Why is there a wave of right-wing governments across the globe?

Here are the top five reasons why there is a wave of right-wing governments across the globe:

1. Global corporate capitalism, as coordinated and directed by the wealthiest owner-shareholders around the world, is creating huge wealth disparities, increasingly destructive negative externalities (climate change, unbreathable air, undrinkable water, rapid species extinction, etc.), and exaggerated economic instability (boom/bust cycles that are increasingly extreme). This trend understandably frightens people, and they want a scapegoat for their fears. The far-right rhetoric blames progressive social policies, recent waves of immigrants, and “government interference in free markets,” in simplistic, polemic rhetoric. None of these are the real causal factors behind what so frightens right-leaning folks…but they sure are easy targets for polarizing propaganda. It’s really easy to get scared people to vote against their own best interests, and ignore the real “man behind the curtain” (i.e. those wealthy owner-shareholders) who doesn’t want to be held accountable.

2. The actual solutions to many of these modern challenges are complex, nuanced, contingent, dynamic and abstract. To even fully comprehend some of the problems humanity faces requires an advanced understanding of specialized disciplines that take years to learn (i.e. economics, climate science, biology, medicine, genetics, etc.). Consequently, it’s difficult to explain how to move forward to “the average voter,” and much easier to hoodwink them. And the conservative, right-leaning voters around the world have often had an uneasy relationship with evidence-based, scientific approaches, often mistrusting experts and academia on a fundamental level. And yet, these same conservative “average voters” feel empowered by misinformation they find on social media, in sensationalist journalism, on conspiracy websites, and through other unreliable sources. This creates a false sense of confidence (see Illusory truth effect and Dunning–Kruger effect), which combines with tribalistic “Us vs. Them” emotional reactivism, and in turn leads to mass movements that are highly irrational and easily manipulated. Unfortunately for those who gravitate towards the far-right end of the political spectrum, nearly all of the most strident, deceptive and manipulative propaganda today is housed in their media. So instead of becoming educated with real evidence or persuaded by rational reasoning, the right-leaning person becomes increasingly deceived and deluded.

3. Some rather unsavory folks with self-serving agendas have decided to double down on this ongoing deception. Whether it’s the fake science and science skepticism (such as climate denial) funded by the Koch brothers and neoliberal think tanks; or the “active measures” of Vladimir Putin aimed at dividing, angering and confusing folks all around the globe; or the strategic social media influence campaigns from Cambridge Analytica; or the lies and exaggerations of a mentally unstable President Trump — all of these sources are just engineering and promoting their own accumulation of wealth and power. It’s a pretty simple and transparent strategy…just “follow the money.” And social media platforms have now provided a powerful, dopamine-addiction-driven tool to entrain mindless conformance among targeted groups of users. For more discussion of this pernicious pattern, see The Opposition.

4. Progressives and technocrats are generally TERRIBLE at explaining their positions and the rationale for approaching complex problems a certain way. To them, the situation and its solutions are painfully obvious…but very few have the gift of translating that “obviousness” into clear, easily shared memes on social media, or humorous quips on talk shows, or simplistic black-and-white tropes that uneducated folks can latch onto. This is one reason I have proposed creating a Public Information Clearinghouse to help the “average voter” understand complex issues and appreciate evidence-based solutions.

5. I think…and this is perhaps the hardest thing to accept, let alone articulate…that humanity is getting dumber. Perhaps as a consequence of a combination of things — stress, pollutants, reliance on technology, poor diets, fast-paced lifestyles, etc. — or epigenetic changes that have been amplified by this same combination of factors, human beings aren’t thinking very clearly or cleverly. And there is also an increase — especially among conservatives and the far-right — to actively suppress their own intelligence. It’s quite disturbing to witness the extraordinary levels of cognitive dissonance conservatives must sustain to hold onto their most cherished but misguided beliefs. And this “cultivated stupidity” has a collective snowball effect, which again is just amplified into lockstep in-group conformance by the mass media that crafts these deceptive narratives and perpetuates them.

