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2020: the year the elites failed upwards After months of repeated errors and deceptions, experts and institutions are more powerful than ever

Meet the new boss. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Meet the new boss. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images


December 31, 2020   7 mins

For a year filled with fear and uncertainty, as plague collided with the final eruptions of the Trump era, the political lessons of 2020 are uncannily clear. Elite institutional authority is everywhere collapsing in a bonfire of self-immolation even as elite institutions become ever more powerful.

What ties the impeachment drama that began the year together with the pandemic, months of political violence and faulty predictions of a Biden blowout, is a system-wide failure of expert knowledge and elite institutional response. “Where were all the experts?” asked New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo in April, at the height of his state’s Covid outbreak. Cuomo blamed more or less every wing of the sprawling structure of elite expertise, pointing the finger for what happened on his watch at “the international health community… the WHO, the NIH, the CDC… the intelligence community… the New York Times… the Wall Street Journal”.

Sure, the governor’s complaint was self-serving given his own disastrous handling of the pandemic, but it wasn’t wrong. Weeks earlier, the Center for Disease Control, after months of declaring face masks ineffective and imploring the public not to wear them — a position echoed by the US Surgeon General, by Biden’s soon-to-be chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci, and by most of the media — abruptly reversed course and endorsed face covering as vital to containing the spread of Covid.

Masks were the most visible representation of this: a year defined by politicised expert opinion detaching itself from reality and undergoing sudden reversals. Mass gatherings went from deadly superspreader events to being practically mandatory as a matter of public moral hygiene, with the rise of the BLM protests in May. Covering up such absurdities required the combined effort of ideological enforcers in the press and on social media, brute intimidation by people with hiring and firing power, and the constant appearance of a new crisis to distract from the last.

The compound effect was a cleavage in which half the country now rejects the legitimacy of America’s nominally non-political institutions. Tucker Carlson, whose relentless criticism of the ruling class has made him the top-rated cable news host in the country, summed up the sentiment in a recent segment on how the “experts have been exposed as frauds”. But this is not only a right-wing or populist phenomenon. From the liberal centre, Yascha Mounk wrote in late December about “losing trust in the institutions”.

The first important lesson from the past year is that this revolt against the experts is not a fringe phenomenon driven by QAnon loons, hysterical anti-vaxxers and other untouchables. It is widespread and its consequences are already profound. On the surface, people are simply rejecting the authority of institutions such as the CDC, which now openly advocates for racial preferences and places political calculations before the public good. But beneath that rejection, there is a cultural shift at the level of animating beliefs.

For millions of people, a disenchantment has broken the spell which upheld their faith in rational, scientific knowledge as the best means to tame the natural chaos of reality and administer the business of society. On top of all the other disenchantments undermining America’s founding myths, this one erodes the foundation on which the entire technocratic regime of modern society rests.

Given the rather obvious importance of public health officials in the midst of a pandemic, why not seek to replace them with a better class of expert, instead of attacking the basis of expertise? The answer to that is in the second lesson of 2020: far from losing status after the repeated errors and deceptions of the past year, America’s institutional elite is more powerful than ever.

Perhaps some reputational damage has been inflicted on the experts who warned that the real threat of the coronavirus was overreacting, or worse, racism, and on the elite activists who advanced a deeply unpopular police abolition agenda ahead of national elections, and on the scientific establishment that declared “white supremacy” to be “a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19”.

But those costs are marginal compared to the material and political gains. If you are one of the people or organisations which repeatedly got the coronavirus wrong, abetted wanton political violence and destruction, or once again misread the American electorate, odds are very good that your funding streams, political influence, institutional power and leverage over your fellow Americans are going increase over the next four years of the Biden administration.

The collective fortunes of the experts who failed Andrew Cuomo and the citizens of New York have run in parallel with those of the governor. Cuomo oversaw a fiercely politicised coronavirus response. He made costly mistakes, including his mandate that nursing homes accept discharged Covid-19 patients without testing to determine if they were still contagious, a policy that resulted in thousands of deaths (we don’t know exactly how many because he refuses to release the numbers). And yet, somehow in the midst of a death toll approaching 40,000 he found the time to write a book touting “leadership lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic” and do a victory tour.

He’s laundered his reputation in a way that can only be compared to the Russiagate diehards. The political actors and intelligence operatives claiming a Trump-Putin conspiracy who were exposed as, at best, delusional frauds have faced no consequences. Rather, they’ve been rewarded with campaign contributions, book deals, TV appearances, and other tokens of commercial and cultural prestige. The vast surveillance apparatus that engineered the domestic spying operation has been legitimised as a tool for correcting against unfortunate errors in democracy when the will of the people gets it wrong.

The future is looking bright for the DC foreign policy elite whose combined wisdom produced the Iraq War, abetted the catastrophe in Syria, scoffed at Trump’s efforts at a peace deal in the Middle East, and who now fight tooth and nail to keep US troops stranded in a lost war in Afghanistan.

In the last week of December, that paragon of public expertise, Dr Anthony Fauci, gave an interview to the New York Times in which he admitted to lying to the American public. “Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts” on the necessary threshold of vaccinations before America would achieve herd immunity, according to the Times. His reason for misleading the public? “His gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”

Sometimes, good leaders deceive the public in moments of crisis to achieve a greater good. But that is not the case here. If you are bragging to the media about it, it was not a noble lie. Fauci’s lie appears to have served no vital purpose related to public health — as if anyone opposed to vaccination would be moved by a 10-point spread in Fauci’s estimates. I don’t envy any leader charged with directing policy in the midst of a plague, but Fauci’s problem is not that he made errors but is so utterly unaware of that fact; that insulated by political celebrity and bureaucratic sinecure, he would choose to conspicuously gloat about his deceptions in the Times. On the same day, the interview appeared, the good doctor received a birthday serenade from Joe and Jill Biden.

The political elites of both parties are ending the year on top. The Democratic leadership defeated the populist threat from Bernie Sanders and now has one of its own, Joe Biden, leading the country. The Republican leadership has its own reasons to be happy about a Biden White House. The GOP got very comfortable adopting the symbolism of Trumpism while blocking White House policies like stimulus spending and ending the war in Afghanistan. With Trump out of office, Republicans can drop the balancing act and go back to satisfying the party’s donor base with cheap labour, austerity policies, foreign military adventures and the distraction of permanent culture war.

Underwriting the growing power of this interconnected media-administrative-political elite is the new American oligarchy led by Silicon Valley. The same tech industry that led a heavy-handed approach to the pandemic, censoring non-expert opinions while amplifying institutions like the World Health Authority, while the WHO at various points opposed wearing masks, criticised travel bans as ineffective, and disputed that the virus is highly contagious — all while lavishing praise on China. The US is down 10 million jobs since the start of the year. One hundred and sixty thousand small businesses have shuttered. Children are going without school and friendship, ordinary people are languishing in isolation and despair. But with government stimulus spending facilitating an immense upward transfer of wealth, the top tier of corporate profits has soared along with the stock market.

“The tactics that helped many corporate titans thrive — laying off thousands of workers, going deep into debt, and grabbing market share from struggling competitors — will shape the recovery for months, if not years,” the Wall Street Journal reported in December. In the past year, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple have added a total of $2 trillion in market value between them.

The spillover from that record-setting cash grab will go directly to subsidising the failing elite institutions and expert bodies that are cutting off the oxygen to American society. But the crucial question is why elite institutions that are so error prone, and so untrustworthy, don’t suffer for their repeated failings.

The answer begins with understanding the nature of their power. In a society with a useful class of elites, their legitimating authority would be bound to the national interest and derive from the benefits they produce for the larger society. Likewise, in a functioning technocratic establishment the value of expertise would be a function of how accurately it can assess complex events, explain reality and forecast outcomes. But that is not what we have. For the American ruling class, expertise is a ceremonial costume conferring power through mystifying rituals. The mantra of this cohort, “believe science,” says it all. It’s an incantation in a cheap magic act, one that has nothing to do with science.

If you still think science is above this kind of thing, too important to be compromised by ideology and self-interest, just look at the US military. The military has transformed into an institution in which the highest level of leadership is so estranged from its fundamental purpose — to win wars and secure peace at home — it responds to losing wars by absorbing the logic of defeat into its essential operations. The fact of America’s failure in Afghanistan becomes the reason to stay.

The iron law of the American elite is that as long as everyone fails together, everyone fails upwards. Regime loyalty is the herd immunity of the ruling class, a protection against the consequences of their own failures. This is why the loss in authority that manifests in the “crisis of experts”, while real, doesn’t diminish their power. But it’s also why the regime has to become more ideological and nakedly coercive — for a kingdom of experts without reliable expertise falls back on propaganda and state power.


Jacob Siegel is Senior Writer at Tablet Magazine

Jacob__Siegel

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Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

This is a perfect analysis of the situation, much better than anything one will read or watch in or on the legacy media. Personally I lost faith in the ‘elites’ (here and in the US) over Iraq and they have done nothing to redeem themselves since that particular disaster of world-historical proportions. Right now the scumbag politicians in the US are arguing about whether or not to give a measly 2K to people whose livelihoods they have destroyed, and the supposedly ‘progressive’ Democrats in Congress are reluctant to have a floor vote on Medicare For All because they don’t want to upset the unimaginably wicked Nancy Pelosi. in the meantime, their various stimulus acts etc serve largely to shovel trillions to the corporations than fund the two main political parties. These ‘elites’ are among the most corrupt people who have lived.

