populismo

Why we stopped trusting elites. By William Davies

William Davies, sociólogo y escritor británico

29 noviembre 2018 / THE GUARDIAN

More from this series: The new populism

For hundreds of years, modern societies have depended on something that is so ubiquitous, so ordinary, that we scarcely ever stop to notice it: trust. The fact that millions of people are able to believe the same things about reality is a remarkable achievement, but one that is more fragile than is often recognised.

At times when public institutions – including the media, government departments and professions – command widespread trust, we rarely question how they achieve this. And yet at the heart of successful liberal democracies lies a remarkable collective leap of faith: that when public officials, reporters, experts and politicians share a piece of information, they are presumed to be doing so in an honest fashion.

The notion that public figures and professionals are basically trustworthy has been integral to the health of representative democracies. After all, the very core of liberal democracy is the idea that a small group of people – politicians – can represent millions of others. If this system is to work, there must be a basic modicum of trust that the small group will act on behalf of the much larger one, at least some of the time. As the past decade has made clear, nothing turns voters against liberalism more rapidly than the appearance of corruption: the suspicion, valid or otherwise, that politicians are exploiting their power for their own private interest.

This isn’t just about politics. In fact, much of what we believe to be true about the world is actually taken on trust, via newspapers, experts, officials and broadcasters. While each of us sometimes witnesses events with our own eyes, there are plenty of apparently reasonable truths that we all accept without seeing. In order to believe that the economy has grown by 1%, or to find out about latest medical advances, we take various things on trust; we don’t automatically doubt the moral character of the researchers or reporters involved.

Much of the time, the edifice that we refer to as “truth” is really an investment of trust. Consider how we come to know the facts about climate change: scientists carefully collect and analyse data, before drafting a paper for anonymous review by other scientists, who assume that the data is authentic. If published, the findings are shared with journalists in press releases, drafted by university press offices. We expect that these findings are then reported honestly and without distortion by broadcasters and newspapers. Civil servants draft ministerial speeches that respond to these facts, including details on what the government has achieved to date.

A modern liberal society is a complex web of trust relations, held together by reports, accounts, records and testimonies. Such systems have always faced political risks and threats. The template of modern expertise can be traced back to the second half of the 17th century, when scientists and merchants first established techniques for recording and sharing facts and figures. These were soon adopted by governments, for purposes of tax collection and rudimentary public finance. But from the start, strict codes of conduct had to be established to ensure that officials and experts were not seeking personal gain or glory (for instance through exaggerating their scientific discoveries), and were bound by strict norms of honesty.

But regardless of how honest parties may be in their dealings with one another, the cultural homogeneity and social intimacy of these gentlemanly networks and clubs has always been grounds for suspicion. Right back to the mid-17th century, the bodies tasked with handling public knowledge have always privileged white male graduates, living in global cities and university towns. This does not discredit the knowledge they produce – but where things get trickier is when that homogeneity starts to appear to be a political identity, with a shared set of political goals. This is what is implied by the concept of “elites”: that purportedly separate domains of power – media, business, politics, law, academia – are acting in unison. Advertisement

A further threat comes from individuals taking advantage of their authority for personal gain. Systems that rely on trust are always open to abuse by those seeking to exploit them. It is a key feature of modern administrations that they use written documents to verify things – but there will always be scope for records to be manipulated, suppressed or fabricated. There is no escaping that possibility altogether. This applies to many fields: at a certain point, the willingness to trust that a newspaper is honestly reporting what a police officer claims to have been told by a credible witness, for example, relies on a leap of faith.

A trend of declining trust has been underway across the western world for many years, even decades, as copious survey evidence attests. Trust, and its absence, became a preoccupation for policymakers and business leaders during the 1990s and early 2000s. They feared that shrinking trust led to higher rates of crime and less cohesive communities, producing costs that would be picked up by the state.

“What nobody foresaw was that, when trust sinks beneath a certain point, many people may come to view the entire spectacle of politics and public life as a sham.”

What nobody foresaw was that, when trust sinks beneath a certain point, many people may come to view the entire spectacle of politics and public life as a sham. This happens not because trust in general declines, but because key public figures – notably politicians and journalists – are perceived as untrustworthy. It is those figures specifically tasked with representing society, either as elected representatives or as professional reporters, who have lost credibility.

To understand the crisis liberal democracy faces today – whether we identify this primarily in terms of “populism” or “post-truth” – it’s not enough to simply bemoan the rising cynicism of the public. We need also to consider some of the reasons why trust has been withdrawn. The infrastructure of fact has been undermined in part by a combination of technology and market forces – but we must seriously reckon with the underlying truth of the populists’ charge against the establishment today. Too often, the rise of insurgent political parties and demagogues is viewed as the source of liberalism’s problems, rather than as a symptom. But by focusing on trust, and the failure of liberal institutions to sustain it, we get a clearer sense of why this is happening now.

The problem today is that, across a number of crucial areas of public life, the basic intuitions of populists have been repeatedly verified. One of the main contributors to this has been the spread of digital technology, creating vast data trails with the latent potential to contradict public statements, and even undermine entire public institutions. Whereas it is impossible to conclusively prove that a politician is morally innocent or that a news report is undistorted, it is far easier to demonstrate the opposite. Scandals, leaks, whistleblowing and revelations of fraud all serve to confirm our worst suspicions. While trust relies on a leap of faith, distrust is supported by ever-mounting piles of evidence. And in Britain, this pile has been expanding much faster than many of us have been prepared to admit.


Confronted by the rise of populist parties and leaders, some commentators have described the crisis facing liberalism in largely economic terms – as a revolt among those “left behind” by inequality and globalisation. Another camp sees it primarily as the expression of cultural anxieties surrounding identity and immigration. There is some truth in both, of course – but neither gets to the heart of the trust crisis that populists exploit so ruthlessly. A crucial reason liberalism is in danger right now is that the basic honesty of mainstream politicians, journalists and senior officials is no longer taken for granted.

There are copious explanations for Trump, Brexit and so on, but insufficient attention to what populists are actually saying, which focuses relentlessly on the idea of self-serving “elites” maintaining a status quo that primarily benefits them. On the right, Nigel Farage has accused individual civil servants of seeking to sabotage Brexit for their own private ends. On the left, Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly refers to Britain’s “rigged” economic system. The promise to crack down on corruption and private lobbying is integral to the pitch made by figures such as Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or Viktor Orbán.

