Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Donald Trump won

Well, of course, I don't know. However, I know there's more to it than just blaming it on various flavours of bigot.

As I see it, these are some of the other reasons for Trump getting in, and to an extent the rise of the right, Brexit and UKIP etc. This isn't an exhaustive list, but if you want to tackle a problem, you need to know what the problem involves.

Firstly, the regressive left is part of the problem, as laid out by Jonathan Pie:

The movement to "no platform" speakers is not helpful. Ignoring ideas you don't like makes you ignorant of them, and it doesn't make those ideas, or the people who hold them, go away,

It also stops you engaging with and challenging those ideas, and to challenge those ideas in front of the people who turn up and might be swayed by them.

It's also the opposite of free speech. It's really easy to defend speech you agree with. But if you truly are for free speech, it means sticking up for racists who want to hold a rally in a field (so long as no laws were broken, they have every right to do so). Remember, no one has the right to not be offended:

All this does is create a climate of "crimethink" leaving certain points of view to be seen seen as verboten. Certain subjects become taboo to such an extent that they cannot even be discussed, and so these ideas stay in the heads of the people who have them, and get expressed in a polling booth.

This is related to another problem - The Filter Bubble.The things you get in search engines and on social media are designed to be what algorithms think you will want to see. This has the same problem as no platforming, but unlike no platforming (and similar) where you have to actively avoid differing opinions, the Filter Bubble does it all for you. You can game it - because I actively seek out and read pseudoscience, religious apologetics and conspiracy theories, these get fed to me in Facebook for example, even though I am not their target audience (for example there's a Chiropractic Clinic that pops up regularly. When it does, I just leave "Beware the spinal trap" in the comments).

The majority of people don't do this, and so will likely get news and opinion from those similar to them. They will consequently mostly see stuff they agree with - be that Clinton/Trump; #Brexit/Remain. This makes it hard to stay informed. When one of the campaigns lies (as Trump did - here's what he said about Obama vs what Obama actually said, as one example) or misinforms you (as both leave and remain did). This is a problem - with increasing numbers of people getting their news via social media. If your source of news is The Canary or Breitbart, your picture of politics is going to be heavily distorted from reality.

People who hadn't actively looked for news beyond their social media feeds may have been entirely unaware of Trump's deceit - and it's naive, but not unreasonable, to suppose that at a rally you will be told the truth by your prospective candidate.

Of course, the main reason that Trump got in is that people voted for him. But again, to tar them all as bigots is stop yourself from understanding the wider social context they're in. This article from Cracked sums it up well - it's written by someone from Trump country, who left for the big cities, and whilst he sees Trump as Bad Thing, it does help to get some empathy for where Trump supporters are coming from. As the author notes at the end "It feels good to dismiss people, to mock them, to write them off as deplorables. But you might as well take time to try to understand them, because I'm telling you, they'll still be around long after Trump is gone."

Trump's election does rather lend support to Churchill's aphorism "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." But there are many reasons why we are here. I don't know what all those reasons are, but to fail to look beyond "it's racist voting" is to fail to understand how we've got to where we are. And to solve a problem, you have to understand it.

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