This article ends be examining why it is that these people keep failing upwards, a question that has exercised me since Iraq, the financial crisis, Libya, Afghanistan, New Orleans, NAFTA, Project Fear and countless other events and policies. The lack of accountability has been sickening for almost 20 years now. I think the writer reaches some appropriate conclusions here, but doesn’t go far enough. For instance, he doesn’t mention the role of a legacy media that rarely asks questions of this ‘elite’, unless it is to relentlessly hate on Trump, the one person who has actually tried to do something for the American working classes. Meanwhile, in the UK, the BBC continues to give endless air time to the repulsively shameless Alistair Campbell, who was substantially responsible for iraq (and thus ISIS), not to mention the removal of a BBC Director General. It is grotesque beyond words.

Another area to explore is the way in which the corporations and banks have simply ‘captured’ the political class so that the politicians have no more regard for the ‘little people’ than do the masters of finance.

Perhaps the writer could address these issues more deeply in another article.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Personally I lost faith in the ‘elites’ (here and in the US) over Iraq and they have done nothing to redeem themselves since that particular disaster of world-historical proportions.”Tony Blair (GE2005) and Bush (2004) were re-elected by The People.Surely The People (and their tribunes?) should shut the “F “up?!

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The People (and their tribunes?) should shut the “F “up?!

That’s bit OTT Jeremy, and had we had real ‘Tribunes’ neither of those rodents Blair and Bush would have seen the light of day.

Best of British luck in Luxembourg by the way!

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“That’s bit OTT Jeremy, and had we had real ‘Tribunes’ neither of those rodents Blair and Bush would have seen the light of day.”

Blair won 3 elections.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

QED!

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It is indeed a great stain on the history of both the UK and the US that first Bush, and then Blair, we’re reelected. Oh well, at least I can say that I never voted for either of them.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Re-elected by the people; the same ones that voted Corbyn as MP, Mark Francois as MP and BoJo as PM…see a pattern…
May be – just may be – the people are the problem?!

Johnny Sutherland
JS
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Absolutely correct. In the future the vote will be restricted to ME!!!

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Sure, as long as you take responsibility for your vote.

Gordon Mackay
GM
Gordon Mackay
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

No matter the opposition, I doubt I can ever vote Conservative again, after this media and poll fuelled hysterical overreaction to Covid. Seriously, why would anyone vote for a government that fines people for visiting their next door neighbour on NYE? If that had been on the manifesto, instead of “take back control” maybe less people would have voted for these authoritarian idiots last time.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Mackay

Time to resurrect “The Good Old Cause”, and rekindle the spirit of Cromwell.

cajwbroomhill
CW
cajwbroomhill
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Mackay

So whom, logically, should we vote for, since the present political.Establishment seems uniformly thus inept and uncritically so.

steve eaton
SE
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  cajwbroomhill

To quote Emma Goldman,”If voting could change anything, they’d have abolished the ballot box a long time ago.”

Micheal Lucken
ML
Micheal Lucken
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Mackay

Do you really think the Labour party would be any less authoritarian? Starmer is currently pressuring the government for a full lockdown.

Robin Bury
P
Robin Bury
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Indeed. And The People voted for Brexit led by lies and deceit from the clowns Farage and Johnson who might shut the “F” up!

Bob Green
BG
Bob Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

How’s it going with the toilet roll shortages and the lorries backed up in Dover and the emergency budget and the immediate unemployment of millions and the war in Europe??

EU Covid vaccinations still going well??

Just asking.

Bob Green
BG
Bob Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

By the time of those elections the truth and outcome of that action was still kept hidden from the electorate.
Had the BBC’s recent superb documentary Once upon a Time in Iraq been shown before the election the outcome could well have been very different.

Matthew Powell
MP
Matthew Powell
3 years ago

The problem of course is not experts but the over expansion and over extension of “experts” role in society.

The mass expansion of higher education has lead to a proliferation of certified experts, whose only expertise is to absorb and regurgitate the dominate ideology and perpetuate it for their own benefit. This is most prevalent the humanities but is increasingly starting to infect STEM subjects as well. There is a whole class of these experts, whose social utility would be greater if they swept the streets, rather than commanding inflated salaries in self perpetuating graduate schemes, quango’s, NGO’s, the media, most the charity sector and the bloated civil service.

Beyond this, the pernicious extension of the idea that our values are something which can be correctly determined and calibrated by experts, leads to the attempt to delegitimise democratic governance and replace it with technocracy in the name of “science” but is what is in reality naked self interest.

Has popularism them been defeated by the election of the Biden administration? I’m not so sure. The liberal left is holding together a shaky coalition based largely on whipping up racial tensions to stop the coalition of a working class/lower middle class electoral base on the right. But even with Trump as President, fancifully smeared as a white supremacist, the Republicans expanded their share of the vote amongst minority groups and may well have won had it not been for the pandemic.

Fewer and fewer today have faith that the certified classes deserve their position, regardless what their qualifications are. The economic pie simply isn’t big enough to sustain their lofty position in society. Just like an overvalued stock market, a correction is due for the over valued experts who permeate the modern economy.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Very well put. This erroneous tendency was on vivid display in the Brexit debates, both before and after the people spoke.

There is also a sinister and dangerous temptation to self-aggrandizement among experts. A slow, but irresistible drift from “I am an expert in [say] the science on antibiotic effectiveness in the management of community-acquired pneumonia” to “because I am an expert in that, my pronouncements on this [different subject] carry substance and weight.” As someone with genuine expertise in my own field, I know that this temptation is ever-present, and requires conscious effort to avoid.

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

You have done well not to succumb.

I have a close relation who worked as a university language professor, frequently surrounded by course students hanging off his every word.

He never understood why others didn’t automatically laud his general opinions in other areas.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The professor was wrong. I know this because of my expertise… 🙂

G Harris
GH
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Let’s face it, it’s not just hubris doing its diabolical work there it is, in effect, an attempt at an abuse of power.

R Perspectives
RP
R Perspectives
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Known as: ultra crepidarianism ….. 🙂

Andrew McDonald
AM
Andrew McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  R Perspectives

Nec sutor ultra crepidam would be my party’s slogan. But we would never get a single vote, alas, in an electorate that needs their politicians to know everything and know it now….

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago

I am familiar with “Sutor, ne ultra crepidam.” Does ‘your’ slogan mean the same?

Caroline Milne
CM
Caroline Milne
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

I dislike the term “expertise” and the implication that the “expert” knows everything there is to know. I prefer the term “specialism” which suggests that the “specialist” has focussed their attention on a specific area of knowledge and is embarked on developing that knowledge. There should be less temptatation when using the latter terms to overstep the boundaries of one’s remit.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Caroline Milne

Yes, perhaps “specialist” would lead to less temptation.

But my point was not mere semantics (and I don’t mean by that to be dismissive of your suggestion). There is a legal definition of expert in the US legal system (where I have served several times as an expert witness).

cajwbroomhill
CW
cajwbroomhill
3 years ago
Reply to  Caroline Milne

Note the absurdly misguided seriousness with which the political and even scientific opinions of showbiz and sports people are often taken.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  cajwbroomhill

Yes, though off course, only if they have the “right” opinions.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

“But even with Trump as President, fancifully smeared as a white supremacist, the Republicans expanded their share of the vote amongst minority groups and may well have won had it not been for the pandemic.”
He lost the popular vote by 3M in 2016, lost the mid-term elections in 2018 and lost the 2020 elections by 7M votes.
The idea (widespread among the populists) that they are a majority is risible.
LePen lost the 2017 election , head to head against Macron.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Amusingly, Trump has just been voted ‘Most Admired Person’ in the US, Obama having won for the previous 11 years.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

He can frame that and put it on the wall.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

LOL is a symbol, but I literally laughed out loud when I read the Gallup poll. Partially out of delight – not support for Trump, but delight at the great waves of utter indignation that the poll will generate.

Chris C
CC
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

He tried to organise a coup against democracy, and 18% of those voting regard him as their most admired person.

But then, after a year in power, Hitler would have been voted as the most admired German by much more than 18%.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Coup? Melodrama. He sought, dubiously, to exhaust his legal means. The US does not have any bar on bringing dubious lawsuits. The constitution and the legal system did their job, as those of us of a calmer disposition anticipated.

steve eaton
SE
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Learn some history ….What Trump is doing by challenging the election is pretty common. It has been done many times before, and by Democrats as often as not. It’s how the system works. Despite the manufactured outrage expressed by low information voters to protest it, the law is being followed.

Chris C
CC
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

That’s because the Obama vote is now split between Obama (15%) and Biden (6%), because Biden WON the election by humiliating Trump. I guess the Democrats are happy for Trump to be voted ‘most admired person’ by just 18% of those responding, while he is tipped into the trash skip and Biden takes over.