One of the great political riddles of recent years is that declining trust in “elites” is often encouraged and exploited by figures of far more dubious moral character – not to mention far greater wealth – than the technocrats and politicians being ousted. On the face of it, it would seem odd that a sense of “elite” corruption would play into the hands of hucksters and blaggards such as Donald Trump or Arron Banks. But the authority of these figures owes nothing to their moral character, and everything to their perceived willingness to blow the whistle on corrupt “insiders” dominating the state and media.

Liberals – including those who occupy “elite” positions – may comfort themselves with the belief that these charges are ill-founded or exaggerated, or else that the populists offer no solutions to the failures they identify. After all, Trump has not “drained the swamp” of Washington lobbying. But this is to miss the point of how such rhetoric works, which is to chip away at the core faith on which liberalism depends, namely that power is being used in ways that represent the public interest, and that the facts published by the mainstream media are valid representations of reality.

“Populists target various centres of power, including dominant political parties, mainstream media, big business and the institutions of the state, including the judiciary.”

Populists target various centres of power, including dominant political parties, mainstream media, big business and the institutions of the state, including the judiciary. The chilling phrase “enemies of the people” has recently been employed by Donald Trump to describe those broadcasters and newspapers he dislikes (such as CNN and the New York Times), and by the Daily Mail to describe high court judges, following their 2016 ruling that Brexit would require parliamentary consent. But on a deeper level, whether it is the judiciary, the media or the independent civil service that is being attacked is secondary to a more important allegation: that public life in general has become fraudulent.

Nigel Farage campaigning with Donald Trump in 2016.
Nigel Farage campaigning with Donald Trump in 2016. Photograph: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

How does this allegation work? One aspect of it is to dispute the very possibility that a judge, reporter or expert might act in a disinterested, objective fashion. For those whose authority depends on separating their public duties from their personal feelings, having their private views or identities publicised serves as an attack on their credibility. But another aspect is to gradually blur the distinctions between different varieties of expertise and authority, with the implication that politicians, journalists, judges, regulators and officials are effectively all working together.

It is easy for rival professions to argue that they have little in common with each other, and are often antagonistic to each other. Ostensibly, these disparate centres of expertise and power hold each other in check in various ways, producing a pluralist system of checks and balances. Twentieth-century defenders of liberalism, such as the American political scientist Robert Dahl, often argued that it didn’t matter how much power was concentrated in the hands of individual authorities, as long as no single political entity was able to monopolise power. The famous liberal ideal of a “separation of powers” (distinguishing executive, legislative and judicial branches of government), so influential in the framing of the US constitution, could persist so long as different domains of society hold one another up to critical scrutiny.

But one thing that these diverse professions and authorities do have in common is that they trade primarily in words and symbols. By lumping together journalists, judges, experts and politicians as a single homogeneous “liberal elite”, it is possible to treat them all as indulging in a babble of jargon, political correctness and, ultimately, lies. Their status as public servants is demolished once their claim to speak honestly is thrown into doubt. One way in which this is done is by bringing their private opinions and tastes before the public, something that social media and email render far easier. Tensions and contradictions between the public face of, say, a BBC reporter, and their private opinions and feelings, are much easier to discover in the age of Twitter.

“Whether in the media, politics or academia, liberal professions suffer a vulnerability that a figure such as Trump doesn’t, in that their authority hangs on their claim to speak the truth.”

Whether in the media, politics or academia, liberal professions suffer a vulnerability that a figure such as Trump doesn’t, in that their authority hangs on their claim to speak the truth. A recent sociological paper called The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue, by US academics Oliver Hahl, Minjae Kim and Ezra Zuckerman Sivan, draws a distinction between two types of lies. The first, “special access lies”, may be better termed “insider lies”. This is dishonesty from those trusted to truthfully report facts, who abuse that trust by failing to state what they privately know to be true. (The authors give the example of Bill Clinton’s infamous claim that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”.)

The second, which they refer to as “common knowledge lies”, are the kinds of lies told by Donald Trump about the size of his election victory or the crowds at his inauguration, or the Vote Leave campaign’s false claims about sending “£350m a week to the EU”. These lies do not pretend to be bound by the norm of honesty in the first place, and the listener can make up their own mind what to make of them.

What the paper shows is that, where politics comes to be viewed as the domain of “insider” liars, there is a seductive authenticity, even a strange kind of honesty, about the “common knowledge” liar. The rise of highly polished, professional politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton exacerbated the sense that politics is all about strategic concealment of the truth, something that the Iraq war seemed to confirm as much as anything. Trump or Farage may have a reputation for fabricating things, but they don’t (rightly or wrongly) have a reputation for concealing things, which grants them a form of credibility not available to technocrats or professional politicians.

At the same time, and even more corrosively, when elected representatives come to be viewed as “insider liars”, it turns out that other professions whose job it is to report the truth – journalists, experts, officials – also suffer a slump in trust. Indeed, the distinctions between all these fact-peddlers start to look irrelevant in the eyes of those who’ve given up on the establishment altogether. It is this type of all-encompassing disbelief that creates the opportunity for rightwing populism in particular. Trump voters are more than twice as likely to distrust the media as those who voted for Clinton in 2016, according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, which adds that the four countries currently suffering the most “extreme trust losses” are Italy, Brazil, South Africa and the US.

It’s one thing to measure public attitudes, but quite another to understand what shapes them. Alienation and disillusionment develop slowly, and without any single provocation. No doubt economic stagnation and soaring inequality have played a role – but we should not discount the growing significance of scandals that appear to discredit the honesty and objectivity of “liberal elites”. The misbehaviour of elites did not “cause” Brexit, but it is striking, in hindsight, how little attention was paid to the accumulation of scandal and its consequences for trust in the establishment.


The 2010 edition of the annual British Social Attitudes survey included an ominous finding. Trust in politicians, already low, had suffered a fresh slump, with a majority of people saying politicians never tell the truth. But at the same time, interest in politics had mysteriously risen.

To whom would this newly engaged section of the electorate turn if they had lost trust in “politicians”? One answer was clearly Ukip, who experienced their greatest electoral gains in the years that followed, to the point of winning the most seats in the 2014 elections for the European parliament. Ukip’s surge, which initially appeared to threaten the Conservative party, was integral to David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on EU membership. One of the decisive (and unexpected) factors in the referendum result was the number of voters who went to the polls for the first time, specifically to vote leave.

