Stratfor looks at the power of social media to tilt politics

Summary: New media mark the chapters in the history of politics. Newspaper, radio, TV, and now social media — each generation of media transformed politics. Those who mastered the new media thrived; those that didn’t, failed. Here Stratfor brings in experts to discuss the Arab Spring, Campaign 2016, and what happens next.Stratfor

The Next Front Line in the Fight for Hearts and Minds

By Andrew Trabulsi at Stratfor, 4 March 2017.

Over the past few months, a swell of isolationist rhetoric from some of the world’s newest leaders has given investors and trade partners across the globe pause. Many have pointed to the newfound rise of populism as evidence of the criticism mounting against globalization. And in some ways they might be right; maybe the world truly is fed up with the style of internationalism that the Bretton Woods system of global finance has promoted for the past half-century or so.

But surely this isn’t the whole picture. After all, movements rarely disrupt the modern political order in a vacuum. As we have seen in the past decade — consider the spread of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movement — the ways in which we build communities and share information have begun to fundamentally change, thanks in large part to the rise of social technologies. These technologies have given savvy political actors a means of reaching new audiences in unprecedented ways, and perhaps it is their impact on society’s stability and hope that we are now finding difficult to ignore.

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An anthropologist announces the death of liberalism

Summary: Here anthropologist Maximilian Forte announces the death of liberalism. Hillary’s defeat, despite its massive financing and support by America’s major institutions, was a sign. The ineffective street festivals of Occupy Wall Street and the Women’s March are signs. The lack of meaningful response to the revelations about NSA surveillance is a sign, as was the ineffective widespread perjuries and murders by police. It has died of exhaustion, ground down by the implacable opposition and fantastic resources of the 1% — and our indifference. But every political philosophy is a phoenix. It will rise again, eventually.

R.I.P. liberalism
By Tutu at The Day.

The Dying Days of Liberalism” — Part one of three.

By Maximilian C. Forte from Zero Anthropology, 18 January 2017.
Reposted with his generous permission.

How Orthodoxy, Professionalism, and Unresponsive Politics
Finally Doomed a 19th-century Project.

What a sight to behold. These are the dying days, counting down soon to the final hours, of the defeated political project of liberalism, inherited from the 19th-century. The centre — if there ever was one — could not hold after all. What a thing it is to watch one of the dominant, cornerstone ideologies of the international system, which has strutted its stuff with such swagger and certainty since the end of the Cold War, finally fall face forward into the dustbin of history. It has fallen with the same force as if shoved from behind by a stampeding mob, although its defenders will claim that mere “mistakes” were made, as if they accidentally slipped on history’s largest ever banana peel. And what a scene: who would have expected such a lack of dignity, such pathetic hysteria, such baseless smears, such empty threats, coming from those who otherwise elaborately preened themselves as gallant statesmen, who spoke as if they had cornered the market on “reason”. While the fall could have been worse, there has not been an absence of violence, threats, boycotts, and even calls of treason designed to delegitimize the voters’ choice.

Liberal democracy has been reduced to a shell, more a name than a fact that deserves the name. For many years, liberalism has been liberal authoritarianism or post-liberalism or neoliberalism, with a high elitist disdain for democracy and a fear of the masses everywhere.

  • Promises of inclusion, fairness, and welfare, were replaced by sensitive-sounding rhetorical tricks and tokenism. Moral narcissism, virtue signalling, identity politics, and building patchwork quilts of diversity were the order of the day.
  • Protests were encouraged abroad, against target nations, in the name of democracy promotion — but at home, protests were shut down by an always more militarized police. Nations around the world were lectured about transparency and accountability, but at home it was all about mass surveillance, domestic espionage, and a crackdown on whistleblowers.
  • Liberal leaders claimed to be upholders of peace and order, while multiplying the number of wars. Obama himself is personally responsible for the killing of thousands, many of them civilians — in 2016 alone, the US dropped 72 bombs every day on average, in wars in seven countries.
  • Obama oversaw the rapid acceleration of wealth transfer, and heightened domestic poverty, and then he is praised by pseudo-left liberal scholars and writers for having “governed well” and doing so with a professional, graceful demeanour.

The North American and European left, which made its peace and came to a bargain with liberal imperialism, sinks with those who in the end rewarded them with so little. Once again leftist social imperialismresults in failure as it lays the foundations for its replacement.

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Who won the election? Were the polls accurate? What lessons learned?