J dabs
JD
J dabs
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Biden won??? Be careful about expecting a payoff on your bet when the casino knows that you were on the short end of a 99.5+ certainty of the Trump victory

J dabs
JD
J dabs
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

A signal of true hope and change? I sure hope so

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Which does raise the interesting question of whether a (slight) minority can still claim to be “populists.” I mean, the whole point of populism is supposed to be that it is, right or wrong, what The People want. If slightly more than half of The People want something else, populism starts looking more ignorance expressed very loudly.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

Populism = appealing to people with the wrong opinions…

steve eaton
SE
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

No, populism is basing policy and rhetoric on the opinions of the part of the electorate who believe that their needs aren’t being addressed by the elites in power..

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

“But even with Trump as President, fancifully smeared as a white supremacist…” Well “fancifully smeared”? Oh dear! Where do you get your news? Fox? Who smears all that disagree with him and fires them?

J dabs
J dabs
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

Get out of the dark ages and update your reality. Spitting out the MSM propaganda makes one foolish and intellectually lazy. Fox ended when it was bought by Disney. No one who seeks truth goes there but for a few of the actual journalists left there. Typical of your whiny snowflake attitude claiming the right smears. For 8 years we disagreed with most all of Obama’s policies then for the last 4 years all we hear is brutal vilifying of every single positive from a Trump administration , a brutally failed Mueller investigation, an impeachment worthy of a Stalinist regime ( I won’t insult SNL by saying it would not even qualify as one of their skits). You must have Covid. You clearly can’t smell the stench of your own bias argument

G Harris
GH
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

‘The liberal left is holding together a shaky coalition based largely on whipping up racial tensions to stop the coalition of a working class/lower middle class electoral base on the right. But even with Trump as President, fancifully smeared as a white supremacist, the Republicans expanded their share of the vote amongst minority groups and may well have won had it not been for the pandemic.’

Well said.

Which helps to affirm my belief that human beings are most easily and helpfully clearly defined by their essentially far more complex, nuanced political instincts and allegiances rather than their sexuality, gender, ethnicity, skin colour, religion, culture etc

The latter factors which are so often cynically deployed nowadays, I’m ashamed to say by the left, to accentuate and perpetuate a sense of social division for its own perceived gain.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

As Churchill said so appositely:

“nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get in the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge, and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows where it hurts is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialised character.”

Nun Yerbizness
NY
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

or in the case of the average conservative ideologue”for whom these threads are a cosseted refuge from rational discussion.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Unfortunately the term “expert” has become a term many use to describe a person who seems to know more than them (on a particular subject).

With the quality of our MSM journalists, the possession of “expertise” has become as valuable as the Zimbabwean dollar.

Bob Green
Bob Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It is now a given that a 2/2 in Media Studies qualifies its holder as a world leading expert on every subject.
.

Nun Yerbizness
NY
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Green

shouldn’t you all be out burning down 5G cell towers?

Bob Green
Bob Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Please could you explain the relevance?

Paul Reidinger
PR
Paul Reidinger
3 years ago

I agreed with every word of this refreshingly scathing, but calm, piece. The question is whether the model of social hierarchy Mr Siegel has so witheringly described is sustainable. The election of Trump was a warning shot across the bow of these miserable “elites,” so-called. They responded with a four-year cyclone of hatred and personal calumny against Trump and a carefully arranged pseudo-election to get rid of him. Apparently they have indeed gotten rid of him, but the underlying problem remains and has intensified and will intensify further, which they can’t or won’t see. A terrible rupture of some kind is coming. Americans will not accept the Chinese authoritarian model, nor will they much longer put up with “elites” that decline to see to the national interest while treating large swathes of the population with contempt. I don’t know what form the upheaval will take, but I suspect it will have something to do with California, which has drifted so far away from the rest of the country that the gap may have become unbridgeable.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Reidinger

I should love to agree with you that ‘Americans will not accept the Chinese authoritarian model, nor will they much longer put up with “elites” that decline to see the national interest while treating large swathes of the population with contempt’; but hitherto the chief characteristic of the Occidental publics, in the USA and elsewhere, has been laziness and cowardice when it comes to fighting the Culture War (of which the Education War should be a part) and the Political War.
Everything is left to ‘Somebody Else’ to put right; hence the very election of Donald Trump. He was, all impossibly, required to take on a now very corrupt Dept of Justice, FBI, CIA and Internal Revenue Service, a deep state that exists for itself and not the country, a politicised and perverse judiciary &c &c, and rectify these affronts on his own.
In any case, conceivably the levers of all forms of power in the U.S. are now so concentrated in the hands of the self-serving (and lunatic) Elites, that no protest or subversion or civil war is possible.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Are you talking about the same Trump that conned people with his Trump University?
Alternative facts about the size his inauguration crowd?
Or his tweeting about Obama killing Seal Team 6 and faking the death of Bin Laden?
may be the Kraken will deal with the Elites???

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Ah!
The teenager is up and about.
Still faking it I see.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

What exactly am I faking?

Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Your age.
You speak teen but purport to be a grown up.
LOL? Really?
There are plenty of other examples.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Yes, LOL. It is widely used, not by your age group.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It is widely used by teenagers, Jeremy.
Not by adults. And yesterday you claimed to be in your 50s. My cat is older than you.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

You are really senile. I am (sadly) 45.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Knowledge, disinterested observation…

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

More like Kevin The Teenager.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I was not making a case for Mr Trump, I was citing him as a recourse by a people who are politically desperate but who still don’t want to bother to be involved in making REAL democratic politics work themselves.

This would entail going to meetings, chucking out of Congress/Parliament &c all the mere grifters (90% of representatives), and replacing them with honest sober individuals who care about their country and the ordinary people in it.

It is like putting up with having a bad cook in your works’ canteen because you and your colleagues simply cannot be bothered to devise a rota in which each of you in turn does good cooking instead.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

“…honest sober individuals who care about their country and the ordinary people in it.”
Brace yourself – most of them actually do care about the country and the ordinary people. They might have limited abilities but people voted for them! As the people say “we want MPs just like us”.
(BTW do you think that MPs were better during the Suez Crisis, multiple GBP devaluations, IMF crisis, ERM crisis, Winter of Discontent?)

You see policy mistakes (light touch regulation; Iraq/Libya Wars) as conspiracy not as miscalculations made by human beings trying to do their best.
People (be in business, government, private life) often screw up -is life. You are not going to get a genius like Bismarck to run UK/USA/Germany/France/etc….because there was only one Bismarck. And Bismarck could do what he did because he could ignore the people.
To govern is to chose and some times the elected people will make the wrong choice.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

‘To govern is to chose and some times the elected people will make the wrong choice.’

True. But for some decades now they seem to have made the wrong choice every time. Moreover, they never admit to, or suffer for, their mistakes.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And their wrong choices somehow ALWAYS mean that they, the politicians and bureaucrats, become richer and more powerful.

I think, for example, the invasion of Iraq was an honest mistake, in itself; the wish to do something in response to decades of America being labelled the great enemy of the Arab world and the consequent attack on the Twin Towers in Sept. 2001.

It was time to lance the twin boils of being seen on the Arab Street as the Friend and Defender of the ruthless strongmen dictators running the Arab world and at the same time serve notice to those dictators that they could not indefinitely keep winding up their peoples against the USA (time-honoured practice of ‘busying of giddy minds with foreign quarrels’ to distract from maladministration and bad government in their home countries).

But that invasion did not half gratify the Military Industrial Complex and the financial powers of the USA who made billions off it in terms of armaments sold; and the financial powers are those who owned and still run the politicians.

Robin P
Robin P
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

I think, for example, the invasion of Iraq was an honest mistake,

Pshhhh! About six months before the “decision to go to war”, I was hearing Blair speaking on the radio. I don’t recall exactly what he said (it had no great significance at that time), but I immediately thought…. WOW!…. He has decided to invade Iraq – because he would only speak in such terms if he had. He had already made up his mind and so he commissioned the dodgy dossier and rubber-stamped it through the House of Sheep.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Back again to voting for Tony Blair and Bush.
Schroeder did the right thing for Germany (agenda 2010 and Iraq) and he lost the election.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You really do not come across as anything but partisan when you jump in with TRUMP! acts that you insert as rebuttal to any positive or appreciative mention of the President. He certainly is not perfect, but denying that he has accomplished any good is clearly TDS.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

There is nothing positive about the President as a human being or as the President (the office).

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I’ll quote a famous philosopher: “You see policy mistakes (light touch regulation; Iraq/Libya Wars) as conspiracy not as miscalculations made by human beings trying to do their best.
People (be in business, government, private life) often screw up -is life.”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Donald Trump the president of USA accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of killing Team Seal 6 and faking the death of bin Laden. – on Twitter.
Go ahead and explain that to me!

Robin P
Robin P
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

A wise man 2000 yrs ago said to judge a person by his deeds. Trump has not started any wars, in contrast to Obama and so many others. He recognises the harm that excessive immigration causes. He has rightly had doubts about the Covid scaremongering. He’s made peace in the Middle East and with N Korea. But far more important is if he says some drivel that’s untrue?

