The Financial Times, John Thornhill & Peter Pomerantsev on Toxic Populism. Old Socialist comments

Headline: This is Not Propaganda — how the information revolution was hijacked

Sub-headline: The Soviet-born writer warns of the ‘war against reality’ being waged by populist forces

Pomerantsev reviewed by Thornhill is instructive in terms of political melodrama , at its most gruesome, with the murder of Maria del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, described in vivid detail. At least as vivid as Financial Time’s might permit! Mr. Thornhill’s two paragraphs describes Pomerantsev’s realization:

The impetus for the book came from Pomerantsev’s realisation that although he had left Russia in 2010, Russia had somehow followed him. Having dismissed the country as a “sideshow, a curio pickled in its own agonies”, he began to notice how many of its pathologies were popping up elsewhere.

“Suddenly the Russia I had known appeared to be all around me: a radical relativism which implies truth is unknowable, the future dissolving into nasty nostalgias, conspiracy replacing ideology, facts equating to fibs, conversation collapsing into mutual accusations that every argument is just information warfare . . . and just this sense that everything under one’s feet is constantly moving, inherently unstable, liquid.”

The review sifts focus for just a paragraph to recount, in highly condensed form, Pomerantsev’s father’s story and posits the notion ‘new narratives’.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the global financial crisis of 2008 exploded both narratives, throwing ideology up into the air. Smart populist politicians, including Putin and Donald Trump, have been quicker than many rivals to invent infectious new narratives, playing heavily on conspiracy theory and ethnic identity.

The story of the American intervention in the internal affairs of Russia, after the Fall of The Soviet Union, which placed manipulable drunkard Boris Yeltsin in power. That, then,  led directly to the rise of Putin is, and remains, subject to the political amnesia of both this author and his reviewer. Should ‘we’ thank Bill Clinton and Strobe Talbott for Putin, by way of the Yeltsin appointment?

To express it in terms of the current Political Mythology, why might Putin hate The West? Look to the infliction of  vengeful Market Discipline on the Russian People? Instead, what the reader receives from Pomerantsev, is another reheated version of The Populist Menace: this left-over has been reheated so many times, it smells like what it is fetid political garbage.

Old Socialist


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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