We should be very worried as the elites are now far beyond even trying to hide their contempt for ordinary people as Brendon O’Neill pulls together various quotes from those that know best.
Example…“Trump won because voters are ignorant”, says a headline in Foreign Policy magazine. The piece, written by Jason Brennan, US professor and author of Against Democracy, says Trump owes his victory to “the uninformed”.
And this “..We are no longer successfully “keeping the mob from the gates”, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. It has been a while since observers openly talked about “the mob”. Trump’s victory calls into question the wisdom of having “government by the people..”, Parris says.
What about this “..We have become “too democratic”, says Sullivan. The “passions of the mob” have become too great a player in political life. We need a better “elitist sorting mechanism” to prevent people’s “untrammelled emotions” from dominating political discourse…”
Or this “…What if democracy doesn’t work?” The Guardian’s George Monbiot asked. Maybe the idea that ordinary people behaved as “rational beings” was a myth, he said.
And this “….Never before has the fate of a country been changed by the swing of such a blunt axe, wielded by poorly informed citizens…” Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck wrote in an essay hilariously titled “Why elections are bad for democracy…”.
“….After Brexit in June and now the victory of Donald Trump, everyone’s freaking out about the howling little people and their ripping up of the political script.
This is the year of rage, commentators claim. Brexit was a “howl of rage”, says The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. And now it has been joined by the “anti-establishment anger” of those US voters who elected Trump. It was “rage, not reason” that made people go for Trump, says a US neuroscientist. All this hand-wringing over the rage of Them gives an impression of a swarm of folk brutishly disturbing politics and business as usual. Brexit and now Trump have “shaken the postwar liberal order”, says the Financial Times.
Apparently these pesky plebs, driven by “temporary populist passions” rather than “reasoned deliberation”, in the words of British-American conservative Andrew Sullivan, have done great harm to liberal, rational public life.
This is nonsense. It’s a dangerous and distracting myth. For it isn’t ordinary people, whether Brexiteers or Trumpites, who threaten to dismantle important liberal ideals; it’s their critics, the members of the political class raging against what they view as the raging masses, who risk doing this.
Yes, huge numbers of ordinary people are expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. As British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech this week, Brexit and Trump show that people are peeved at the “emergence of a new global elite” and they want change. But this people’s protest, this polite registering of dissent, isn’t blind rage and it isn’t throttling decent politics. That is being done by the response to Brexit and Trump, by the new elites’ demo-phobia.
It’s this response that is likely to seriously damage political life. The truly disturbing thing about 2016 is not the rage of the masses against the establishment but the rage of the elites against democracy.
In the 20 years I’ve been writing about politics, I cannot remember a time when disgust for democracy has been as explicit as it is now. It’s everywhere.
“Trump won because voters are ignorant”, says a headline in Foreign Policy magazine. The piece, written by Jason Brennan, US professor and author of Against Democracy, says Trump owes his victory to “the uninformed”.
But this goes beyond Trump, says Brennan. The public’s stupidity calls into question the whole idea of making decisions democratically. Perhaps what we need is an “epistocracy”, where “votes are in some way weighted according to basic political knowledge”, he says. In short, let’s have IQ tests and give greater power to the clever over the dumb.
This isn’t an extreme view anymore. Being anti-democratic has become positively fashionable among the chattering classes.
We are no longer successfully “keeping the mob from the gates”, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. It has been a while since observers openly talked about “the mob”. Trump’s victory calls into question the wisdom of having “government by the people”, Parris says. So who should govern? Kings? Priests? Parris?
We have become “too democratic”, says Sullivan. The “passions of the mob” have become too great a player in political life. We need a better “elitist sorting mechanism” to prevent people’s “untrammelled emotions” from dominating political discourse.
There is much talk of “low-information voters” or “low-information white people”, as Brennan calls them: a politically correct way of saying “the underclass”. Everyday people are ill-suited to big politics, apparently, because they know little and are driven by rage over reason.
In the words of leading US liberal magazine The Atlantic, the masses are “ignorant of basic facts”, meaning they cannot “act reasonably and rationally in the political process”.