Graham Evans
GE
Graham Evans
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yours is one of the few contributions which tries to provide an objective commentary on society, politics and expertise, rather than reading like the work of a student of English charged with writing a parody of right wing populism – not that the writer of the original article is any better in his selective misuse of facts and opinion.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Scott was not, as far as I can tell from that, praising or supporting Trump. But, in my view rightly, pointing out that institutions that fail and smug politicians that refuse to listen and which insist on repeating demonstrably failed policies will eventually lead to the emergence of someone like Trump.

And, as Biden goes out to re-asset the proven failure policies that have been useless for most Americans for 2-3 decades, the next time it might not be a Trump, but someone like him who is a far more effective operator – and thus really dangerous.

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Who are these smug politicians?
Obama did the healthcare, you might not like it but nothing stopped Trump and the Republican to “repeal and replace” as he/they promised.
Bush Jr tried to private Social Security (wrong in my view) and try to deal with illegal migration. You might not agree with policies but he try to deal with the problems.
I agree with some trump policies (immigration reform, confronting china etc.) but the man is incompetent and a crook.

stephen f.
SF
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You become tiresome with your Pavlovian responses to any mention of President Trump. Anyone who frequents this site could script your posts.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Reidinger

“..carefully aranged pseudo-election to get rid of him. “
Nice conspiracy theory.

“… something to do with California”
And so is Dallas, Huston, Austin, Atlanta and every other major city.

stephen f.
SF
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You are beginning to misspell, and leave words out of sentences…time for your nap.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

An excellent article. I would suggest just a couple of points:

1.) The article is almost entirely American. Nothing wrong with that. However, the phenomenon described is definitely not just a US one, nor a 2020 one. The same dangerous arrogance, and rewards for failure, are very much on display in the international circuit. The EU is crawling with functionaries and failures who have been rewarded with sinecures. Lagarde, Von Der Leyen, Juncker before them, to name but a few. The UK public sector – the civil service and the QUANGOs – people appointed without proper scrutiny to positions in which they fail and from where they are promoted to new positions without scrutiny. Look at Dido Harding.

2.) There is much confusion about the nature of, and domain of, expertise. Expertise in one area does not connote expertise in another. Obstetricians and gynecologists’ have no special expertise in abortion ethics. Experts in banking are not experts in the constitutional implications of Brexit, nor in the political wishes of the peoples governed by the EU. Expertise is real, and some questions are beyond its scope.

Radical re-assertion of democracy – in areas where democracy is proper – is required. I don’t want my cleaner or bank manager voting on the statistical methods used in new antibiotic approvals frameworks (some decisions are not the domain of democracy), but I do not wish to give a surgeon the right to make decisions on which prostate cancer treatment option I should pick if I should ever one (some decisions are not the domain of experts).

Stewart Ware
SW
Stewart Ware
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Not to mention the award of a CBE to Paula Vennells, former CEO of the Post Office, responsible for the malicious prosecution of hundreds of innocent subpostmasters due to computer errors which she persistently denied.

Barry Coombes
BC
Barry Coombes
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

I see the rewarding of Paula Vennells, not as a mistake by the system, but as a reward for a job well done. She defended the interest of the upper management of the Post Office doggedly. Her peers in the civil service and government appreciate that kind of work and rewarded her appropriately. That innocent men and women were imprisoned, and I believe more than one was driven to suicide, is irrelevant to the system. They were just little people. Little people don’t count. As opposed to Paula’s Horizon system, which can’t count.

Just to show how far the rot goes, Paula Vennells is STILL a member of the Church of England’s “Ethical Investment Advisory Group” and an ordained priest. I know Christ loves sinners, but really.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Coombes

I imagine she was rewarded for not dropping people in it. No one likes a grass.

TheBigT T
TT
TheBigT T
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

Writing from Canada, I am constantly amazed by the scandals in the UK for which no one ever is held to account. We certainly hove our share of malfeasance and vice, but this Post Office scandal of yours is “out of this world’ vile. Has anyone been fired or charged for it?

Stewart Ware
Stewart Ware
3 years ago
Reply to  TheBigT T

The Post Office had to pay out £58 million to the subpostmasters, but only £12 million ended up in their pockets after they had to pay their legal fees.

The prime minister has rejected calls for a judge-led public inquiry, instead offering a far weaker review.

When the next few hundred cases come up for review the pressure will grow for a proper inquiry.

Joe Smith
JS
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  TheBigT T

Yes, but only the Innocents.

philipwalling28
philipwalling28
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

Or rewarding a host of people with peerages, knighthoods and other honours who have already been amply rewarded at the public expense with huge public sector salaries and even bigger pensions and payoffs.
These people (and there are tens of thousands of them) claim to be public servants and yet it’s quite clear the public are their servants.

They are not particularly able or clever at the thing they are (over)paid for, but they are geniuses at getting onto a particular career path and staying the course no matter what, saying whatever it takes to keep them in their post.

They suffer no demotion for making a mess of things and if they do have to resign for some mistake or other they slide sideways into some other (often higher paid) post at the public expense.

This is called corruption.

It is a fraud on the people who pay for their salaries and work to give them lifetime security.

These are parasites that are well on the way to consuming their host and it can’t go on for much longer because their host is terminally ill.

Unfortunately, what will next arise will be a strongman who will offer to avenge us of these parasites, but it is fairly easy to predict where that could lead.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

One hopes that it is not a strongman-just a strong man (or woman), with a serious and thoughtful constituency.

Chris C
CC
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

I’m sure you will have an intricate argument to deny this, but to me the last paragraph sounds a bit like “I’m prepared to endorse and promote ignorant right-wing cr*p online because it appeals to my atavistic right-wing views, but I draw the line at their ignorance affecting my personal welfare”.

Surely the people who decide implement “the statistical methods used in new antibiotic approvals frameworks“, being educated, are liable to be liberals and thus worthy of hatred and a stubborn insistence of doing the reverse of anything they say? After all, such people are the very “elite” you and your friends sneer at.

Why not be consistent? There’s lots of ignorant nonsense about medical matters on various Unherd threads, much of it larded with anti-elite rhetoric which should make it easy for you to swallow. Why not make it your guide to your own medical treatment? After all, someone else yesterday said on another Unherd thread attacking liberals “Never trust anyone who doesn’t live next to their own opinions” (which turned out to be a (justified) criticism of those who adopt liberal views on multiculturalism but live in predominantly white areas). Surely the same thing should apply to your personal welfare, unless you wish to be seen as a hypocrite?

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

With respect, all you have demonstrated is with this rather breathless post is that you failed to understand my point.

My point is actually quite simple, and I fail to see why it has apparently exercised you so much. There is a domain for voting and there is a domain for expertise. Somehow this seems to have created in you an agitation about imagined right-wing nutters under the (hospital) bed.

I want medics (well, and statisticians) to be the ones deciding on antibiotics policy (this is not just because I used to be a professor of medicine). But there are legitimate areas of personal preference where expertise does not apply. Now, you might disagre with the things I would put in the “vote on these” and the “let experts decide these” buckets, but that is fine – in fact, it is precisely my point. There should be debated clarity on that very question: what is the proper domain of voting? And what is the proper domain of expertise?

My guess (and I truly mean, guess) is that you haven’t understood the prostate cancer treatment example. I’ll spell it out: if you have two treatment options, with identical survival rates, but one has a big risk of incontinence, the other a big risk of impotence. Which would you prefer? Or do you think that decision should be made for you?

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

“…sounds a bit like…” to who? To me it sounds as if you are the one who sneers.

Teo
T
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

The article is almost entirely American.

Why are we being Americanised by UnHerd?

2020 was the year that the British NeoCons abandoned Europe and subjected the UK to a globalist chimera of American exceptionalism.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

My problem with your reply is that it is not even wrong.

Chris Jayne
CJ
Chris Jayne
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

The author is American. His writing is also superb (read some of his tablet stuff) and I’m glad he’s doing it here too.

It doesn’t take much work by a British reader to transpose the arguments into British elite institutions.

cajwbroomhill
cajwbroomhill
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

The UK Climate Change Committee is the most obvious example of a corrupt quango very urgently needing to be shut down but instead it informs Gov. Climate Policy.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Over the course of the past third of a century the globalising Establishment of the western world has been more and more in the saddle, ruling everything.

With the U.S. presidential election this year, their victory is complete in America: as complete as that of Nazism in Germany in 1933.
From now on the USA will resemble more and more a mixture of that country and the Soviet Union.
One of the undeliberate achievements of Donald Trump, simply in running for and winning the presidency 2015/16, has been to switch on the lights in the cellar and reveal just how corrupt now the Dept of Justice, the FBI, the CIA and the Deep State generally are in that country; also most of the preposterously partisan biased mainstream media.
All of them and others besides (Academe, Big Tech, the big players – not the small ones – in the Chamber of Commerce) are part of the present-day Ruling Caste, rotten to the core.
Over here it is a little better; but will only get worse unless people start taking their citizenship duties seriously and begin actively to defend civilization.

jerrywhitcroft
JW
jerrywhitcroft
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Citations required please

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  jerrywhitcroft

Why do you need citations for things that are manifestly true? Anyway, these are not necessarily developments for which it would be possible to find citations.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  jerrywhitcroft

To take two instances out of scores –

[1] the Dept of Justice and the FBI travelled a wiredrawn circuitous route to get Hillary Clinton off the hook, even though it was most manifest (from all witnesses, including their own officers) and all facts that (a) she had put top secret US government documents on a private server of her own, in contravention of what she had explicitly been told and had sworn not to do; and (b) she did this because she wanted to keep out of archiveable recall the corrupt doings of the Clinton Foundation, set up officially as a charity but of which 94% of the millions in its coffers went to Bill and Hillary personally (that was the percentage the Accountants of said charity termed ‘administration’).