What might have prompted the combination of angry disillusionment and intensifying interest that was visible in the 2010 survey? It clearly predated the toughest years of austerity. But there was clearly one event that did more than any other to weaken trust in politicians: the MPs’ expenses scandal, which blew up in May 2009 thanks to a drip-feed of revelations published by the Daily Telegraph.

Following as it did so soon after a disaster of world-historic proportions – the financial crisis – the full significance of the expenses scandal may have been forgotten. But its ramifications were vast. For one thing, it engulfed many of the highest reaches of power in Westminster: the Speaker of the House of Commons, the home secretary, the secretary of state for communities and local government and the chief secretary to the treasury all resigned. Not only that, but the rot appeared to have infected all parties equally, validating the feeling that politicians had more in common with each other (regardless of party loyalties) than they did with decent, ordinary people.

Many of the issues that “elites” deal with are complex, concerning law, regulation and economic analysis. We can all see the fallout of the financial crisis, for instance, but the precise causes are disputed and hard to fathom. By contrast, everybody understands expense claims, and everybody knows lying and exaggerating are among the most basic moral failings; even a child understands they are wrong. This may be unfair to the hundreds of honest MPs and to the dozens whose misdemeanours fell into a murky area around the “spirit” of the rules. But the sense of a mass stitch-up was deeply – and understandably – entrenched.

The other significant thing about the expenses scandal was the way it set a template for a decade of elite scandals – most of which also involved lies, leaks and dishonest denials. One year later, there was another leak from a vast archive of government data: in 2010, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of US military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. With the assistance of newspapers including the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the Guardian and Le Monde, these “war logs” disclosed horrifying details about the conduct of US forces and revealed the Pentagon had falsely denied knowledge of various abuses. While some politicians expressed moral revulsion with what had been exposed, the US and British governments blamed WikiLeaks for endangering their troops, and the leaker, Chelsea Manning, was jailed for espionage.

Rupert Murdoch on his way to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry in 2012.
Rupert Murdoch on his way to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry in 2012. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

In 2011, the phone-hacking scandal put the press itself under the spotlight. It was revealed that senior figures in News International and the Metropolitan police had long been aware of the extent of phone-hacking practices – and they had lied about how much they knew. Among those implicated was the prime minister’s communications director, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who was forced to resign his post and later jailed. By the end of 2011, the News of the World had been closed down, the Leveson inquiry was underway, and the entire Murdoch empire was shaking.

The biggest scandal of 2012 was a different beast altogether, involving unknown men manipulating a number that very few people had even heard of. The number in question, the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, is meant to represent the rate at which banks are willing to loan to each other. What was surreal, in an age of complex derivatives and high-frequency trading algorithms, was that this number was calculated on the basis of estimates declared by each bank on a daily basis, and accepted purely on trust. The revelation that a handful of brokers had conspired to alter Libor for private gain (with possible costs to around 250,000 UK mortgage-holders, among others) may have been difficult to fully comprehend, but it gave the not unreasonable impression of an industry enriching itself in a criminal fashion at the public’s expense. Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays, the bank at the centre of the conspiracy, resigned in July 2012.

Towards the end of that year, the media was caught in another prolonged crisis, this time at the BBC. Horror greeted the broadcast of the ITV documentary The Other Side of Jimmy Savile in October 2012. How many people had known about his predatory sexual behaviour, and for how long? Why had the police abandoned earlier investigations? And why had BBC Newsnight dropped its own film about Savile, due to be broadcast shortly after his death in 2011? The police swiftly established Operation Yewtree to investigate historic sexual abuse allegations, while the BBC established independent commissions into what had gone wrong. But a sense lingered that neither the BBC nor the police had really wanted to know the truth of these matters for the previous 40 years.

It wasn’t long before it was the turn of the corporate world. In September 2014, a whistleblower revealed that Tesco had exaggerated its half-yearly profits by £250m, increasing the figure by around a third. An accounting fiddle on this scale clearly had roots at a senior managerial level. Sure enough, four senior executives were suspended the same month and three were charged with fraud two years later. A year later, it emerged that Volkswagen had systematically and deliberately tinkered with emissions controls in their vehicles, so as to dupe regulators in tests, but then pollute liberally the rest of the time. The CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned.

“We didn’t really learn anything from WikiLeaks we didn’t already presume to be true,” the philosopher Slavoj Žižek observed in 2014. “But it is one thing to know it in general and another to get concrete data.” The nature of all these scandals suggests the emergence of a new form of “facts”, in the shape of a leaked archive – one that, crucially, does not depend on trusting the secondhand report of a journalist or official. These revelations are powerful and consequential precisely because they appear to directly confirm our fears and suspicions. Resentment towards “liberal elites” would no doubt brew even in the absence of supporting evidence. But when that evidence arises, things become far angrier, even when the data – such as Hillary Clinton’s emails – isn’t actually very shocking.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of the scandals of the past decade, nor are they all of equal significance. But viewing them together provides a better sense of how the suspicions of populists cut through. Whether or not we continue to trust in politicians, journalists or officials, we have grown increasingly used to this pattern in which a curtain is dramatically pulled back, to reveal those who have been lying to or defrauding the public.

Another pattern also begins to emerge. It’s not just that isolated individuals are unmasked as corrupt or self-interested (something that is as old as politics), but that the establishment itself starts to appear deceitful and dubious. The distinctive scandals of the 21st century are a combination of some very basic and timeless moral failings (greed and dishonesty) with technologies of exposure that expose malpractice on an unprecedented scale, and with far more dramatic results.

Perhaps the most important feature of all these revelations was that they were definitely scandals, and not merely failures: they involved deliberate efforts to defraud or mislead. Several involved sustained cover-ups, delaying the moment of truth for as long as possible.

Several of the scandals ended with high profile figures behind bars. Jail terms satisfy some of the public demand that the “elites” pay for their dishonesty, but they don’t repair the trust that has been damaged. On the contrary, there’s a risk that they affirm the cry for retribution, after which the quest for punishment is only ramped up further. Chants of “lock her up” continue to reverberate around Trump rallies.

In addition to their conscious and deliberate nature, a second striking feature of these scandals was the ambiguous role played by the media. On the one hand, the reputation of the media has taken a pummelling over the past decade, egged on by populists and conspiracy theorists who accuse the “mainstream media” of being allied to professional political leaders, and who now have the benefit of social media through which to spread this message.

