An end in sight?
The much commented on ascendancy of right wing populism seems to have faltered of late. Election results in Austria, Portugal, Canada, Spain, Switzerland and significant municipal elections in Hungary and Turkey have thrown up a rather more complicated picture. Even Italy, whilst not holding an election this year, has shown the back door to Matteo Salvini’s unpleasant Northern League. Of course circumstances in each country differ, but the inevitably of right-wing populism rising up against the somewhat different right wing agenda of globalism may soon be facing a challenge to its own political legitimacy that it has so far evaded. Although a unique case without parallel elsewhere, we can also enjoy the sight of ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu losing his crown in Israel. But since his chief opponent, now called upon in a fit of wishful thinking by the President to seek to form an alternative government is just as nasty, so there’s no real change there.
As I said, the circumstances in each country are different, but I bet one common thread in most of the elections that pundits will be speculating on will be the role of social media and media more generally. Media pundits love nothing more than stories which inflate their own importance. I imagine when lefties attack the BBC for aping the Daily Mail line, chests will be puffed out enormously in Rothermere’s ranks. And social media commentators will be no better. It’s in everybody’s interests to boost the significance of their own brand, platform, whatever. But I wonder whether voters are so supine as to be taken in by the lies and distortions fed to them. They may well get sick of politics, not least Brexit, but over and above what the media is telling them, do they not respond first and foremost to what’s happening in their own lives? Over time, it is surely what happens in those lives that will decide the outcome of a nation’s fate, not the outpourings of the pundits. I don’t think the question has really ever been conclusively answered: do the media lead, or follow? Even if they hate the Sun, I suspect that many journalists from left or right would like to believe the import of the statement ‘It was the Sun wot won it.’ I imagine the Sun, the Mail and for that matter Fox news have reached maximum reach. Perhaps the cycle is about to turn.
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