This ‘charity’ was the bank in which foreign powers (e.g. Morocco, Saudi Arabia) and domestic businesses (including the one through which Russia obtained 20% of America’s uranium) deposited huge sums in order to influence government policy while Mrs Clinton was the U.S. Secretary of State.

Mrs Clinton, in direct opposition to the facts, was named not guilty of a crime – though she was, flagrantly; and though she had refused to let the FBI examine her hard drive, they never took it away from her by force majeure.

[2] At the same time as they were getting Hillary off the hook, they were starting the process of getting Donald Trump onto it.

The Christopher Steele dossier, manufactured out of whole cloth, alleging Trump’s involvement with and ownership by the Russian authorities – a whopper which Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation eventually exploded – was adopted and promulgated by the DOJ, the FBI and the CIA in order first to discredit his candidature and then to unhorse him after he was elected.

There is masses more but if you have not been following events in the USA these past 5 years, it would take hours to tell it all to you.

TheBigT T
TT
TheBigT T
3 years ago
Reply to  jerrywhitcroft

Every time I see comments like “Citations required please’, with their imperious finger wagging tone, it is clear that the conversation is devolving into something hectoring and boring. This is a comments thread, not a high school debate. Be generous of spirt and have some fun with it!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

The same Cuomo whose actions killed numerous old people is also an Emmy winner for those theatrical news conferences. The president after Biden is very likely to be a woman who was 1) summarily rejected in the primaries by her own party and 2) whose biggest accomplishment is the mass imprisonment of black men for petty drug crimes. Meanwhile, public trust is institutions – academia, govt, the media, big business, etc – has steadily eroded.

kecronin1
KC
kecronin1
3 years ago

‘The future is looking bright for the DC foreign policy elite whose combined wisdom produced the Iraq War, abetted the catastrophe in Syria, scoffed at Trump’s efforts at a peace deal in the Middle East, and who now fight tooth and nail to keep US troops stranded in a lost war in Afghanistan.’ Ugh. I didn’t vote for Trump but I found solace that my son would never march to war under his regime. His blustering kept everyone on their toes. Though I winced, I liked the progress in the middle east. I listened as a friend who is a Uighur, and has family in camps) shared relief that their voices were finally heard by the Trump administration – courtesy of Israel – and felt relief that Taiwan would retain its sovereignty.

That the elites point to white supremacy as a real problem but not the billions reaped by ‘essential business’ is just subterfuge to keep the populace weary and angry with each other so they can continue without scrutiny. A friend and I lament that we don’t believe in conspiracies but what do you do when the facts are so clear?

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  kecronin1

How accurate was the film about Rumsfeld? Certainly the suggestion there was that the Iraq War was do fill the pockets, not of the Washington establishment, but of the military-industrial complex.

Colin Haller
CH
Colin Haller
3 years ago

A distinction without a difference, perhaps?

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
3 years ago
Reply to  kecronin1

This person has cognitive dissonance – at once stating ‘I didn’t vote for Trump’ but then goes on to laud and agree with many of his positions. Trump has never advocated for war nor started any wars, but wanted to get out of wars, yet she states that she didn’t want her son to go to war under Trump. A very confused person. I hope she’ll enjoy the Biden years.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
3 years ago

The elite institutions have not failed. They have succeeded marvelously. Their entire raison d’etre is to accumulate greater power and wealth concentrated in fewer hands. It has nothing to do with general benefit of the unwashed masses. That is a theater instruction for fooling us. Most are fooled, but not all.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Mitchell

We believe that Plato’s Republic often reappears at regular intervals only to eventually end in order the repeat the cycle. The emasculated US Constitution was supposed to counter the cycle, but the Courts have undermined it slowly over time. Mankind is plagued by greed seeming instinctual.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Each time I make a case for believing that the totalitarians have now attained complete victory in and control over the USA, and declare my belief that from now on that country will more and more resemble a cross between Germany 1933-45 and Soviet Russia, my post is “detected as spam” and deleted.

I write each time in sober terms and entirely polite language.

Is even ‘Unherd’ in thrall to political correctness?

I had supposed it was a sanctuary and refuge from the nonsense constraints of so many other publications.

Peter Ian Staker
PI
Peter Ian Staker
3 years ago

Yes, it’s quite sinister when you put it like this. The incentives are all wrong and people that are supposed to hold them accountable (the media) aren’t doing their jobs. There seems to be a lot of people hiding behind the complexities of leadership and the fact that many results can’t be quantified, and those that can are spun. Fundamentally, people are often going to seek their best interests so need to be held accountable for their advice and actions. These people just mark their own score cards and brazen it out. They are no longer rewarded for speaking the truth but their ability to cover themselves. Leadership is now seen as the ability to make speeches and deal with gotcha questions from the media but not delivering on anything that matters.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

“We are plagued by a corrupt polity which promotes unlawful and/or immoral behavior. Public interest has no practical significance in everyday behavior among the ruling factions. The real problems of our world are not being confronted by those in power. In the guise of public service, they use whatever comes to hand for personal gain. They are insane with and for power.”
Frank Herbert

Vuil Uil
VU
Vuil Uil
3 years ago

Common sense has been replaced by ‘expertise’ bolstered by appeals to authority from celebrities, the media, so-called science and government officials. And this ‘Appeal to Authority’ plays very well with large factions within the voting public.

It is useful to remember that half the voters have intelligence that is below average and many of them are easily swayed. But they are not alone since many of the over educated pretend intelligent middle class are as gullible.

So there are plenty of voters to support Bush, Blair, Macron, ‘the science’, experts and the slime ball politicians. This excellent, but depressing article is, thus, no surprise.

To summarize: It’s the voters wot done it.

Michael Sweeney
MW
Michael Sweeney
3 years ago

The next generation needs to:
1) Add term limits to Congress – 18 years for Senate, 12 years for Congress (4 terms of 3 years);
2) Limit Civil Service to 18 years;
3) Limit Military Service to 18 years; and
4) Have a mandatory year of Service similar to Israel – Not-for-Profits (domestic), NGOs (overseas) and Military Service…
5) Force some sort of law renewal, where they have to be renewed every 18 years, or they get removed.

Mark S
Mark S
3 years ago

Superb article, albeit skewed a bit against the Democratic Party. The GOP is every bit as bad.
This, of course, is not the first time we’ve seen this. In 2007/08 we had Reserve Bank of NY President Tim Geithner being uplifted to Treasury Secretary by President Obama, despite Geithner being explicitly warned in late August 2008 by would be buyers that Lehman Brothers was bust a number of times over. Geithner did nothing. Janet Yellen, then second in command at the ludicrously out of its depth US central bank, became FED chairwoman and oversaw the effective destruction of the risk management industry (and of course she’s now Geithner’s successor). Both are now celebrities.

sharon johnson
SJ
sharon johnson
3 years ago

As long as the United States is a democracy I blame my fellow citizens for being lazy and stupid. Too lazy to read statistics and too stupid to learn what they mean. Any dolt who has read anything fact-based re efficacy of masks would raise a fuss about being compelled to wear one. But that’s not what’s happening here. People cower under the weight of the State Governor Newsom’s edicts. Forget that his IQ doesn’t break 95, just listen and follow. Somewhere Orwell is smiling.

cybervigilante
cybervigilante
3 years ago

When will people realize Republican vs Democrat is a game They play as they throw red-meat memes to get votes, then get back to filling their pockets.

Colin Haller
CH
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  cybervigilante

This. In the American political duopoly the Republicans spend their time making sure that poor people stay poor; the Democrats theirs running interference for the Republicans. Team Pepsi or Team Coke, it doesn’t matter — regardless the label, it’s neoliberal cola inside the bottle.

America is a turkey with two right wings.

Yvonne York
Yvonne York
3 years ago

This was so hard to read because it is an unflinching assessment of the stranglehold of elite institutional power on American public life, against the interests of the people who wanted and voted for Bernie Sanders and his Progressive platform positions in the primaries. Sums up an entire year of deception practiced by city , federal , and public health officials with the crowning achievement of the coronation of Biden , a hollow husk wrapped around corporatist interests. We should be more vigilant now than ever, but most that I know are content to return to brunch and civility and watch their stock portfolios increase in value.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Yvonne York

Biden is an empty vessel, and Harris is worse — she didn’t win a single delegate, NOT ONE, in the Democratic Primary, and she’s one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Daniel Björkman
DB
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

Hmm-hmm. Yes, true, experts are often wrong. What would you like to replace them with? People who don’t know anything but feel very strongly that everything should be the way that makes them feel safe and important? Because that seems to be the only alternative that’s on offer right now.

The reason why I keep hanging around right-of-center sites is because I can’t stand the weepy think-of-the-poor-oppressed-such-and-such sentimentalism of the woke left. But honestly, the weepy family-church-and-nation sentimentalism of the center right is starting to get on my nerves too.