The moral authority of newspapers may never have been high, but the grisly revelations that journalists hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler represented a new low in the public standing of the press. The Leveson inquiry, followed soon after by the Savile revelations and Operation Yewtree, generated a sense of a media class who were adept at exposing others, but equally expert at concealing the truth of their own behaviours.

On the other hand, it was newspapers and broadcasters that enabled all of this to come to light at all. The extent of phone hacking was eventually exposed by the Guardian, the MPs’ expenses by the Telegraph, Jimmy Savile by ITV, and the “war logs” reported with the aid of several newspapers around the world simultaneously.

But the media was playing a different kind of role from the one traditionally played by journalists and newspapers, with very different implications for the status of truth in society. A backlog of data and allegations had built up in secret, until eventually a whistle was blown. An archive existed that the authorities refused to acknowledge, until they couldn’t resist the pressure to do so any longer. Journalists and whistleblowers were instrumental in removing the pressure valve, but from that point on, truth poured out unpredictably. While such torrents are underway, there is no way of knowing how far they may spread or how long they may last.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton in Belfast in April 2018
Tony Blair and Bill Clinton in Belfast in April. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The era of “big data” is also the era of “leaks”. Where traditional “sleaze” could topple a minister, several of the defining scandals of the past decade have been on a scale so vast that they exceed any individual’s responsibility. The Edward Snowden revelations of 2013, the Panama Papers leak of 2015 and the HSBC files (revealing organised tax evasion) all involved the release of tens of thousands or even millions of documents. Paper-based bureaucracies never faced threats to their legitimacy on this scale.

The power of commissions and inquiries to make sense of so much data is not to be understated, nor is the integrity of those newspapers and whistleblowers that helped bring misdemeanours to light. In cases such as MPs’ expenses, some newspapers even invited their readers to help search these vast archives for treasure troves, like human algorithms sorting through data. But it is hard to imagine that the net effect of so many revelations was to build trust in any publicly visible institutions. On the contrary, the discovery that “elites” have been blocking access to a mine of incriminating data is perfect fodder for conspiracy theories. In his 2010 memoir, A Journey, Tony Blair confessed that legislating for freedom of information was one of his biggest regrets, which gave a glimpse of how transparency is viewed from the centre of power.

Following the release of the war logs by WikiLeaks, nobody in any position of power claimed that the data wasn’t accurate (it was, after all, the data, and not a journalistic report). Nor did they offer any moral justification for what was revealed. Defence departments were left making the flimsiest of arguments – that it was better for everyone if they didn’t know how war was conducted. It may well be that the House of Commons was not fairly represented by the MPs’ expenses scandal, that most City brokers are honest, or that the VW emissions scam was a one-off within the car industry. But scandals don’t work through producing fair or representative pictures of the world; they do so by blowing the lid on hidden truths and lies. Where whistleblowing and leaking become the dominant form of truth-telling, the authority of professional truth-tellers – reporters, experts, professionals, broadcasters – is thrown into question.


The term “illiberal democracy” is now frequently invoked to describe states such as Hungary under Viktor Orbán or Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In contrast to liberal democracy, this model of authoritarian populism targets the independence of the judiciary and the media, ostensibly on behalf of “the people”.

Brexit has been caused partly by distrust in “liberal elites”, but the anxiety is that it is also accelerating a drift towards “illiberalism”. There is a feeling at large, albeit among outspoken remainers, that the BBC has treated the leave campaign and Brexit itself with kid gloves, for fear of provoking animosity. More worrying was the discovery by openDemocracy in October that the Metropolitan police were delaying their investigation into alleged breaches of electoral law by the leave campaign due to what a Met spokesperson called “political sensitivities”. The risk at the present juncture is that key civic institutions will seek to avoid exercising scrutiny and due process, for fear of upsetting their opponents.

Britain is not an “illiberal democracy”, but the credibility of our elites is still in trouble, and efforts to placate their populist opponents may only make matters worse. At the more extreme end of the spectrum, the far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, has used his celebrity and social media reach to cast doubt on the judiciary and the BBC at once.

Yaxley-Lennon has positioned himself as a freedom fighter, revealing “the truth” about Muslim men accused of grooming underage girls by violating legal rules that restrict reporting details of ongoing trials. Yaxley-Lennon was found guilty of contempt of court and jailed (he was later released after the court of appeal ordered a retrial, and the case has been referred to the attorney general), but this only deepened his appeal for those who believed the establishment was complicit in a cover-up, and ordinary people were being deliberately duped.

The political concern right now is that suspicions of this nature – that the truth is being deliberately hidden by an alliance of “elites” – are no longer the preserve of conspiracy theorists, but becoming increasingly common. Our current crisis has too many causes to enumerate here, and it is impossible to apportion blame for a collective collapse of trust – which is as much a symptom of changes in media technologies as it is of any moral failings on the part of elites.

But what is emerging now is what the social theorist Michel Foucault would have called a new “regime of truth” – a different way of organising knowledge and trust in society. The advent of experts and government administrators in the 17th century created the platform for a distinctive liberal solution to this problem, which rested on the assumption that knowledge would reside in public records, newspapers, government files and journals. But once the integrity of these people and these instruments is cast into doubt, an opportunity arises for a new class of political figures and technologies to demand trust instead.

The project that was launched over three centuries ago, of trusting elite individuals to know, report and judge things on our behalf, may not be viable in the long term, at least not in its existing form. It is tempting to indulge the fantasy that we can reverse the forces that have undermined it, or else batter them into retreat with an even bigger arsenal of facts. But this is to ignore the more fundamental ways in which the nature of trust is changing.

The main feature of the emerging regime is that truth is now assumed to reside in hidden archives of data, rather than in publicly available facts. This is what is affirmed by scandals such as MPs’ expenses and the leak of the Iraq war logs – and more recently in the #MeToo movement, which also occurred through a sudden and voluminous series of revelations, generating a crisis of trust. The truth was out there, just not in the public domain. In the age of email, social media and cameraphones, it is now common sense to assume that virtually all social activity is generating raw data, which exists out there somewhere. Truth becomes like the lava below the earth’s crust, which periodically bursts through as a volcano.

