Populism: Political Race to the Bottom in the Era of “Alternative Facts”

Texts, Maison Burganov, Moscow, ISSN: 2294-8902no. 1 (2017): 97-100


Most observers have interpreted the Brexit and the stunning election of Donald Trump to the White House as yet another sign of a rising populist tides in the world of politics, but are these simply episodes of political blips, the so-called “Jesse Ventura” effect or “angry white man”, the left behind, or could there be other socio-political driving forces behind such a spectacular success? Since ancient times, politicians have resorted not only to reason but also rhetoric, “eloquence” as it was euphemistically called, in playing the politics of persuasion. In a drastic turn of fate, this very same political stylistics appears to be increasingly employed by the same class of politicians and elites to promote elements of anti-politics sometimes upheld as “philosophies of liberation”. From Russia and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas, one could seamlessly notice a significant rise in the rhetoric of the political leaders ardently down-rating “politics” itself and the role that the history of political philosophy has played in shaping modern democracies. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s flagrant anti-politics style, once a subject of mockery in Western political circles, now appears to be more the norm than the exception among politicians. Certain new linguistic connotations of terms appear to eloquently express such a scornful outlook to the exercise of the political activity. In Italian for example, “La Casta” (the caste) was explicitly employed to support the populist idea of qualunquismo (anything goes in politics). In French the now widely-used term “politique des politicians” or “le système” are other instances of linguistic meaning extension to promote often erroneous popular connotations for cunning, self-serving political leaders…