I’d like a better sort of experts, yes. Ones who checked their data and tested their theories a little more often. But I’d take flawed expertise over the perfect ignorance of chest-thumping Common People (TM) any day. Not a happy choice, I’ll grant you, but it’s the one I’d make.

And, you know, here’s a thought: maybe the actually educated people would be more willing to admit it when they were wrong if they didn’t constantly have to fight against a mass of angry buffoons who think that their almighty gut instinct should trump mere knowledge? It’s easy to think that you’re self-evidently right when you have to deal with so many people who are self-evidently wrong.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

But I’d take flawed expertise over the perfect ignorance of chest-thumping Common People (TM) any day.
Why? The former is worse since it comes wrapped in the veneer of alleged knowledge. Often, it’s advice dispensed for we proles to follow, not for those dispensing it. And to your later point, the ‘educated’ are never going to admit they’re wrong; it’s not in their DNA. You and I have gut instincts for a reason.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago

Replace them with nothing. There is not actually a hard, unambiguous need for most of these people or their advice: mostly for the things they provide advice on, they could just announce their views on a blog or Twitter, let the media amplify it and then people could make up their own minds.

The Common People as you put it are people who often have a great deal more information than the experts do, in particular about the relevance and impact the “expert” suggestions would have on their own lives. Sometimes even about the things the experts claim to be expert in, when as is so often the case, the experts are making claims about broad swathes of society and about things they have no direct experience with e.g. when government economists talk about the private sector economy despite having never been a direct participant in it.

And that’s when the experts are merely over-reaching, not completely useless. If we take experts like the epidemiologists who have defined 2020 and read their published papers closely, we find that many of them effectively “know” less about disease than the average person would, often due to their need to express knowledge via statistical models that can’t handle a lot of parameters. For example epidemiological models routinely ignore seasons and seasonality, even though your local hairdresser could tell you that winter is a pretty important factor in the spread of respiratory diseases. Mr Ferguson admitted in a recent interview he doesn’t even have an O-Level in biology, meaning many teenagers have a deeper formal training in the human body than he does. Yet he’s an “expert” in infectious diseases.

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike H

Hang on, are you saying that formal qualifications are important? Isn’t that uncomfortably close to saying that expertise matters?

Mike H
MH
Mike H
3 years ago

I don’t personally care whether he has an O-Level in biology or not, but academics care about such things an inordinate amount. Anyone who criticises them from other fields is basically told to shut up due to lack of qualifications (which are controlled by them, of course). If someone’s response to criticism of their work boils down to “we credentialed experts all agree” then pointing out their lack of credentials is legitimate, even if it should really be unimportant.

Or phrased another way, the right way to demonstrate proof is with proof, not cliquey attempts at “social proof”.

cajwbroomhill
CW
cajwbroomhill
3 years ago

Sounds as if selfish, narrow politically perceived imperatives are tending to be prioritised over objective intentions of public benefit.
The most obvious example of such distortions the Green movement’s grip on climate questions, at least here in the UK.
The US may be entering the same scientifically uncritical BS, evidently favoured by your new President elect.
Here, the authorities are prepared to bet (and destroy) the house on the basis of unproven fears of climate catastrophes decades or more hence. Uncritical acceptance of predictions of global catastrophe prevail.
Whatever the motives of Pres. DJT in quitting the BS Paris Agreement, his climate policy made total good sense, as do the Orientals climate policies in ignoring the catastrophe BS.
Why on Earth did the US vote for a senile,scientifically uncritical “senior”President?

stephen f.
SF
stephen f.
3 years ago

Be careful not to walk into the minefield of “Jeremy Smith” TDS posts.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

It is you (and the rest of Trump -aka the Orange God) that suffer from TDS.
The man is a degenerate!

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

Great article. I would point out that our tech overlords censored expert opinion that disagreed with the opinions of the power connected “expert” opinion. This is unscientific. Also about the masks being vital to contain spread. How did that work out? Droplet theory was first surmised in a published research paper in 1911. In the 40 years before 2020 respiratory viruses were considered to be mainly aerosol spread and masks useless. And just for the fun of it… are you confused about what “asymptomatic” means? Let me clear that up for you. It means those people have immunity to the virus. It is what the “experts” hope to achieve with their vaccines. This is why they are saying you will still have to mask even though you have the vaccine lol… even though asymptomatic spread is not a driver of disease. But what do I know? I’m not a power connected “expert”

G Harris
GH
G Harris
3 years ago

Given the media’s increasing tendency to rely on and misuse the word ‘expert’ (Radio 4’s today programme I’m non-specifically looking at you here, honest) and deliberately imbue the word with near mystical all-knowing connotations seemingly in order to substantiate beyond all reasonable doubt what they are about to propagate, might I suggest that the word now be expurgated from all editorial guidelines and replaced with the word ‘professional’ preceded by whatever field they might be professional in ie healthcare professional, teaching professional, or simply refer to their job title ie ‘an epidemiologist said’ or ‘a statistician claimed etc possibly peppered very sparingly with the word ‘leading’ if truly warranted.

‘Experts’, like my bête noir, ‘economists’, rarely agree on anything in their chosen fields and yet we’re often led to believe otherwise, so this practice of suggesting that there is but one single definitive answer to literally everything is not only dishonest, it takes its audience for utter fools and is, frankly, completely counterproductive.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

Not really my business, but if Americans wish to rebel against an elite, they could start with the healthcare elite who:

– consume 19.5% of the entire American national GDP, with the resulting cost to American businesses of sponsoring healthcare for their employees being a major cause of America’s loss of competitiveness.

– loot (I estimate) around $60 billion in profits for healthcare insurers alone ($800 for each and every American family of four), let alone all the other players in the healthcare industry

– pay consultants a fortune ($2 million was the annual income of an American friend’s consultant) while unexpected healthcare bills are the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy

– despite enriching themselves, fail to deliver first-world levels of healthcare to large numbers of Americans at the lower end of the income scale but above the Medicaid threshold

But I guess rebelling against that elite would be a bit radical, so best to stick to your comfort zone, attacking the kind of pointy-headed intellectual who doesn’t believe that the world was created on a Tuesday morning in 4004BC, and doesn’t believe that the fossilised dinosaur bones in the rocks were created by God to deceive those already weak in faith. Or attacking the kind of person who points out that CO2 is transparent to visible radiation but opaque to heat radiation, so higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere trap more heat and raise temperatures. Or attacking the educated folk who create vaccines against Covid, since doing that shows disturbing signs of intelligence, so they’re probably L-I-B-E-R-A-L-S.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago

The early 13th century Papal Legate and former Abbot of Citeaux, Arnaud Almaric, when confronted with a similar problem is reputed to have said “Kill them all, God will know his own”.

Thus was the Albigensian Crusade decided.

Randall Peaslee
RP
Randall Peaslee
3 years ago

This is an essay I will copy and send to people. Brilliant.

Stephen Hoffman
SH
Stephen Hoffman
3 years ago

“For the American ruling class, expertise is a ceremonial costume conferring power through
mystifying rituals. The mantra of this cohort, ‘believe science,’ says it all. It’s an incantation in a cheap magic act, one that has nothing to do with science.”

Let’s face it: it’s our own quasi-religious faith in technocratic expertise which keeps it powerful.

This brings to mind two immortal aphorisms.

“We have met the enemy and he is us” (Pogo).

“There is hope”but not for us” (Kafka).

Let’s all pray to die as cowards and be reborn as free men.

Ceelly Hay
CH
Ceelly Hay
3 years ago

The excellent book ‘the Hierarchy Theory’ by Ahl & Allen looks at the limit of understanding of the scientific method. Science is not finding the truth but ‘socially acceptable perception’. Science doesn’t provide answers on what ‘ought to be’ or ‘what we should do’. Morality is not in the material world but part of our ‘internal’ values and individual experiences.

Unfortunately, science is being used to justify excluding the general public from decisions making and relying on single ‘paid experts’ opinion instead. That free speech, debate, discussion, and compromise the foundation of democracy is no longer required.

ian.davitt
ID
ian.davitt
3 years ago

The USA is now little more than a third world banana republic in terms of fraudulent and corrupt voting processes. Quite clearly, there were irregularities in Democratic Party run States and the left leaning main stream media, big tech organisations and large corporations have colluded in covering up and fixing a democratic election. El Presidente Harris (Biden is a lame, Trojan Horse who won’t make it passed Spring) will have no moral high ground to criticise any country because she will have gained absolute power by deception. If she thinks she can implement far-left socialist programmes on a population that feels it has been cheated and deceived, then she can think again. We’ve had the Far Left ANTIFA and the Marxist BLM on the streets rioting, looting, burning, vandalising and using violence thus far. Now it will be the turn of the ‘deplorables’ – the disenfranchised and marginalised – who have been subject to appalling, vitriolic abuse – to strike back. What interesting times America is about to live through.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago

The lesson of politics is Power.
At that level, the reason for the now complete triumph of a very corrupt meritocratic oligarchy in the USA – and across much of the western world – is the failure of most people over the past two generations to be politically engaged, active and impose their will on the rulers and shakers of society.
They have left it to everybody else to provide their politics. So, just as scum rises to the top of a pond, politicians are now 4th-rate careerists entering politics solely in order to acquire money, privilege and self-importance in a degree they never could attain in any other walk of life.
And they have handed power to their owners and donors, Big Money and its current ally the Far Left, both of whom have – in the short and middle terms – shared paramount goals: Globalisation, Mass Immigration and making government unaccountable to the people it rules.
In the United States Joe Public, socially (though not economically) conservative will now have to live in a Fascist order of society; and this through his own laziness and cowardice during the past 60 years.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

And yet human beings live better lives than ever. Unless you think that life down a mine shaft in Northern England is better than working for Amazon?