What role does this leave for the traditional, analogue purveyors of facts and figures? What does it mean to “report” the news in an age of reflexive disbelief? Newspapers have been grappling with this question for some time now; some have decided to refashion themselves as portals to the raw data, or curators of other people’s content. But it is no longer intuitively obvious to the public why they should be prepared to take a journalist’s word for something, when they can witness the thing itself in digital form. There may be good answers to these questions, but they are not obvious ones.

Instead, a new type of heroic truth-teller has emerged in tandem with these trends. This is the individual who appears brave enough to call bullshit on the rest of the establishment – whether that be government agencies, newspapers, business, political parties or anything else. Some are whistleblowers, others are political leaders, and others are more like conspiracy theorists or trolls. The problem is that everyone has a different heroic truth-teller, because we’re all preoccupied by different bullshit. There is no political alignment between figures such as Chelsea Manning and Nigel Farage; what they share is only a willingness to defy the establishment and break consensus.

If a world where everyone has their own truth-tellers sounds dangerously like relativism, that’s because it is. But the roots of this new and often unsettling “regime of truth” don’t only lie with the rise of populism or the age of big data. Elites have largely failed to understand that this crisis is about trust rather than facts – which may be why they did not detect the rapid erosion of their own credibility.

Unless liberal institutions and their defenders are willing to reckon with their own inability to sustain trust, the events of the past decade will remain opaque to them. And unless those institutions can rediscover aspects of the original liberal impulse – to keep different domains of power separate, and put the disinterested pursuit of knowledge before the pursuit of profit – then the present trends will only intensify, and no quantity of facts will be sufficient to resist. Power and authority will accrue to a combination of decreasingly liberal states and digital platforms – interrupted only by the occasional outcry as whistles are blown and outrages exposed.

• William Davies is a sociologist and political economist at Goldsmiths. His latest book is Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World

• Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Vea toda la serie de THE GUARDIAN: The new populism
–HOW TO SPOT A POPULIST
–CLINTON, BLAIR, RENZI: HOW WE LOST AND HOW TO FIGHT BACK


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Debate sobre populismo. Íñigo Errejón vs. José María Lassalle

Un debate pendiente, y pocas veces llevado a cabo con altura: liberalismo vs. populismo. Reproducimos tres artículos sobre el tema.

Segunda Vuelta

En el ojo del huracán: populistas frente a liberales. De José Ángel Mañas

Lassalle y Errejón deberían discutir sus argumentos rebajando el nivel de abstracción.

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José Ángel Mañas, autor

José Ángel Mañas, 16 septiembre 2017 / EL PAIS

Hablar, comunicar, debatir. Esa es la esencia de la convivencia pacífica. Lo dice el refranero: hablando se entiende la gente. Y algo así emblemiza, a un nivel superior, el parlamentarismo democrático. El “menos malo de los sistemas políticos” se precia de confrontar, en un espacio lo más respetuoso posible, los diferentes discursos que conviven en una época, con la idea de que tras la confrontación dialéctica, una mayoría cualificada en representación del conjunto de la población tome, en conciencia, la mejor decisión e, idealmente, dé una solución civilizada a los conflictos. Con todo lo cuestionada que está la democracia deliberativa, ahí seguimos.

el paisViene esta perogrullada a cuento del artículo que acaba de escribir en este medio Íñigo Errejón, en respuesta al trabajo titulado Contra el Populismo, recién publicado por José María Lassalle. Es este un corto ensayo (“breve, ágil y vigoroso”, según el dirigente podemita) en el que Lassalle se enfrenta, utilizando toda su artillería retórica, con el que está considerado, desde el punto de vista liberal, como el gran peligro de nuestra época. Lassalle, hombre elegante, pensador inteligente y liberal convencido, critica desde su posición ilustrada, de un moderantismo inequívoco, el fenómeno populista. Su punto fuerte es su convicción ciega en unos valores que han demostrado, a lo largo de más de dos siglos, una resistencia a prueba de bombas.

Es el suyo un liberalismo, entendido en el sentido más amplio de la palabra, que debe ser ubicado, para su comprensión cabal, en la corriente de pensamiento antiabsolutista que provocó la caída del Antiguo Régimen. Liberalismo político imbricado hasta el tuétano en nuestras democracias actuales, profundamente consensuado y que poco o nada tiene que ver con el liberalismo econocimicista que más bien tendríamos que llamar anarquía de mercado, a juzgar por su funcionamiento, más que otra cosa. La confusión del liberalismo económico con el político ha sido la circunstancia que más daño ha hecho a los liberales en los últimos años. A la hora de rechazarlo, no obstante, conviene no tirar el bebé con el agua sucia del baño, como dicen los franceses.

Frente a esta posición previsible de Lassalle, se ha erigido en campeón de la causa populista Íñigo Errejón, como portavoz de ese núcleo duro intelectual del mundo podemita que, a rebufo de Laclau, entiende el populismo no como algo negativo sino como el momento democrático por excelencia. Ese momento, en las “épocas calientes” ackermanianas a que se refiere Errejón, en el cual un pueblo, insatisfecho con las instituciones incapaces de dar solución a sus demandas, se convierte en actor totalitario de una subversión que aspira a ser fundacional. Plebe usurpando el demos, en términos laclausianos, gracias a la articulación unitaria de los diferentes colectivos en conflicto con la hegemonía neoliberal que, unidos en esa relación de equivalencia (los señores podemitas me corregirán si no he entendido bien), deberían ser capaces de imponer una nueva hegemonía de signo no sé si socialista o popular. Ahí ya me pierdo.

 

“La confusión del liberalismo económico con el político
ha sido la circunstancia que más daño ha hecho
a los liberales en los últimos años”

Y eso es precisamente a lo que iba. Los dos autores citados están de acuerdo en que este, populismo vs. liberalismo, es el gran debate de nuestra época. Y yo, con mis lecturas políticas de autodidacta en esas alturas del pensamiento donde se dirimen las grandes cuestiones históricas, estoy dispuesto a concedérselo, y tengo ganas de presenciar el debate. Y, sin embargo, el problema es que me cuesta horrores entender la postura populista, no por otra cosa sino por el lenguaje tan enrevesado que manejan sus defensores. Falta, me parece a mí, mucha pedagogía.

