratic face

By labelling political leaders like Donald Trump “Populists” and saying they are a danger to democracy, today’s neoliberal establishment is actually showing its contempt for democracy in a way that threatens future coups.

Alexander Mercouris

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Following Donald Trump’s election victory a spectre is haunting the West — the spectre of Populism. All the powers of the old West have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.  The trouble is none of them can tell us what this spectre actually is, or if it even exists.

Donald Trump’s election victory has produced a further flood of angry and worried commentary from neoliberal writers complaining about the threatening rise of something they like to call “Populism”.  This one by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian is a good example, but in truth such articles now exist in their myriad.  A fact common to all these articles is however that none of them ever properly define “Populism”, though they vigorously condemn it whatever it is.

The extent to which this word is empty of any meaning is shown by the sort of people neoliberal writers attach this label to. 

They include Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and Viktor Orban, who all belong to the right (invariably referred to as “the far right”); Jeremy Corbyn, Alexis Tsipras, Bernie Sanders and the Podemos movement in Spain, who all belong to the left (invariably referred to as “the far left”); whilst Italy’s Beppe Grillo, inhabits a strange politically indefinable world of his own, and therefore gets talked about rarely.

Of the other political leaders regularly called “Populists” Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are impossible to place in conventional Western left-right terms, whilst Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński combines a socialist economic and welfare policy with a strongly conservative social and cultural policy and a militantly nationalist foreign policy, which also makes him difficult to place easily in conventional Western left-right terms.

Not only is there no ideological unity between these people, but far from being political allies they often detest each other. 

Thus Tsipras has made known his personal loathing for Marine Le Pen (whom he has never actually met), spurning her offer of support during Greece’s bailout crisis last year; Marine Le Pen in turn makes no secret of her loathing for Turkish President Erdogan (whom she has also never met); Erdogan had a major falling out with Putin last year, though the two have now patched things up; whilst Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders both stand in principled opposition to Donald Trump. 

Of the others, Orban is Putin’s friend, Kaczyński is Putin’s enemy, but Orban and Kaczyński are friends.

Despite the absence of any discernible ideological commonality between these people, those who call them “Populists” say they are a “threat to democracy”, Timothy Garton Ash’s article being a case in point.  Little explanation is however given of exactly how this is so. 

Tsipras has now been Prime Minister of Greece for almost two years, and Orban has been Prime Minister of Hungary for almost six.  Despite lurid scaremongering about both countries both are still recognisably democracies.  In the case of Greece the only popular vote which has been set aside since Tsipras came to power was one which he called and which he won but which the EU forced him to set aside.

It is sometimes said that what defines “Populists” is that they tend to glorify the nation, carry out constitutional changes and legal reforms to make the executive power in their countries stronger, and that they oppose immigration, which supposedly makes them racist. 

All that was once true of President De Gaulle of France, who no one ever called a “Populist”, and who certainly was not a racist. 

Besides it is not even true of some of the people who today are called “Populists”.  By way of example Tsipras of Greece is a committed internationalist who takes a very liberal approach to immigration and is a fervid anti-racist.  The same is true of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US.  In Spain Podemos does not want to make the executive power in Spain stronger but wants to make it weaker, and is so uninterested in glorifying the nation state that it is actually prepared to contemplate the secession of Catalonia.

Sometimes it is said that “Populists” are intolerant of alternative views and try to crack down on dissent and seek to control the media in their countries once they gain power.

The relentless campaign by the neoliberal Western establishment against Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, the Russian media, the Iranian media, and the alternative media (Hillary Clinton’s “alt right”) makes this a strange argument coming from neoliberal writers. 

Some politicians referred to as “Populists” eg. Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, are more intolerant of independent voices than some other politicians are. 

However it is very much a matter of degree and in no state governed by people called “Populists” except Erdogan’s Turkey has the right or ability to express an opinion so far been suppressed or even limited to any significant degree.  The most repressive government in that respect in Europe by far (much more so than Erdogan’s Turkey) is the post Maidan government in Ukraine, which is never called “Populist”.

Another common claim (very widespread today in America) is that “Populists” are social reactionaries, who hanker for a return to the moral and social certainties of the 1950s with women kept in their place and gay and lesbian people locked up or hidden away.

That may be true of Kaczyński in Poland and Orban in Hungary.  It is certainly not true of Putin in Russia, who is a social conservative who wants to keep things as they are, not a social reactionary who wants to turn the clock back.  It is the diametrically opposite of true in the cases of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexis Tsipras and Podemos, all of whom are radical social progressives, as by the way is Marine Le Pen.

Lastly, it is sometimes said that “Populists” are all somehow favourable to Putin and Russia, with the claim commonly made that Putin and Russia back then and control them by giving them money and publicity through its supposed “propaganda channel” RT.

The entirety of the “evidence” for this claim is that Marine Le Pen’s party after being denied access to the French banking system obtained a loan on commercial terms from a Russian bank.  In all other respects it is nonsense.  Kaczyński of Poland is Russia’s resolute enemy not its friend, whilst from November of last year until June of this year Erdogan of Turkey was Russia’s enemy also.

In fact the only thing so-called “Populists” have in common is that though often for completely different reasons they all find themselves in opposition to the West’s post Cold War neoliberal political and economic establishment.

In some though not all cases this also comes with criticism of the EU, and in some cases, though again by no means all – Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland being an important case in point – it comes with a certain skepticism about the present campaign against Russia.

That the one issue which defines whether or not a politician gets called a “Populist” is support or opposition to the existing neoliberal establishment is proved by the case of Bernie Sanders. 

During the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination he was labelled a “Populist” because he challenged the establishment’s candidate who was Hillary Clinton.  The moment he declared his support for Hillary Clinton he instantly stopped being called a “Populist” and became a statesman instead.

The claim that there is such a thing as “Populism” and that it is supposedly a terrifying and sinister wave that is sweeping the West is nonsense.  There is no intellectual justification for this term, which is actually meaningless.  If anything it appears to criticise politicians for being popular, which in a democracy is absurd since being popular with voters is surely what politics in a democracy is all about.

The term though meaningless is however sinister.  Any term used as a blanket term to label and delegitimize political leaders because for any number of different reasons they find themselves opposed to the West’s neoliberal establishment is sinister by definition.  Moreover it is sinister in the most insidious way, by using the very fact of the popularity of their opposition to the neoliberal establishment against these political leaders, in order to delegitimize them as “anti-democratic”.

This shows from where the true danger to democracy comes: from a neoliberal establishment that has come to conflate democracy with power for itself, and which considers any challenge to its power “undemocratic” and therefore illegitimate, even if it is supported by a majority of the people, at which point it calls it “Populist”. 

Where Abraham Lincoln once spoke of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, today’s neoliberal establishment considers democracy to be government of, by and for itself, so that if the people oppose its power then that is “undemocratic” and is “Populist”. 

That is how it came about that the violent and unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government in Ukraine in 2014 by a faction the Western neoliberal establishment supported is called in the West “democratic”. 

The fact the Western neoliberal establishment is starting to use the term “Populist” to describe politicians in the West who oppose it like Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump shows that this dangerous and profoundly anti-democratic attitude is now being imported home.  Given that that is so, one can only wonder how long it will take before the first coup in the West takes place.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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