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Are there any working mine shafts left in Northern England?

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

No, right?

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Afraid so!

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

“And yet human beings live better lives than ever”
Really, that’s a bit anachronistic giving the present Great Panic isn’t it?

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Black Death?

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

So many would have us (not you and I) believe!

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Tell that to Tiffany Dover, the 30 year old nurse who appears to have died after first collapsing following her vaccination.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

QED.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

She’s alive and well, thankfully. Back at work.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

That’s good to hear. I guess the video I saw was fake news. But a pretty good ‘deep fake’ or something like that, given that the guy appeared to go into the public records of deaths and find her there.

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Unfortunately there’s a lot of that about!

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

This article is about the paucity of behaviours and expertise of our ‘elites'”.

I suspect most readers would prefer comments that stay on topic …. 👍

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Sorry, an unforgivable burst ‘off piste’!

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It happens to the best of us.

Possibly your “would-be instructor” led you that way 😉

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, I was indulging in a bit of totally unacceptable ‘Jeremy baiting’.

I should know better at my age, but as Wilde said ” I can resist anything but temptation”.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It might be.

Johnny Sutherland
JS
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Weirdly enough I don’t think anyone has ever lived down a mine. So to rephrase your comment

Unless you think that doing something that does not exist in reality is better than working for an employer who won’t give you time to go to the loo?

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It’s complicated. On the one hand, at least in some places, miners had/have the right to take a bathroom break while they work; whereas some Amazon workers don’t. On the other hand, working in a fulfilment centre is probably healthier than working in a mine (though if I recall there were some covid problems in fulfilment centres).

Jeremy Smith
JS
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

The Kraken will deal with the Elites.
Release the Kraken!

Lyn Griffiths
LG
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

I wrote rich nor educated, it should have read :
“The rich and educated are weak”.

Andrew Baldwin
AB
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Great analysis by Jacob.
The top rung of central bankers as a group are likely to emerge as winners from the coronavirus recession. Bill White said that in a sense this global recession was just waiting to happen, with the massive buildup of debt created by the unconventional monetary policies pursued from the time of the financial crisis. However, the US Fed has largely evaded criticism for this, and has quickly dropped the federal funds rate to the lower bound, and reinstated quantitative easing in a big way. Both ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing are likely to create asset bubbles. We already see strong signs of this in the US housing market. The Case-Shiller national HPI had an annual inflation rate of 8.4% in October, up from 7.0% in September, with a November forecast of 9.5%.
Laell Brainard, the only Democrat on the Board of Governors of the US Fed, was one of the favourites to be Treasury Secretary in a Biden administration, but lost out to Janet Yellen, who if confirmed will become the first woman to hold that job. However, if she did not get the job, she has a good shot at taking over from Jerome Powell in 2022 if President Kamala Harris or maybe Biden if he lasts that long, does not decide to give Powell a second term. That these two central bankers were considered the top candidates for Treasury Secretary suggests that the independence of the central bank is eroding. The US federal government is hooked on debt, and the US Fed is there to keep interest rates low and the US debt burden manageable. If Trump chose Jerome Powell to be the Fed chair it was likely because he was the Republican on the Board of Governors who was most comfortable with low interest rate policies.
Laell Brainard was calling for average inflation targeting policies at least as early as November 2019, although average inflation targeting only became the official policy of the US Fed in August 2020, when Chairman Powell announced it at the Jackson Hole meeting. It is geared to keeping the federal funds rate at its lower bound even after the economy has recovered to the point where the inflation rate exceeds 2%. In the average inflation targeting framework the inflation rate can exceed 2% for several years even, if it means that the average inflation rate over a longer span of years is around 2%. The dangers of such an approach leading to the hardening of inflation expectations around an inflation rate exceeding 2% are obvious, but have never been tested. It seems unlikely that the American public has really understood that they are being asked to buy into facing a lot more inflation in the future than they have since the inflation target was established in 2012.
Janet Yellen was a senior Fed official through the US housing boom and bust, but never did anything as US Fed chair to try to move to a target inflation indicator that would include housing prices. Now, if she is confirmed as Treasury Secretary, she may watch over another housing boom and bust as the woman responsible for fiscal policy. That would be failing your way up indeed.

Peter Gardner
PG
Peter Gardner
3 years ago

Exactly the same could be written of the EU, which is the most advanced of technocratic governing institutions. As a supra-national entity its progress is marked by the extent to which it suppresses democracy, which can exist only within sovereign nation states.
As the spearhead of supra-national technocratic governance it has reached the limits of ever closer union under the Lisbon Treaties and plans to put new treaties in place by the end of its current five year plan. in the next five year plan after that it intends to found the Federal State of Europe around the German-French axis; driving economic power at one end, nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the UN security council at the other. There is no European demos. This new Federal State of Europe will be not only undemocratic but anti-democratic and 100% technocratic.
The EU has long had the goal of becoming the world’s hegemonic power, knocking the USA off its perch. This ambition is no longer secret (Macron actually told President Trump to his face that the USA is a threat to Europe, meaning to EU ambitions) and will become brazen in the next few years. The EU is actively undermining NATO, isolating the USA from Europe, reducing its relevance to Europe.
Joe Biden may favour technocratic governance and the supra-national governance of the EU but does he actually understand the EU’s intentions? Does he understand why the oldest democracy in the world, the UK (England actually but let’s not split hairs) has chosen to leave the EU after more than 40 years of watching its democracy being undermined and subverted by technocrats of the EU and within its own political elite who despise the common man? He has an instinctive dislike of the British action, so perhaps, as a technocrat, he does understand it and sees the newly sovereign democracy of the UK as a threat to his ambitions. He has already invoked his Irish ancestry (tenuous as it is) so as to threaten to make trouble in Ireland in order to punish the UK for rejecting the supra-national technocratic order of the EU.

Jonathan Barker
JB
Jonathan Barker
3 years ago

Meanwhile one of the very best critiques of the blindness of the “experts” (especially those who perpetrated the industrial scale carnage of the WWI trench warfare) was given by John Ralston Saul in his 1992 book Voltaires Bastards.

But that that having been said if it were left to the ordinary man in the street to even attempt to manage a highly complex technological modern state nothing would ever get accomplished. As a relatively old-time example could the ordinary man in the street ever build the London Sewer system or the London Underground railway.

Meanwhile everyone, without exception “lives” in their own very narrow Reality Bubble which is the title of a book by the Science writer Zia Tong. Reality Bubble Blind Spots Hidden Truths and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World.

Emma Rikey
ER
Emma Rikey
3 years ago

I still have faith in experts, they have trained for many years in their field so who best to ask for advice. The virus has exposed the social inequalities that already existed in both the UK and USA and the responsibility for the chaotic response by both governments to the covid crisis lies in the under investment in the health and social systems of both countries. The lockdown in the UK and USA was too late, preoccupied with keeping the economy moving at all costs, and in a sort of denial It was clear from the crisis in Italy a pandemic was evolving and specialists in the field of viruses and pandemics advised and gave instructions on the preparations and response needed by governments many years before the pandemic occurred and as it manifested. They were unable to respond the way required – there just wasn’t the equipment, not enough doctors, nurses, beds, before the pandemic things were stretched to the limit but now… In New York flights continued from Europe even after a world pandemic had been declared. In the case of the UK, the stark fact is lack of investment in the NHS left them vulnerable to a crisis of the magnitude evolving. A properly funded national health service and social care system would have them responding from a position of strength. Long before the pandemic arose, doctors, nurses and the public in general declared the NHS is in a state of crisis due to underfunding and a secret privatisation. A visit to any A and E way before the pandemic showed a service at breaking point. So add the pandemic onto a service already strained and the result the UK suffers the most deaths in Europe in the first wave. Most of the deaths in the first wave were those of the elderly in care homes. The government should shoulder the responsibility for these deaths. No coherent plan for the discharge of elderly people from hospital, no testing available and consequently the virus was brought into care homes. The experts knew and advised, the health care workers responded and went above and beyond the call of duty working with the equipment they had, risking their own lives to help others.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Emma Rikey

Here is pair of additional “stark facts” for you: the PHE Board advised the government last October (2019) that it was well prepared for a pandemic. The WHO said the UK was one of the best prepared in the world.

Was Boris wrong, in your view, to listen to their reassurances?

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

It’s often a mistake to listen to bureaucrats in charge rather than workers at the coal-face

stephensjpriest
SP
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Dear unherd Facts About The Fact Checkers

You tube watch?v=mjZR6Htma18&list=WL&index=162

AwakenWithJP

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago

So, you are against: Democrats, Repulicans, Experts, Technocrats, Big Tech Execs, etc etc.
What exactly are you favour of? What do you propose?