So don’t allow yourself to be hoodwinked by the right-wing propaganda about why there is a wave of right-wing movements. :-) Over many decades, socially conservative, market fundamentalist, greed-centric crony capitalists have created the conditions that now make them so fearful and unhappy. But they are not willing to take responsibility for what they have done, and instead seek to blame others. It's a very human failing, but promises to be particularly disastrous in this situation — because it avoids engaging the actual causes for impending calamity.

My 2 cents.

Why haven't (seemingly obvious) foreign policy perspectives like those of Noam Chomsky's gained mass popularity in the United States?

For anything to gain “mass popularity” usually requires concerted marketing efforts. Americans — perhaps more than any other population in the world — have become conditioned to externalize all authority and “truth,” and wait rather passively for guidance in the form of sales and marketing entertainment (or the memes swarming their social media bubbles, as the case may be). This is, I think, a natural consequence of two centuries of commercialistic capitalism where most media was slowly but inevitably enslaved to the will of corporate profit-seeking and neoliberal propaganda. More recently, those avenues of mass influence have been further coopted and corrupted by nefarious players like the Koch Brothers, the Mercer family, the Heartland Institute, etc., or by conspiracy-mongering nut jobs like Alex Jones. All of these folks — whether actively or tacitly — have worked in concert to disrupt the ability of the average American consumer-voter to parse reality in any sensible way…let alone to navigate complex foreign policy issues with anything but the most oversimplified, knee-jerk rhetoric. In many ways Donald Trump is a perfect example of what happens to someone shaped by such media: childish, irrational, paranoid, uninformed, reactive, incoherent…but somehow utterly sure of himself. We could, of course, lay all of this at the feet of capitalism itself, but the U.S.A. has developed a uniquely destructive model in terms of creating highly tribalized, infantilized conspicuous consumers who are invested in delusional nonsense for entertainment’s sake, and who consistently vote and make purchases that are highly destructive to their well-being, while serving the interests of wealthy owner-shareholders quite nicely.

Enter into this landscape Noam Chomsky, who sees very clearly the tragic distortions of crony capitalism and its neoliberal policy disasters, as well as the horrific effect of market fundamentalist politics and war profiteering around the globe, and of course Chomsky has identified and explained the mechanisms of a complicit mass media in furthering these nefarious agendas. So Chomsky doesn’t get interviewed on that same mass media anymore. And his observations are ignored by the neoliberal power brokers who shape self-serving policy and jam it down the gullet of elected legislatures (via. A.L.E.C., etc.). In fact most Americans today don’t know who Noam Chomsky even is…because there is no propagation of his ideas by the “authorities” people have come to trust or admire — you know, like Fox News, or Breitbart, or Info Wars. Even left-leaning media are scared to have Noam Chomsky on their programs for fear of losing funding; did you know the Koch Brothers were instrumental in Ken Burns’ last documentary about Vietnam on PBS? And that, as a predictable consequence, the “facts” of that documentary series were horrifically distorted…? And that the very false narrative that Chomsky has debunked over and over again (in book after book, and lecture after lecture) over decades was revitalized in dramatic form on PBS?! And yet, a majority of lazy-minded, ignorant, comfort-seeking Americans gobbled up the bullshit unquestioningly. This is a microcosm of the macrocosm: just follow the money, and you’ll quickly see why Chomsky is ignored, minimized or derided in the mainstream.

Now…with that said, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Noam Chomsky believes or pontificates. And he has, in fact, made some glaring mistakes (Pol Pot was a biggy). I also sense that his ego sometimes gets the better of him. But NONE of this has to do with why Chomsky isn’t more well-known or appreciated, or why Americans aren’t rallying in the streets to shift U.S. foreign policy away from neoliberal imperialism. Just look what happened to Bernie Sanders in the last election: very little media coverage, no DNC support, a drumbeat of “he’s a communist” hate speech from the right, nearly all funding was from the grass roots, etc. The powers-that-be all conspired to shut him down — and Bernie was a milk toast centrist compared to Noam Chomsky!

