Politics in the age of the web
Would the Donald Trump phenomenon exist were it not for the web and social media? The answer is no. The eccentric mogul would not have got even as far as competing for the Republican party’s presidential nomination.
The unfounded conspiracy theories to which he resorts, the falsification of actual facts and his constant about-turns on key issues would have knocked him out of the race long before that.
Nevertheless, a large part of American society is not interested in whether Trump is lying or not. These voters don’t care about what The New York Times or the large television networks report and would rather lap up every unfiltered and sensationalist piece of information they read online.
The US economy, for instance, has made an impressive recovery in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, yet bone of Trump’s supporters believe this to be true.
The so-called “angry white voters” have found their voice in order to express their anger through social media networks. They are living in their own world and it’s very difficult for anyone who does not use conspiracy theories or raw, populist rhetoric, to communicate with them.
Trump will probably not get elected. The US’s demographic composition has changed and this favors Hillary Clinton. Even if Trump were to win the majority of “white” votes, he would still be unable to win the November election.
Yet the Trump phenomenon is here. Future historians will analyze the rise of anti-systemic political forces in Greece, Britain, France and elsewhere, as well as through the Internet, as a fact that upset the smooth course of history.
In Greece for instance, the crisis and the bailout coincided with a big boom in Internet use, which has played a pivotal role shaping public dialogue. What’s more, Greeks thrive on conspiracy theories and always like to believe that they know about something they believe certain people are hiding from the public.
History, of course, is not a field dedicated to one-dimensional interpretations. Indeed, the global anti-systemic tsunami has been reinforced because of major inequalities and a sense that the western middle class can no longer take its security and the prospect of improving its lot in life for granted.
We have entered a new chapter in global politics and if Trump is elected, the consequences will be enormous and far-reaching. But even if this doesn’t happen, we will go through a period of “Trumps” appearing – regularly and violently – in many western democracies.