The elitist fury that has greeted the low-information mob that voted for Trump echoes what was said after Brexit. The temerity of 17.4 million Brits to vote to leave the EU, when so many of our betters instructed us to vote remain, sent the establishment and commentariat into a rage that overshadows any rage from below.
It was ridiculous to ask “ignoramuses” to decide on the future of the EU, said famed atheist Richard Dawkins. The public, being ignorant of “the highly complex economic and social issues facing our country”, should “have no say on our EU membership”, he said.
Philosopher AC Grayling denounces the politics of the “crowd”. “Rule by crowd acclamation is a very poor method of government,” he says, since most members of the crowd, dimwitted specks, are susceptible to “misinformation, distortion, false promises (and) tabloid urgings”.
That is, our minds are easily fried by demagogues and lying newspapers; we’re controlled more by sentiment than reason.
Post-Brexit, elitists started to express their disdain for democracy casually and frequently. “What if democracy doesn’t work?” The Guardian’s George Monbiot asked. Maybe the idea that ordinary people behaved as “rational beings” was a myth, he said.
“Never before has the fate of a country … been changed by the swing of such a blunt axe, wielded by … poorly informed citizens,” Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck wrote in an essay hilariously titled “Why elections are bad for democracy”.
The horror of Brexit shows that we must not allow “popular sentiment (to hold) sway over informed decision-making”, former UN official Shashi Tharoor said. So let the smart rule the stupid? A pro-remain conservative said the EU referendum took a “noble idea, that everyone’s political views should count equally, too far”. So sometimes certain people’s views should be more equal than others’.
There are now legal efforts to overthrow Brexit, to thwart the will of the low-information people. And a good thing, too, says a writer for The Washington Post, since it was “widespread political ignorance” that fuelled Brexit.
The chattering-class narrative is that Brexit and Trump are products of idiocy and rashness, and we should now rethink how often we ask the plebs to have their say.
It’s naked elitism. And it should worry anyone who thinks of themselves as progressive far more than the rise of Trump or Britain leaving the EU. It echoes dark anti-democratic moments in history. The idea that crowds are manipulated by demagogues and thus can’t be trusted is the same sneer that was made against the Chartists, the 1840s British movement to expand the franchise to working-class men. The “lower orders of the people” did not have a “ripened wisdom”, said one opponent of Chartism. And this meant they were “more exposed than any other class” to be “converted to the ¬vicious ends of faction”.
Such ugly snobbery is rehashed in the foul idea today that Brexiteers and Trumpites, being “low-information”, were easily hood¬winked by “misinformation”.
The idea that ordinary people lack expertise and are too ruled by emotion was also said of the suffragettes. As one historian says, women back then were seen to “lack the expertise” necessary for “informed political activity”. They were low-information.
They were also said to have difficulty “forming abstract ideas”. They are too emotional, and “government by emotion quickly degenerates into injustice”, the British journal the Anti-Suffrage Review said in 1910. Now that is said about women and men: too many of them are driven by “feeling, emotion”, in the words of Sullivan. And we can’t have government by emotion, can we?
From the Victorian period to the dark days of eugenicist thinking in the early 20th century, there was a profound discomfort among the elites with the idea of democracy. Now it’s making a comeback.
Crowd politics gives rise to “blubbering sentimentality”, Bis¬marck said in the 1800s; government by “crowd acclamation” gives us a useless “snapshot of sentiment”, Grayling says today. The language has become politer but the agitation with the throng remains the same.
This is the scary thing about 2016: not Brexit, not even Trump, but the openness with which democracy is now written off as a terrible mistake. We need to stand up for the crowd. It isn’t an unthinking swarm; it’s a collection of thoughtful individuals, each capable of rationalism and goodness.
In fact, these ordinary people, because they live and work in the belly of society in a way that cut-off experts and observers usually don’t, often have a better understanding of what’s wrong with society and how it might be fixed.
Less jaundiced by power, more aware of where everyday society isn’t working properly, the people can have a keener, more sensitive appreciation of political and social problems and what might be done about them.
I would sooner entrust political decisions to the first 50 people I encounter on my walk through town than to 50 people with PhDs. Too much democracy? There isn’t nearly enough….”