Everything is not #Brexit: A news quiz in 4 questions & journalistic herding

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 6, 2016

herdingThere is a staggering amount of herding happening. Facts are being recycled faster than they can be produced, tallied up and arranged in a way that makes sense. Opinions are being regurgitated endlessly without checking to see if they’re valid and make sense!

  1. Why is the Italian referendum result being described as a populist win when it is status quoist?


The Italian referendum result and the resounding defeat suffered by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. People correctly and smartly decided that his proposed schedule of constitutional change may have been dangerously unbound for a political system that produced Mussolini. Many ordinary voters worried that the changes could allow a strongman to embed himself in the system at some point in the future. To that extent, the referendum result was very safe, very status quoist. It was a ‘no’ to change. The fact that a populist party such as the Five Star Movement was supporting a ‘no’ vote is neither here nor there. Other traditional, mainstream Italian politicians were also supporting ‘no’, not least Mario Monti.

The larger issue, of course, is Mr Renzi’s departure from office. He did not need to leave but by grandly seeking to turn the referendum into a vote on him, he has been forced to depart sooner than needed.

Italians were reminded that Mr Renzi has had two years in office and done little other than produce a plan for constitutional changes and attend President Obama’s last state dinner at the White House. Unemployment remains high nationwide – 11 per cent – and it is 40 per cent among youth. The sense of despair is strong.

  1. Is it accurate to call popular political initiatives a “movement” rather than a party, a la Donald Trump and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement?


It is more fashionable than accurate to call political campaigns such as those run by Mr Trump a “movement”. It was not a movement, just a large turnout of people who originally cleaved to Mr Trump because they knew him from television and wanted to see a reality TV star. Then, they wanted to enjoy themselves at his rallies. Later, they found his vulgarities and fact-free assertions entertaining. There was an element of racial re-assertion, a sense of losing control over the story and nostalgia for an earlier, simpler time when America was rich and strong. Finally, enough people in three key states decided it was worth giving Mr Trump a try. That’s not a movement. It’s a successful election campaign premised on demagoguery.

  1. Why is everyone questioning democracy itself every time slightly less liberal modes of thinking are voted in?


There is absolutely nothing to say that democracy must always deliver liberal results. Political scientists Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk have conducted research that shows more and more citizens of established democracies are becoming skeptical of democracy’s worth. “[M]odern democracies, including America’s, are far more vulnerable to hostile takeover than you might think,” Mounk recently wrote.

Indeed, the chances of continuing the democratic process become weaker if an authoritarian individual is elected to office. As they say, it might be the last time one votes!

  1. Isn’t democracy supposed to be the majority view of the people eligible to vote, whatever they decide?


Actually, democracy in its original form, was a lot less egalitarian than that, but with universal franchise, people genuinely forget that the purest democracy was meant to be a vote only by those who were thought educationally and materially fit for the task.