Adolecen Errejón y los suyos de una oscuridad conceptual vertiginosa. No en balde chupa todo este -llamémosle por su nombre- posmarxismo de las dos jergas más influyentes y oscuras del siglo XX: el psicoanálisis y el propio marxismo, tanto en su vertiente original como en sus sucesivas derivaciones. El resultado es que, estando posiblemente acertados en el fondo de la cuestión, esa parte de razón se desvirtúa por el lenguaje tan tremendamente enmarañado que manejan. No hay sino que echarle un vistazo a los textos del tan cacareado Zizek, pese a sus ejemplos poperos, de engañosa facilidad (los ejemplos, no el pensamiento).

En definitiva, yo quiero que se abra este debate, sí, y quiero ver discutir a autores, como Lassalle y Errejón, familiarizados con los pensadores que están en el ojo del huracán de lo que está sucediendo ahora mismo. Lo único que les ruego, por favor, señores, es que en aras de que podamos entenderles, rebajen su nivel de abstracción y nos hagan inteligibles sus argumentos y reflexiones al común de los mortales. En definitiva, Íñigo, que no he entendido ni la mitad de lo que escribes en tu artículo. ¿Me lo podrías volver a explicar en cristiano?

libro

 

 

Artillería intelectual contra el populismo. De Íñigo Errejón

José María Lassalle firma un ensayo vigoroso contra un “fantasma de contornos imprecisos”.

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Íñigo Errejón

Íñigo Errejón, politólogo y dirigente de PODEMOS

Íñigo Errejón, 8 septiembre 2017 / EL PAIS

José María Lassalle ha escrito un ensayo breve, ágil y vigoroso dedicado a combatir la que en su opinión es la principal amenaza para las democracias contemporáneas, un fantasma de contornos imprecisos que en los últimos años inspira ríos de tinta, gruesos titu­lares y cataratas de adjetivos: el fantasma del populismo. Con un buen olfato intelectual y un explícito compromiso liberal y conservador, Lassalle diagnostica la discusión fundamental de nuestros días: para sectores cada vez más amplios de nuestras sociedades, las certezas de antaño, las promesas de seguridad y prosperidad, están hoy rotas y se han llevado por delante con ellas la confianza de los gobernados en las élites políticas y económicas.

el paisA partir de aquí, y todo en virtud del combate de la demagogia y las “bajas pasiones”, Lassalle no escatima en recursos e imágenes para que compartamos su inquietud: “Entre los escombros de la fe en el progreso (…) repta silenciosa y oculta a los ojos de la opinión pública la serpiente de un populismo que puede convertirse en la columna vertebral de un nuevo leviatán totalitario”. Casi nada. A lo largo del ensayo, la ausencia de demostraciones empíricas que permitan contrastar la encendida prosa con la realidad es compensada por más andanadas retóricas, hasta dibujar un paisaje tenebroso en el que causas y consecuencias se confunden.

El autor acierta en su lectura de la sensación generalizada de fin de ciclo, de pacto social y político resquebrajado. Pero indaga poco o nada en sus causas, en el tipo de políticas concretas que han sustituido la conciencia de los derechos por el miedo al futuro, en la voladura de las instituciones o las políticas públicas que tenían como objetivo limitar el poder de los más fuertes, elevar las oportunidades de los más débiles y garantizar unas reglas del juego compartidas por toda la comunidad política. Este marco de convivencia, en el libro de Lassalle, habría volado por los aires fruto de una “crisis” sin nombres ni apellidos, sin decisiones concretas con ganadores y perdedores de las mismas. Un fenómeno al margen de la política, sobre el que no cabe hacerse preguntas políticas ni, por tanto, pensar alternativas, igual que sucede, por ejemplo, ante un huracán. Así que el problema pasa a ser que sobre ese fenómeno han surgido fuerzas políticas que para Lassalle son más bien “estados de ánimo”, por supuesto irracionales: rencor, venganza, miedo. La fractura social, la jibarización de la democracia por poderes privados no sometidos a control alguno no existían hasta que despiadados tribunos de la plebe la han señalado, de tal manera que el problema es señalarla, no su existencia. Por poner un ejemplo concreto: el desprestigio de las instituciones no tendría tanto que ver con su uso patrimonial —o saqueador— por parte de las élites tradicionales como por la artillería discursiva del populismo.

“El autor acierta en su lectura de la sensación
de fin de ciclo, de pacto social y político resquebrajado.
Pero indaga poco o nada en sus causas”

El constitucionalista norteamericano Ackerman señala que la historia pasa por “épocas frías”, durante las cuales la institucionalidad existente contiene en lo fundamental las esperanzas y demandas de la población, y por “épocas calientes”, de carácter más bien fundacionalista, en las que un excedente popular no contenido o satisfecho en la institucionalidad existente reclama con más o menos éxito la reconstrucción del interés general y una arquitectura institucional acorde. Esto no es resultado de malignas y demagógicas conspiraciones, sino la esencia de la política: los fines de una comunidad, su propia composición, no están dados y es en torno a su definición que se articula la disputa y el pluralismo. También los “antipopulistas” elaboran relatos que explican la realidad, atribuyen responsabilidades, reparten posiciones e identifican a un “nosotros” que quieren mayoritario. La diferencia es que ellos lo niegan.

Nuestros sistemas políticos contemporáneos son hijos de una convergencia, no exenta de conflictos, entre el principio democrático y el principio liberal. Ambos han convivido en un equilibrio siempre inestable. En los últimos tiempos, ese equilibrio se ha escorado claramente hacia el principio liberal por la erosión de los derechos sociales y el estrechamiento de la soberanía popular. De ahí procede el desencanto y la brecha entre gobernantes y gobernados. Sin embargo, a los intentos de reequilibrar esta convivencia Lassalle los mira como afanes revanchistas y rencorosos propios de perdedores. Su solución es protegerse aún más del componente popular y profundizar el desequilibrio en favor del liberalismo. Salir del hoyo cavando.

Una de las mejores hebras del libro es el análisis de la tensión entre la “excepcionalidad” del momento de construcción popular y la “normalidad” del enfriamiento institucional. El problema es que Lassalle no la puede desarrollar pues para él no hay tensión, sino contraposición moral. A pesar de todas las evidencias empíricas, para él se trata de dos fuerzas antagónicas y no de una tensión que genera un movimiento pendular. Al negar todo posible entendimiento entre el momento popular y el momento republicano, Lassalle nos devuelve en lo teórico a la dicotomía simplificada liberalismo versus comunitarismo, y en lo político nos condena a la inmovilidad y la mistificación de lo existente como lo único posible.