Summary: The results of the election are in! The Republic lost, with a new President who got second place in the public vote. Then came a barrage of lies about the simple facts of the election, propaganda which our institutions seem unable to fight. Can we reform the Electoral College before 2020? That will show if the Republic remains vital or has become decrepit. The clock is running.

Election 2016


  1. Who won?
  2. How accurate were the polls?
  3. Our necessary response.
  4. For More Information.

(1)  Who won?

The right-wing lie machine is gearing up to deceive Americans about the 2016 vote. The lies start at the top. We must draw a line in the sand beyond which we become a reality-based community. Let’s start now.

Trump won the Electoral College (EC) 57% to 43%, with (tentatively) 306 votes to Clinton’s 232. See this sortable table of historical EC results. Trump’s EC margin is the 46th largest among the 58 presidential elections. The lies about this continue, despite being obviously false. On Nov 27 Trump tweeted “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide…” An unsigned statement from Trump’s transition team on Dec 9 said “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.” On Nov 28 by Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said…

What about the popular vote? Most of the ballots have been counted. The current totals show Clinton with over 2.8 million more votes than Trump, winning by 2.1%. See this sortable table of election results. Trump has the third largest losing margin among the five presidents that lost the popular vote. But on Nov 27 Trump tweeted “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”  Like sheep, conservatives quickly adopted that as scripture, despite the near-total lack of evidence for Trump’s claim.

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Clinton’s ads show her weak strategy: purely tribal, no content

Summary: Why did Hillary flop in the Electoral College? Liberals search frantically for explanations. A previous post discussed the failure of Clinton’s fear campaign and the public’s dislike of her social justice warriors. Here we look at another cause: her advertising.

Ready for Hillary

Liberals continue to ask themselves who is responsible for Clinton’s defeat. Most reply “not her, not us”. Many of us have flagged her Anything But Issues Campaign. But some disagree.

“Clinton offered, inter alia, such longtime Goldman Sachs priorities as a family leave plan, an increased minimum wage and better overtime rules, the Employee Free Choice Act, child care funding, Social Security increases, a public option for health care, and support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. {Her speeches} were mostly arguments in favor of these policies. Should the Clinton campaign have tried to be more creative about finding ways of getting word of this attractive platform out …? Yes.”

— Scott Lemieux (prof of pol sci, College of Saint Rose) at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Professor Lemieux is correct — people who listen to politicians’ speeches and read their white papers know the platforms. For the other 99% of America — there are advertisements, a key to success in modern campaigns. Clinton’s were both boring and devoid of specifics about what she might do as President. It’s all tribal affinity and malarkey. Trump’s tweet’s read like the Federalist Papers by comparison (in terms of promised action, without the Paper‘s reason and soul). She burnt on these ads a big part of the $690 million donors gave her.

“Tomorrow” – The final Clinton ad…

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Clinton lost because fear failed, and voters disliked her Social Justice Warriors

Summary: Political gurus gush forth with explanations for Trump’s victory in the Electoral College (although more Americans voted for Clinton). They discuss arcane strategy, the effect of the media, personalities, and scores of other things (mostly trivial). But there are two elephants in the room. First, Clinton relied on the politics of fear, which surprisingly failed. Second, Social Justice Warriors (her shock troops) terrified voters — who realized the power SJW’s would wield as commissars in an HRC administration. Together these two factors account for her support dropping by the tiny margin that led to defeat in the Electoral College.

Hillary Clinton
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

No Fear

(1)  Clinton’s politics of fear failed

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
By Aristotle, from Joannes Stobaeus’ Florilegium.

The Democrats ran the anything but issues campaign on the fear Trump platform. Fear climate change, fear sexism, fear racism, fear nativism, fear Russia, fear fascism, fear NAZIs, etc.  These created a weak foundation for Clinton’s campaign, especially as she spent so little effort describing an alternative great future for America.

The Putin connection was only weakly supported and extremely speculative. The non-Left majority of Americans was skeptical about the odds of severe danger from climate change. The -ism’s became ineffective after decades of the Left using them as generic attacks on all their foes. Saying Trump was Hitler just triggered Godwin’s Law, probably ending many people’s interest in her message.

For all his clownish behavior and many flaws, Trump offered an action-based plan and a vision for a better America that appealed to many voters. It was a classic case of something beating nothing.