So for U.S. citizens to appreciate Chomsky on any level, they would first need to wake up from their stupor of toddlerized consumerism and externalized authority, and start actively learning about the world around them via information sources that don’t have a brainwashing/hoodwinking agenda. And that’s probably not going to happen until things get a lot more uncomfortable (economically and materially) for the U.S.A. — and even then, the more immature Americans will still search for a scapegoat to blame for their own failures (you know, like illegal immigrants…).

My 2 cents.

Update: In response to a question about Chomsky's statements about Pol Pot, here is one helpful and well-researched link regarding the Pol Pot issue:

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: Averaging Wrong Answers

I think the writer overstates his own case…using some rhetoric that paints Chomsky in a worse light than he deserves. However, if you remove that rhetoric and focus on the evidence, he documents the underlying disconnect fairly well.

On the Demise of NPR - First Installment

If it is still available, take a gander at Jacob Goldstein's Planet Money story on why solar power has gotten so cheap: Jacob Goldstein's Article on NPR website

Here is my response to his story, which I attempted to post on the NPR website, but which was deleted three times before I threw in the towel:

"A couple of quick observations:

1. When a homeowner leases a system from SolarCity or anyone else, the installer gets the federal rebate, not the homeowner. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention that, and the report implied a linkage between federal subsidies and Mr. O’Hagan’s “simple calculation,” a linkage which isn't actually there.

2. Snap-in panels may not meet local code requirements. There are also other factors such as requirements for circuit breaker panels backfed by solar, the necessity re-roof prior to solar panel installation, and a lot more. So the installation will likely still take from two days to two weeks in many (if not most?) places around the country, not the four-hour install time described in the report. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention any of this.

3. SolarCity leasing is not “creative financing” unless ownership transfers to the lessor at the end of the lease (SolarCity leases don’t do this); otherwise it is just paying someone other than your local utility for electricity. Very different, and this is probably the most egregious omission that was made. There ARE many creative financing options (green loans, zero down loans, credit union unsecured loans, home equity loans, variable interest rate and term loans for solar, county HERO programs, etc.) where the homeowner ends up owning the panels outright with significant ROI on the tail end, AND where the homeowner receives the federal tax rebate and any local incentives. Any of these could be considered “creative financing.” But leasing is not one of these options, as there is no ROI at all, just a discount on electricity, and the lessor gets all the ROI. Once again, Mr. Goldstein failed to mention this.

4. There is also the option to install solar panels yourself. It’s really not that difficult and will save a homeowner over 50% in total project costs. The PV system we installed ourselves will be fully paid off in less than four years. After that, it's all gravy. In the meantime, we pay about what a SolarCity lease would have cost...but we will own the system in less than four years! Leases really make no sense at all...none.

5. According to BBB complaints, Yelp reviews and responsible reporting, SolarCity is one of the most unethical companies currently in business. They have hundreds of complaints about their sales tactics. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention any of this as well.

All-in-all, this report missed a lot of important facts, and painted leasing (and SolarCity) in a much more favorable light than the facts support. To me it felt a lot more like an advertisement than professional reporting."

Why was this post deleted, do you think? I am contacting the NPR Ombudsman to find out. You can read NPR's "Community Rules" here: NPR Community Rules

Can you see anything in my post that violates these rules? I certainly can't, and it would be easy to provide copious links to support what I'm saying. In essence, though, Goldstein didn't provide much (accurate) insight into why solar has grown so quickly, and instead quite transparently promoted a company, product and process that will ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth of most consumers.

Stay tuned....

6/7/2015 Update: Still nothing cogent from NPR. Here's the canned response from the Ombudsman: "Unfortunately, we will neither explicitly state a reason why a comment has been removed nor will we notify each individual personally about the comment moderation process." Apparently the only possible explanation is a generic one that my comment "didn't expand the conversation." Really? That's interesting considering the dozens of non-substantive comments that didn't get deleted, and the relative substance of my own. Is NPR really becoming a stooge and shill for corporations, as with so many other media outlets...? This is really a sad turn of events for NPR I must stay. My wife and I have been frequent supporters of our local KPBS, including at the Producer's Club level when we could afford it, and I have supported NPR stations all around the country wherever I have lived. I'm thinking with experiences like this one, that support is probably coming to an end.