At the time of writing it’s just 2 days to the US election, with most of the polls predicting a narrow Clinton victory. Polls have of course been becoming notoriously and increasingly unreliable, as recent events have shown. In the past you could assume that the undecided would at the last minute come down on the side of the status quo, of safety, not wanting to rock the boat, but that tends to ignore the major disruptive processes that have been taking over.
To start with there’s the notion of truth. Most of us naively think this is an absolute quantity, to be measured along with gravitational pull and other physical laws. But the opposite is rapidly becoming the case. In The Hunting Of The Snark, written by Lewis Carroll in 1876, the assertion is made by one of the characters that “the truth is complete | if only I uttered it thrice”, and this principle has been eagerly adopted by politicians and the media. They have discovered that if you repeat a lie often enough it turns into a fact. So in Britain we had a big red bus with a complete lie painted along its sides, that was accepted as the unvarnished truth by millions of people thanks to its constant exposure on our supposedly neutral TV news channels.
Of course this is nothing new. The principle underpins the majority of advertising. “Buy this product and you will become wealthier | younger | more popular | thinner | happier” is the message poured endlessly into our all-too receptive ears. It’s not new for politicians either. Ever since radio gave them a voice they haven’t hesitated to use it to gain and maintain power for themselves. Intriguingly, the message they often pump out suggests that they are seeking to return power to their people, but this could not be further from the truth. “Take back control”, repeated often enough, persuades large numbers of people to believe there is actually power to be taken back, and that the recipient of this power will be themselves. It’s much nicer to seek a warm feeling about a golden future than to stop and examine the motives of those who are shouting the loudest. But it is they who want the power; power for themselves over the rest of us. They resent the ability of anyone – especially poor people and foreigners – to put limits on their personal ambitions.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump is the living embodiment of this principle. He’s spent a working lifetime perfecting the art of lying to achieve business success, and now aims to use these honed skills to run the largest economy in the world. Few people believe that this can be anything but a disaster for the USA and for the rest of us, but he has succeeded in amassing around half the population of his country behind him. The conventional response is that he simply represents the choice between two evils, and this is certainly true, as neither candidate is likely to do anything to halt the slide of America into a near civil war. A Clinton presidency will seek to continue “business as normal”, but that’s what got us where we are, with huge numbers of people alienated from the whole process of democracy and government. Trump will destroy the consensus (such as it is) and offers nothing with which to replace it, but when did breaking things make them better? How did we get to this?
The blame can in fact be laid at our own doors. In the UK in particular the agenda is dictated by 3 or 4 national newspapers and the government scrambles to avoid being criticised by them, for this leads to electoral defeat. “It’s the Sun wot won it” is far too close to the truth. Our press is dominated by foreign billionaires with not the slightest interest in the well-being of British people. They are vehemently opposed to the EU for the simple reason that it threatens their hold over life in the UK, by passing legislation that limits their power; legislation our own politicians are far too timid to dream of suggesting themselves. As the EU has developed and become more confident, the perceived threat has grown and with it the level of hyperbolic invective used by the press to paint it as an “evil empire”. We’ve now reached the point where the word “European” is used by the Daily Mail as an insult and as a suggestion of impropriety. Their success is staggering; most of its readers appear to believe that Europe is a place full of desperate, miserable, envious people longing to be freed from the tyranny of Brussels so they can enjoy Britain’s riches and its freedom. Daily Mail readers think that simply being British entitles us to special treatment around the globe, and that to avoid any threat to the sales of luxury goods like BMW cars in the UK the whole continent will duly fall into line to be handed the terms for their surrender.
Attitudes like this are hard to find in Europe but are easily recognised in a few other places around the world, chief among them North Korea. Like the British, North Koreans are bombarded daily with reassurances about their own superiority and told that it will not be long before the rest of the world collapses. Like the British, they believe this nonsense, and anyone who steps out of line is rapidly hounded into submission, a North Korean tactic that is now being enthusiastically pursued in Britain against three high Court judges.
Unlike North Koreans, however, we in the West have access to the Internet. In North Korea the tactic is to deprive people of news from the outside world, but that doesn’t work here. Our strategy, that’s becoming even more successful than the North Korean one, is to drown us in lies and to discredit anyone who seeks to tell the truth, sneering at them for being “experts”. This is a tactic that the British have always been good at, which is why there is a shortage of engineering graduates but not of media studies. Engineering carries no social status in Britain; an “engineer” is just a nobody in grubby overalls who comes to fix your gas boiler. “Real gentlemen” become art dealers, stockbrokers or Telegraph columnists.
A couple of weeks ago an attack was made on the Internet by a group of hackers who control millions of so-called “smart devices” like cameras and fridges and possibly even cars that are connected to the Internet so they can have their software updated. Unfortunately, nobody thought there was any need to provide them with any effective security, and even when they are their owners tend to use passwords like “12345” or “password”. So the inevitable happened; hackers learned how to get into these devices and replace their programs with ones of their own. The recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack made by this group was a test run but it brought down some of the largest websites in the world, if only for a short time. A second test run was made 2 days ago and brought down the entire internet in Liberia. These two events are regarded as just the run-up to the big one. Guess what, folks? The US election. No, I don’t know how or where the attack will take place, but many believe it’s coming.
In the Bolivian Embassy in London lives Julian Assange, the head of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing organisation. He lives there because the US Security Services want his head on a platter for leaking millions of their best secrets. They can’t prove enough to have him extradited, but by an amazing coincidence the Swedish Government suddenly discovered accusations of sexual crimes committed by the same Julian Assange, and wants him returned to Sweden to answer for these crimes. It’s highly likely that once there it’ll be a lot easier to extract him back to the USA, and also likely that once there he’ll never be heard of again.
Now imagine you are Julian Assange, put in this intolerable position while being the head of an organisation well-connected to those who have no love for major Governments and able to deploy thousands of hackers with a grievance particularly against the USA. What is your response – and that of those who support you – likely to be? His future is bleak. The USA will never let up and maybe one day the Bolivians will be forced to show him the door. So it you’re going to do something there’s no time like the present. Clinton is a representative of that same US Government and has skeletons in her closet, like most politicians. And WikiLeaks and other hackers have the keys to the closet, hence the release of the most damaging possible information, timed to have maximum impact on Election Day.
Never mind that Trump has even more skeletons in his own closet. Just as with Brexit, “those whom the gods seek to destroy first make mad” (Euripides). Who needs to put any effort into damaging the UK post-Brexit or the USA under Trump when both will be so spectacularly good at destroying their own countries? The recent fuss about Russian attempts to inflict a cyber-war on Britain is laughable; why would they bother? Just sit back and wait for the fools to do it to themselves. And in any case, there are plenty of hackers in places like Macedonia engaged full-time in just that activity.
Our society has never been at a more unstable point. Our continued marginalisation of large sections of the population while we enrich the few was always bound to end in disaster. The rich will never voluntarily seek any limits on their wealth, and they care little for the rest of us as long as we don’t threaten their existence. It ignores the total implausibility of such a model; even the rich have to employ servants and the risks in allowing such people into close proximity with themselves grows daily. In any case, without a functioning economy not even the rich can hope to see the upward trajectory continuing for long. I wrote over a year ago about Black Swan Events and my view is the same now, that most of us won’t see it coming. May you live in interesting times.