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Breaking the myths about Campaign 2016, so we can prepare for 2020

Summary: By nightfall after Trump’s election we had rationalized away this astonishing event with myths, ensuring that we learn nothing from Campaign 2016, Let’s strip away these pleasing stories and confront the truth — no matter how painful. Then we can start to prepare for a better choice in 2020.

President Donald Trump


  1. Myth: Trump won the election!
  2. Myth: The polls were very wrong!
  3. Myth: The election repudiated US elites!
  4. Myth: 2016 was a victory for populism!
  5. The big lesson from Campaign 2016.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Myth: Trump won the election!

The final counts are not in, but Clinton currently leads by over 200,000 votes (roughly 0.2%). Estimates for her actual total are well over a million votes. The Electoral College put Trump in the White House, as it did with Bush Jr. in 2000 (Gore won by 440 thousand votes, 0.5%.

Like our bizarrely allocation of votes in the Senate (our version of Britain’s “rotten boroughs“), the Electoral College is a historical artifact of our governing system that has outlived its utility — but we are too lazy to fix. For more about it see this article by Scott Lemieux (Prof of Political Science, College of St. Rose) in The New Republic.

(2)  Myth: the polls were very wrong!

People saying the polls did not predict correctly predict the outcome often point to the surveys in the months before the vote, forgetting what polls do. First, polls measure the public’s current intentions — they don’t predict future votes. The correct comparison is between pre-election surveys and the actual vote. The last average of 4-way polls tracked by RealClearPolitics gave Clinton a 3.3% lead — vs. her current lead of 0.2%. The remaining uncounted votes will narrow this gap, perhaps giving her much larger win. (California has 4.4 million of them; if she gets 62%, that’s 2.7 million more votes.)

Second, polls are statistical tools — not Dr. Strange’s magic spells. They should be presented with error bars showing the uncertainty of the survey. News stories about election polls and forecasts don’t have them, nor do stories about economic surveys, nor do stories about climate data and forecasts. The press want simple stories. Experts who insist about discussing uncertainty get no more calls from journalists. We’re ignorant because we read the news.

Consider the uncertainties in estimating the vote from polls. Only a small fraction of people answer polls, only some of those will answer honestly, and only some of those who answer will vote. Then there are systemic challenges in any polling methodology, such as extrapolating from the sample who they call and who answers to the actual population of people who vote.

The average of pre-election polls missed the actual result by 3.1% (estimated 3.3% vs. actual +0.2%). I have not found the margin of error for the major polls, let alone the average of polls, but I’ll bet that is within the 95% margins.

Third, our whining about the polls is so modern American. We get the poll accuracy we pay for. Journalists could pool their money and have a few large accurate surveys. But polls are fillers between the advertisements, so each corporate media wants its own. So we get dozens of polls, none very accurate. For more about the margin of error in polls see this note by Pew Research.

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Resources to help you prepare for the Trump years

Summary: Trump’s victory surprised the experts. But the potential for radical change, the alienation that caused it, and the resulting rise of populism have all been discussed at the FM website. Here are resources to help you prepare for what lies ahead for America during the next four years. Understanding is the first step. See tomorrow’s post a closer look at what we can expect during the Trump years.

“In preliminary exit polls …voters are expressing more fear than excitement over both a Trump and a Clinton win.”
— “The Country Is Terrified” by Ella Koeze at 538. Fear is the real winner in 2016.

Trump: make Americ great again

Predictions: I relied on the experts’ models and they were wrong, hence these go on the Fails & Smackdows page: Forecast: Clinton will crush Trump in November and The five reasons Trump will lose in November. Maximilian Forte (Prof Anthropology, Concordia U) was correct: An anthropologist explains why Trump will win in November. Here I listed some reasons that Trump might win.

The hidden factor that might have decided the electionMax Weber explains Trump 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America and Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority.

Significance: This is a massive repudiation of the US ruling class, which was unified behind Hillary to an extent rarely seen in US history, as I described in here and here. Several posts described these dynamics of the election: Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary and Why Trump thrives despite the news media’s attacks.

About Trump’s views, ignored or hidden by the press: Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal (You must not see populism!), Trump says interesting things about foreign policy that scare our elitesTaxes: one of the bright lines distinguishing Trump from ClintonWhat Trump means by putting “America First”, and Prof Danner looks at “The Magic of Donald Trump”.

“And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”
— Khalil Gibran in The Prophet (1923).

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