“We empowered a demagogue” laments the New York Times ostensibly bleeding heart liberal, the kind Mr. Kristof, in his false “Mea Culpa” editorial, “My Shared Shame: How The Media Made Trump”. By this, Mr. Kristof means that Mr. Trump is a bad person. However, Mr. Kristof’s choice of the word “demagogue” is revealing. (Actually it’s not really his choice: “demagogue” is not Mr. Kristof’s invention: he just repeats like a parrot the most prominent slogan of the worldwide campaign of insults against Trump).
Trump a demagogue? Is Mr. Sanders a “demagogue”, too? (As much of the financial and right-wing press has it: for The Economist and the Financial Times, Trump and Sanders are both “demagogues” and that’s their main flaw.)
To understand fully the word “demagogue” one has to understand a bit of Greek, and a bigger bit of Greek history.
What does demos mean? And what does agogos mean? Both words are Greek. Agogos means “leader”, Demos means “people”. In ancient Greek “demagogos” meant “leader of the People”. A demagogue was viewed as bad in the Hellenistic Kingdoms period, because kinship was good, and We The People was bad. We inherited 2,000 years of dictatorship from the Hellenistic Kingdoms’ mood.
The latter point is the key: thanks to Aristotle’s devastating influence, monarchies and tyrannies became the ideal political regimes (for the next 2,000 years). I explained the whole thing in “Aristotle Destroyed Democracy”. Aristotle was the senior, most respected figure, of an impressive number of mass criminals who were his personal friends, students and followers: Alexander the Great, Antipater, Craterus, etc.
The practical result was that the entire Greek world became subjected to monarchies and tyrannies. With the sole exception of Massilia (modern Marseilles) whose small empire stayed democratic and independent (in spite of being at war with no less than Carthage based in Barcelona!) Marseilles would fall only after Julius Caesar besieged it (in one of Julius’ particularly ridiculous exploits). But the fact only Massilia stayed democratic tells volumes (OK, when Greece, attempted to go back to democracy, plutocratizing Rome crushed it, culminating with the devastation of Corinth in 146 BCE).
So the deeper question is this: since when has “leader of the People” become a crime in the US? Was president FDR a “demagogue”? What is the president of the USA supposed to be? What is the problem? Is the president supposed NOT to be a “leader”? Or to NOT be a leader of the “People”?
Is the President of the US supposed to be a follower? Of whom? The plutocrats? Is the president of the USA supposed to take Air Force One every few weeks, to get money from the Silicon Valley plutocrats, and ask them for instructions?
The ascent of Trump is precisely tied to the opinion that the office of the President of the USA is not anymore that of the leader of the people. Instead the president has become the leader of the 1%, exclusively. Thus, the more one complains that Trump is a “demagogue”, the more one presents him as precisely what the country, and maybe even the world, needs: somebody who wants to lead We The People, not just the 1%.
[Mr. Kristof allowed a shortened version of this comment to be published… After sitting on it for 12 hours. Delayed publication is akin to censorship, as the comment was published in 777th position instead of being among the first. So Mr. Kristof is not as kind and open as he wants to depict himself.]
A hard day may be coming for global plutocrats ruling as they do thanks to their globalization tricks. And I am not exactly naive. Andy Grove, founder of Intel, shared the general opinion that much of globalization was just theft & destitution fostering an ominous future (the Hungarian immigrant to the USA who was one of the founders of Intel). He pointed out, an essay he wrote in 2010 that Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by neglecting strong job growth in the United States.
Mr. Grove observed that: …”it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But… lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”
Silicon Valley makes its money from start-ups. However, that phase of a business is different from the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototypes to mass production. Both phases are important. Only scale-up is an engine for mass job growth — and scale-up is vanishing in the United States (especially with jobs connected to Silicon Valley). “Without scaling,” Mr. Grove wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate…
The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.
Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment.”
However, American-based manufacturing is not on the agenda of Silicon Valley or the political agenda of the United States. Venture capitalists actually told me it was obsolete (before stepping in their private jets). That omission, according to Mr. Grove, is a result of another “unquestioned truism”: “that the free market is the best of all economic systems — the freer the better.” To Mr. Grove, or Mr. Trump, or yours truly, that belief is flawed.
Andy Grove: “Scaling used to work well in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs came up with an invention. Investors gave them money to build their business. If the founders and their investors were lucky, the company grew and had an initial public offering, which brought in money that financed further growth.”
The triumph of free-market principles over planned economies in the 20th century, Mr. Grove said, did not make those principles infallible or immutable. There was room for improvement, he argued, for what he called “job-centric” economics and politics. In a job-centric system, job creation would be the nation’s No. 1 objective, with the government setting priorities and arraying the forces necessary to achieve the goal, and with businesses operating not only in their immediate profit interest but also in the interests of “employees, and employees yet to be hired.”
As even the New York Times now admits, the situation has degenerated since 2010. Although the employment rate halved, in a slave state, everybody is employed. But neither the economy, nor the society, let alone progress and civilization are doing better.
“Insecure, low-paying, part-time and dead-end jobs are prevalent. On the campaign trail, large groups of Americans are motivated and manipulated on the basis of real and perceived social and economic inequities.
Conditions have worsened in other ways. In 2010, one of the arguments against Mr. Grove’s critique was that exporting jobs did not matter as long as much of the corporate profits stayed in the United States. But just as American companies have bolstered their profits by exporting jobs, many now do so by shifting profits overseas through tax-avoidance maneuvers.
The result is a high-profit, low-prosperity nation. “All of us in business,” Mr. Grove wrote, “have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability — and stability — we may have taken for granted.” Silicon Valley and much of corporate America have yet to live up to that principle.”
So the argument counter-Grove was that plutocracy was OK, as long as it was all American (an argument Trump long disagreed with, BTW). But, clearly, it’s not the case anymore. Instead the US government has become the back-up to global plutocratic corporations (watch Obama flying to Argentina to encourage the new US pawn there, just elected… after making economic war against left leaning Argentinian governments ever since Argentina refused to take orders: the first beneficiary are New York vulture funds).
Sanders, the other “demagogue” just defeated Clinton (the establishment insider plutocrat) in three states out of the US mainstream: Washington State, Hawai’i and Alaska (with 3/4 of the votes). Interestingly, and differently from all the other past or present primary contenders, Clinton is implicated in several inquiries from the FBI, Department of Justice, etc. At least she is not terrorized like Maria Carey, who cancelled her concerts in Belgium (other singers did not).
Mr. Grove: “… the imperative for change is real and the choice is simple. If we want to remain a leading economy, we change on our own, or change will continue to be forced upon us.” Trump and Sanders say nothing else.
Yesterday, a dove penetrated inside my house, flew around, collided a bit with something, and then exited the window with precision, before perching on a eucalyptus branch, looking at me dazzlingly. I have seen it many times before, but generally it stays outside. Last night, I dreamed of seeing a pigeon fly at an angle into a wall. I asked it why it did that, so deliberately. It replied: “Did you see the state of the biosphere?” I suggested a more constructive actions. And it’s how it is going to happen: at some point, all the biosphere we depend upon will revolt (and after Zika, we have now Lassa fever, which is very close to Ebola).
Our corruption is not just an economic and social problem, a political problem, and a civilizational problem, as it was under Aristotle. It is a problem for the entire planet.
“We empowered a demagogue“, laments Mr. Kristof. His true calling, and that of the Main Stream Media, was to empower plutocrats, and their obsequious servants. How sad they are.