Use + Remix

Attacking populists has been easy pickings for those trying to explain an increasingly angry world, but will ignoring the causes see history repeat in November?

Donald Trump : Gage Skidmore CCBY2.0 Donald Trump : Gage Skidmore CCBY2.0

Attacking populists has been easy pickings for those trying to explain an increasingly angry world, but will ignoring the causes see history repeat in November?

The anticipated coronation of Donald Trump as Republican nominee for November’s US election is set to reinvigorate the debate of what a media savvy, celebrity, boastful, populist can potentially do to democratic institutions.

Much of the past decade has echoed a familiar drumbeat. Commentators, both experienced and newly formed, project their reason why Donald Trump will or will not make America great again.

However, few are willing to connect the dots that outside of any potential foreign interference or media collusion, Trump’s electoral success rightly or wrongly has been his power to connect with disparate groups of people.

In 2016, Trump had not aligned on policy or vision, but instead emotion. The vibe of the nation. A nation that believed it was in decline.

The millionaire New York property developer turned man of the people routine had effectively tapped into a deep seated anger within the community, one that felt it had been left behind.

The pace of modern life offers little time for reflection, but many draw a line from the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, which cratered the American middle class, to the growth of populism and a decline of trust in institutions.

Effectively, the faces of the same institutions that bailed out the banks rather than the American people were now requiring help to defend democracy and all its sharper edges.

Trump leveraged that anger in areas that had been impacted by spiralling levels of wealth inequality, aided by manufacturing jobs flight from the United States, in search for higher profit margins.

The same impacts are being felt across the world, in India where unemployment among 20 to 24 year olds sits at 44.49 percent.

Pramod Kumar from the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh told 360info: “Civil society organisations have claimed that unemployed young people are being radicalised by some political parties with their anger channelled into igniting communal insecurities, hatred and riots.”

Josh Roose from Deakin University who has served on multiple government panels on violent extremism says that this social dislocation and an economic model that has changed over the decades had created a much narrower gap for those who lionise masculinity to find success in the modern world.

He writes that “Many men have consequently turned online to find community and fill this vacuum and to air their grievances. Michael Kimmel refers to this as ‘aggrieved entitlement’, though increasingly, no expectation of success amongst some younger men emerges.

“We see men being drawn in to the ‘manosphere’, an online ecosystem of anti-women online actors that includes influencers such as Andrew Tate and that promote hyper masculinity, affluence, competitiveness and most importantly, belonging.”

Trumpism or even the populism of Narendra Modi in India is not unique, because the trick is leveraging emotion against logic. Emotion is deeply personal, anger is individual.

According to Queensland University of Technology’s Sebastian Svegaard, the presence of anger in the world is not new, but he claims

“What is certainly new is our level of exposure to polarising opinions and events, and this exposure happens in large parts on social media, where we spend so much of our time and, increasingly, get our news,” he writes.

“That anger breeds engagement online, giving rise to the term “rage-farming”.

Victoria Fielding from the University of Adelaide describes how traditional media such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the radio shock jocks that still hold sway in countries like Australia are using “anger-tainment” as a model to keep holding of fleeing audiences.

“A form of “anger-tainment” has become a staple as the hard work of reasoned debate makes way for emotional reactions to the complex nature of modern life,” she writes.

The intersection between media and politics within the Trump eco-system gives the populist his popularity. Be it social or traditional the development within media of an almost reaction economy that rewards emotion over reason needs constant refuelling to pay dividend.

Svegaard believes that all consumers should take time to consider the way they interact with political communication:  “Take a moment to reflect on why we are feeling this way. Do we really feel angry, or sad, or touched, or did we get drawn in by effective communication? Is it legitimate disagreement or are we being manipulated?”

Anger however is not simply used for those who choose to inflame pre-existing tensions. It is also the underpinning emotion behind progress.

Anger is also seen in the actions of Greta Thunberg, her scowling at world leaders triggered a youth climate movement which strives for a better world for her generation and a more just climate future.

Fiona Longmuir writes for 360info that understanding emotional responses are key in understanding education too. A school student not being heard will eventually disconnect from the process.

“By acknowledging their concerns, respecting their differences and valuing their contributions, schools can support hope and aspiration that may combat the despondency and despair that is sadly a part of life for many.”

This example could be extrapolated across communities, potentially even in the United States or India.

Where the antidote to a crisis of democracy and the anger presented as the public face of trumpism requires a keen ear and support for mutual aspiration, rather than telling people they are wrong and leaving them behind from the spoils of victory.

Because so far, that hasn’t worked.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.

Editors Note: In the story “An angry world” sent at: 04/03/2024 09:55.

This is a corrected repeat.

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