Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Muddy messages of 'populist' figures

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
It has to be one of the best current affairs programmes in this part of the world. I'm referring to BBC Two's 'Newsnight', which goes out Monday to Friday after the 10.00 BBC Television news. Jeremy Paxman did it for years and now his successor, Evan Davis seems to be growing into the role and doing a great job. But other presenters, including Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis, make for compelling viewing.

Two weeks ago, the programme, hosted that particular evening by Emily Maitlis, did a short look back on the year that is about to disappear. She showed part of an interview 'Newsnight' editor Ian Katz did with David Remnick, who is editor of The New Yorker.

I strongly recommend you google an interview Remnick did with 'Spiegel online'. It is one of the best analysis I have seen or heard on the current unfolding situation in the world.
Everything this man writes is impressive.

Here's the link to the 'Spiegel online' interview:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-david-remnick-about-donald-trump-a-1124151.html

The interview includes these three sentences:
"As the Germans know better than we do, disaster can take a nation by surprise, slowly, and then all at once."
"I don't know that Donald Trump is anything more to Putin than what Lenin called a poleznye durak, a useful idiot."
"Right-wing populism requires the denigration of an 'Other'. Left-wing populism tends to be about the haves and have-nots."

Probably because I agree with every word I read in the article I find it a brilliant piece. Of course I'm subjective, aren't we all. But it does seem that we are living in worrying times.

As Remnick says on the BBC interview he is not expecting to see a small man with hair under his nose and an armband appear in the States but we are living in dangerous times. He points out how he was opposed to Nixon and the Bushes but this is now an-all-new situation with a multi-billionaire tv celebrity with no political experience taking over the most important job on earth. Even Reagan, he points out, had been governor of California before becoming president.

And now the talk across Europe is that right-wing extreme nationalist parties will be emboldened by Trump's victory in the US. 

Is there anything that is going to stop this current lurch to xenophobia?

Even more worrying is the fact that such crazy right-wing behaviour is also showing its ugly face in the churches.

The same night that BBC showed the Remnick interview, over on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), presenter Raymond Arroyo interviewed Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is having a spat with Pope Francis over aspects of the encyclical 'Amoris Laetitia'.

I was flabbergasted with the arrogance of Burke and all veiled in some sort of 'holy piousity'. He comes across as a clerical version of Donald Trump. And the servility of the interviewer Raymond Arroyo added to the cocktail to make it all so depressing.

And what's so sad is that Burke has a lot of followers in the church, just as Trump, Wilders, Le Pen et al have in the world of political life.

Just as Trump and his friends can come out with words and sentiments that have some sort of reassuring security to them, so too ministers of religion can say pious things that really have no meaning at all. It's this harking for a return to 'olden times'. Honestly, I can't take it anymore.

What to do? But I have to say Remnick's reference to Lenin's 'useful idiots' did make me laugh. Alas, ever so sad.

There's always hope. Happy new year.

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