Siempre que, tras un momento de dislocación y crisis, hay una nueva reunión de voluntades, un “volver a barajar las cartas”, aparece el pueblo, la gente o el país, como nueva voluntad colectiva. Es el momento fundacional de we the people que a los conservadores de distinto signo ideológico fascina cuando está escrito en un código o expuesto en un museo de historia, pero horroriza cuando asoma la cabeza en el presente. El “pueblo”, por tanto, es entonces algo así como un imposible imprescindible: imposible porque la diversidad de nuestras sociedades —­afortunadamente— nunca se cancela o cierra en una voluntad general plenamente unitaria y permanente, pero al mismo tiempo imprescindible, porque no existen sociedades sin mitos, relatos y metas compartidas en torno a las cuales construir orden y anticipar soluciones a los principales problemas del momento. La hegemonía es la capacidad dirigente para articular un nuevo horizonte general que incluya también a los adversarios. Y hoy está en disputa, lo que inquieta a sus tradicionales detentadores hasta el punto de llevarles a escribir encendidos ensayos.

Los conservadores siempre han desconfiado de “los riesgos que conlleva la arquitectura masiva e igualitaria de la democracia” y en los años dorados del neoliberalismo acariciaron la utopía regresiva de establecer “democracias sin demos”: de electorados y consumidores, fragmentados, solos frente a los grandes poderes, sin pasiones ni identidades compartidas, que se reúnen sólo dentro de los límites y cuando son oficialmente convocados: exorcizar la comunidad. Tal cosa nunca fue posible, pero el estallido de la crisis financiera y el devastador resultado de su gestión en favor de intereses de minorías privilegiadas hacen hoy inaplazable la discusión que de manera certera identifica Lassalle: la refundación democrática de nuestras comunidades políticas para paliar la incertidumbre, la precariedad, la desprotección y el sentido de injusticia e impunidad de los poderosos que se abaten sobre nosotros.

Parece difícil negar que hoy atravesamos un momento caliente. La encrucijada es si sabremos encauzarlo institucionalmente o elegiremos condenarlo moralmente —“los míos son actores políticos legítimos, los otros son un estado de ánimo, una suspensión de la razón”—. Nos jugamos que el impulso popular sirva para ensanchar y robustecer nuestras democracias o que se estrelle contra unas élites atrincheradas y temerosas del futuro… e incluso de una “sobredimensión de la esencia popular de la democracia”. Esta es, como bien señala el autor, la batalla intelectual más relevante del momento, y Lassalle es sin duda de los más lúcidos y preparados para librarla desde el campo conservador. Bienvenida sea.

libro

De reversos y calenturas de la democracia. De José María Lassalle

El autor responde a la crítica de Íñigo Errejón sobre su libro.

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Marcha por el centro de Madrid organizada por Podemos en 2015. Foto: A. Ruesga

Secretario de Estado para la Sociedad de la Información y la Agenda Digital

José María Lassalle, autor liberal y dirigente del PP. Actualmente Secretario de Estado para la Sociedad de la Información y la Agenda Digital

José María Lassalle, 15 septiembre 2017 / EL PAIS

El populismo es una estrategia de seducción elitista. Un proyecto político que actúa sobre la estructura emocional de la democracia al calentar y manipular las adherencias que conectan al pueblo con la institucionalidad que lo representa. El objetivo es que el reverso inconsciente de la democracia haga bullir su estabilidad. Que sustituya la fría racionalidad formal de legitimación que hace posible que todos, más allá de nuestras diferencias, constituyamos un “nosotros” en el que cada uno se reconozca como parte del mismo pueblo soberano. La sospecha de que unos trabajan contra otros, de que existen mecanismos de hegemonía de clase que ocultan una relación dialéctica que sustenta la sociedad en una disputa entre amigos y enemigos, es uno de los resortes que activa sutilmente. En esta tarea, el populismo identifica un “horizonte de oportunidad” que, como ha sucedido con la crisis, haga posible un desencuentro dentro de la sociedad que rompa la unidad simbólica del pueblo y que no dude en favorecer su dislocación y división. De este modo se busca provocar finalmente un reseteo revolucionario del poder el paismediante, en palabras de Laclau, “una plebs que reclame ser el único populus legítimo —es decir, una parcialidad que quiere funcionar como la totalidad de la comunidad—”. Para lograrlo es fundamental, como veía Gramsci, una especie de guerra de posiciones que, prolongada y gobernada por la planificación de intelectuales orgánicos, proyecte una voluntad de cambio que altere finalmente las reglas de juego democráticas. ¿Cómo? Vulnerándolas a partir de una inteligencia que sustituya el boxeo de masas revolucionario por el ajedrez guerrillero de acciones culturales y relatos políticos que alteren las mentalidades hasta hacer posible la ruptura de la unidad del pueblo.

Íñigo Errejón es uno de esos intelectuales orgánicos de los que hablaba Gramsci. Un pensador brillante que, a partir de una sólida formación académica, despliega con nitidez seductora los argumentos de la razón populista que acabo de describir. Sin lugar a dudas es el principal activo intelectual de su partido, circunstancia que me mueve a responder la reseña crítica que tan elegantemente escribió sobre mi libro [Contra el populismo; Debate, 2017]. No en balde, como diría su admirado Stuart Hall, ha asumido el papel de un líder cultural alineado con fuerzas históricas emergentes que desarrollan desde el populismo “técnicas cruciales de articulación discursiva, desarticulación y articulación”, participando “en la vida práctica, como constructor, organizador, persuasor permanente y no simple orador”. Circunstancia que hace que el artículo de Errejón no sea una simple crítica ensayística, sino la cartografía de un relato populista desde el que, con acerada inteligencia, inicia el despliegue de una potente línea de fuego analítico que quiere dar la “batalla intelectual más relevante del momento”. Batalla que no duda en plantear con la mano tendida desde el respeto y la argumentación, pero que elige como tablero de juego un aparato privilegiado de producción de hegemonía como es la cultura.

“La institucionalidad ha mostrado
disfuncionalidades profundas, pero sigue en pie
y con capacidad de desplegar acciones de reforma”

El vector de combate que plantea Íñigo Errejón afirma que la crisis ha hecho surgir una voluntad popular renovada. Una voluntad que sería el producto de “una erosión de los derechos sociales y del estrechamiento de la soberanía popular” que ha favorecido el “desencanto y la brecha entre gobernantes y gobernados”. Circunstancias que justificarían un momento popular caliente que protagonizaría un “excedente popular no contenido o satisfecho en la institucionalidad existente” y que, por tanto, reclamaría una “reconstrucción del interés general y una arquitectura institucional acorde” con el resultado de “volver a barajar las cartas”. Hasta aquí un relato impecable que matizan los hechos porque la experiencia colectiva resultante de estos años de crisis es algo distinta. Es indudable que la institucionalidad democrática se ha debilitado, pero ha resistido, también, en el respaldo popular. El “nosotros” que unifica al pueblo no se ha roto. Ni por su polarización emocional ni por la agitación de su reverso violento e inconsciente. El pluralismo sigue siendo fructífero, lo mismo que la otredad y el respeto tolerante al otro. Los reaseguros sociales han funcionado y permiten que la paz social se mantenga en Europa. Es indudable que la institucionalidad ha mostrado disfuncionalidades profundas, pero sigue en pie y con capacidad de desplegar acciones de reforma que la adaptan a las nuevas realidades, aunque, eso sí, desde las reglas de juego que siguen vigentes. Errejón concluye que hay que barajar las cartas y le respaldo, aunque con las reglas que hemos pactado porque son de todos. Y para que el juego democrático sea posible hay que hacerlo sin esa épica que invoca y, a poder ser, sin los mitos que propician la irracionalidad. Apoyémonos en una solidaridad afectuosa que nos haga sentir que somos un “nosotros” que debemos preservar unido y en paz si queremos definirnos como seres civilizados. Confiemos en los otros y cuidemos entre todos la democracia. Prefiero tender la mano intelectual a mi admirado Errejón para esto que para la batalla.

 

El populismo y Trump. La costumbre de abusar del término ha arribado a Estados Unidos.De Héctor Schamis

Hector-SchamisHéctor Schamis, 1 mayo 2016 / EL PAIS

En Estados Unidos, el populismo surgió a fin del siglo XIX. Representaba los intereses y aspiraciones de los asalariados y los pequeños propietarios agrarios del sur, opuestos a las grandes plantaciones y a los grupos financieros urbanos, estos últimos aliados a los ferrocarriles privados. Fue un embrión de movimiento progresista redistributivo, una alianza entre granjeros y trabajadores que luego fraguó en el Partido Demócrata y, según una buena parte de la historiografía, con legados visibles en el New Deal y en la relación orgánica con el movimiento sindical.

el paisEn América Latina, a su vez, el populismo surgió después de la Gran Depresión y en algunos casos en la postguerra. Fue el instrumento de incorporación política y económica de las clases populares. Su amplia coalición social, un compromiso de clases, vehiculizó la irrupción rápida, explosiva—a veces violenta—de grupos subalternos en la escena política. La literatura actual sobre el “populismo del siglo XXI” intenta identificar cambios y continuidades entre las más recientes expresiones de ese movimiento y el original.

En Europa es difícil argumentar que haya habido un movimiento populista en el sentido estricto del término. Han existido “rasgos” populistas, la mayoría pertenecientes a la entreguerra, aquel nacionalismo racista de clase media. Tuvo en común con las otras formas de populismo su rechazo al liberalismo y el comunismo, pero casi nada más. Exceptuando a Podemos y tal vez Syiza— ambos más cerca de un populismo a la latinoamericana y, vale aclarar, solo en el discurso—decir populista hoy denota la reacción contra el multiculturalismo, esa nostalgia xenófoba que encarnan el Frente Nacional francés o el Pegida alemán, entre otros.

¿A cuál de estas tres versiones se asemeja Donald Trump, caracterizado como populista ad nauseam? Pues, a ninguna. La costumbre de abusar del término, habitual en el debate europeo y el latinoamericano, ha finalmente arribado a Estados Unidos. Es un análisis hecho en base a los soundbites, es decir, los extractos demagógicos de la retórica de Trump sin profundizar en su proyecto, sus alianzas sociales, su visión de largo plazo y la institucionalidad que persigue. Así, cualquier rótulo que uno le ponga será necesariamente arbitrario, una buena receta para la ambigüedad.

“El populismo es la híper política.
Trump es la expresión de la antipolítica y de una cierta antisociabilidad”.

Ocurre que si todo es populismo, entonces nada lo es. Trump no tiene una clara coalición social que lo sostenga, y convengamos que una coalición es mucho más que contar con un apoyo electoral heterogéneo. Trump carece de tal por que se desconoce su programa económico, si es que tuviera uno, o sea, quienes ganan y quienes pierden, ingrediente central del menú populista.

Ello subraya que tampoco posee una narrativa, un imaginario que retrate el final del camino: la imprescindible utopía de cualquier populismo. No existe en Trump una idea comunitaria, como en el populismo agrario estadounidense, ni tampoco ese organismo biológico regido por “lo popular”, como en el populismo latinoamericano, ni la sociedad racialmente homogénea que construye, idealmente, la derecha xenófoba europea. Tampoco se ha pronunciado sobre el Estado liberal, institución que todo populismo al menos cuestiona.

No es populista a pesar de ser demagógico, por cierto, ello por ser estrictamente literal. Jamás se le escucha una metáfora, a pesar de su enorme capacidad para hablar sin decir nada, sus exageraciones y esa particular tendencia a citar estadísticas inexistentes. Y cuando su ignorancia es evidente y la discusión sobre las políticas públicas lo arrincona, repite el ya clásico “¡Va a ser grandioso, créanme!”; It’s gonna be great, trust me!

El populismo puede estar errado, pero no le falta sustancia. Trump es populista solo si ello significa decir lo que una horda quiere escuchar. O bien si la definición de populismo es recurrir a la vulgaridad y a la denigración del otro. En Trump el insulto es constitutivo. Suplanta la sustancia, esto es, la coalición, el proyecto, la utopía. Es un proto líder con un superyó ausente. Esta más allá de las normas, no siente culpa, su insulto siempre queda impune.

El populismo es la híper política. Trump es la expresión de la antipolítica y también de una cierta antisociabilidad. Su vulgaridad lo hace un Berlusconi americano, tal vez la mejor analogía, no un populista. No es un tranquilizador consuelo, sin embargo: fue primer ministro no una, no dos, sino tres veces.

@hectorschamis