Arild Brock
AB
Arild Brock
3 years ago
Reply to  K Sheedy

Good questions!

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago

No mention of the experts and elite institutions that developed the sars-cov-2 vaccines? Telling.

One or two good points submerged in an ocean of diatribe, generalisation, and one-sidedness.

UnHerd seems to be desperate to export the US’s “culture wars” to England. Why?

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

You don’t believe that England has its own culture wars?

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago

Well, I rather think England has a bunch of populist demagogues and media enablers at UnHerd and elsewhere whose political projects depend on stoking up “culture wars”.

My point is more that this is a U.S. tactic (and a reason why the white American working classes vote against their economic interests to support a low tax/deregulation party) and it’s depressing to see it gain traction in the U.K..

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

US tactic? What a laugh. We are late comers to the party, if anything. Ever heard of Brexit? How long has that resentment been stewing? Goes back a bit before 2016, doesn’t it?

You Brits practically invented the concept of pitting people against each other. Your state church is a result of culture wars. Scotland never stops trying to get away. Another independence referendum on the way? Seriously, we have nothing like that in the US. Speaking of culture wars……uh the Irish troubles? For commonwealth Canada see Quebec vs the rest of Canada.

The entire history of the EU is nothing but a series of culture clashes with Germany dominant while France schemes and Spain, Greece and Italy stagnate.

Eva Rostova
ER
Eva Rostova
3 years ago

Sorry if I wasn’t clear Annette, but I think we’re talking at cross purposes. The US “culture wars” have been raging since the 1960s, a tactic to get white working class voters to vote, against their economic interests, for the Republican Party. Abortion, immigration, religion, race/BLM, gay rights, guns, free speech, science, objective truth, trust in “experts”/expertise/elites/universities etc etc. Those are the cultural issues I’m referring to. You’re referring to historic national rivalries between England, Ireland, and Scotland (or independence movements in Ireland and Scotland ” remember the US had the Civil War due to a secession attempt by the South), and also between France and Germany etc in the EU, which is all somewhat distinct. And the Church of England came into being because King Henry VIII wanted to annul or divorce Catherine of Aragon but the Pope said no, which is also somewhat distinct!

Chris C
CC
Chris C
3 years ago

You don’t get much more “elite” than the President of the United States.

POTUS lost an election. He then tried to get Republicans at State level to certify him as the winner in some of the States he lost, and appoint Electoral College Electors backing him in order to steal the election.

When that didn’t work, he tried to get Bill Barr to impose Martial Law in those States in order to rerun the election. Barr wouldn’t play ball, unwilling to act as the enabler of replacing American democracy with a Fascist coup.

When POTUS descends to the level of Venezuela, or the Central African Republic, and “sh*tty countries” like that (to use his own words), clearly the Elite is failing. Though in his case it’s downwards rather than upwards

Unless of course Jacob Siegel is using ‘elite’ to represent, not power, but anyone with intelligence and integrity.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

All this would of course be outrageous behaviour on the part of the POTUS if there were not masses of Gigantic Discrepancy and Statistical Impossibilities in the election.

2,500 election officials (some of them Democrat) and observers have sworn and signed affidavits – under penalty of perjury-punishment [= prison] – alleging frauds perpetrated right under their own obsevation.

Whole districts, counties, have sent in their ballots – sometimes 2,300, sometimes far more – where EVERY SINGLE VOTE has been for Mr Biden and none for Mr Trump. This is a statistical impossibility.

Huge tranches of voting-papers have been enrolled in which voters have voted for Mr Biden without choosing any other candidates – for Senate, local House of Representatives, Sheriff &c. This would tally with this forms being filled in rapidly overnight on demand by harassed hurried staff, not the electorate!

Multitudes of dead people have voted, far more than usual. Detroit seems to be a particularly healthy place if you care to live well into your second century. A long list of people aged 118 and over is topped there by a Mr Jason Lemoyne Daniels, who was born in 1850 (I have seen him on the Returns List). He, like the others, sent in an absentee ballot which, even so, is an impressive effort in a 170-year-old.

The counts in several places were stopped half-way through the late evening; truckloads of postal ballots were delivered; and regions where Mr Trump was hundreds of thousands of votes ahead suddenly thereafter swung to Biden.

I could go on; but the most daunting proof that the US has now succumbed to a Fascist takeover by the entrenched Establishment of which this excellent author writes is the fact that No Journalists (outside Fox News and a few minor online journals) is the least bit interested to investigate any of this.

The judges in various courts refuse to look at the evidence – not because they examine and find it unconvincing intrinsically but on Process grounds (i.e. they are scared to get involved; partly for the good reason that they don’t want to be deciding no less than a presidential contest; partly for the bad reason that they are frightened for themselves and their families at the hands of Leftwing Mobs).

Over here our journalists mostly parrot the cry ‘Baseless allegations. No Evidence.’
There are mounds and mounds of evidence but the members and beneficiaries and shills of the Occidental Ruling Caste know which side their bread is buttered; and so refuse to look at it.

(To be fair, I think it is also the case that many journalists are now incredibly lazy and just take for granted anything their peers tell them in the Groupthink of the season.)

Chris C
CC
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Yet you can’t get any judges to endorse these claims, when Trump has launched lawsuits.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

why is that, do you suppose? Why did we blow four years on non-existent ‘Russian collusion’ but cannot spend 15 minutes looking into a multitude of smoke trails to see if there is an underlying fire?

It may all be pure coincidence, but you did not bother to refute a single point that the poster made. How come? It’s not one county or one state; it’s numerous red flags that are being summarily ignored because it’s Orange McBadman who stands to lose.

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Have you stopped beating your wife? (Assuming that you don’t) you can’t answer this without raising doubts that you do. It’s similar with conspiracy theories.

Mike Hearn
MH
Mike Hearn
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

He means neither. I think most people have developed an organic understanding of what “the elites” means. But I rarely see an explicit definition; clearly one is needed.

What the British call the establishment and Americans “the elites” if they’re polite and “the swamp” if less so, is a two-layered sub culture.

The first layer is made up of people who are actually in the establishment: people whose life success is highly dependent on influencing a relatively small number of people in the public sector. For example civil servants, university employees, academics, think tankers, government contractors, and some but not all journalists. Not all because whilst TV journalists who cover politics are highly exposed the vagaries of who politicians will give interviews to and in the UK also the opinions of regulators, other types like tabloid sports journalists aren’t. Politicians are a mixed bag: when they’re “pre-chosen winners” like Biden/Clinton (US) or dropped into a safe seat (UK) we can group them with the establishment, when outsiders who bust their way in by winning a genuinely competitive process then they aren’t.

The second layer consists of those who hold what we might call establishment values. These people may be in the private sector, but act the same way as establishment types do. Very little is written about establishment values but I think most people instinctively know what matters in it: group decision making of which “consensus” is the most highly prized version, “listening” to the views of all “stakeholders” (by which they mean whoever manages to use their contact network to get in front of decision makers first), “reasonableness” defined as agreeing to compromises and with the group decision, deference to specialised and especially global institutions, “diversity” meaning the rewarding of people for being female or a racial minority, sticking together, never criticising someone for incompetence, and generally avoiding things that might risk you departing from “mainstream” thought. In particular this means you may not under any circumstances make decisions using only logic and facts, because that would not represent a compromise between stakeholders, i.e. would not be “reasonable”.

Academics deserve special mention: their views are pretty much like crack cocaine to those who hold establishment values. The reason is that such types know deep down that always interpolating a mid-point between whatever views “stakeholders” seem to have isn’t really how decisions are meant to be made, and that the wider world expects them to at least pretend to care about evidence based and logical decision making, even though their value system rejects it. Academics are a perfect solution: they frequently claim that their views are not only logic and evidence based, but re also represent a consensus view and thus are already a compromise: moreover their views are not just views of a person or group but an institution or better yet all reason-based institutions simultaneously. This is why 2020 has been a year defined by the mass transfer of power directly into the hands of academics despite their rank incompetence and inability to generate even one or two accurate predictions: the establishment are hopelessly in awe of them. Importantly none of this awe is dependent on real, empirical correctness, merely the assertion that their views are both reason-based and “reasonable”. Whoever gets to the establishment first and declares their views to be the consensus automatically win regardless of actual merit.

Note how establishment values and thus the establishment has nothing to do with power. It is a worldview, not a position that is mechanically transferred from person to person.

Trump is therefore the anti-elite in every way: his personal “success” came from winning competitive contests in first the business world and then the Republican primaries, not by winning the approval of the establishment, he doesn’t care at all about brokering compromises between the various Washington factions, he’ll happily tell ‘everyone’ they’re wrong based on his pre-existing beliefs or reasoning, he isn’t even slightly impressed by academics, and he punished what he saw as incompetence (e.g. replacing Fauci with Scott Atlas). All of these things are anathema to establishment values.

Mike H
Mike H
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Siegel is using “elite” to mean what Brits would call “the establishment” or “polite society” and what Trump would call “the swamp”. Maybe more articles need to be written studying these people because this confusion crops up frequently – the elite/establishment are not defined as those who have power. Being elite is a combination of where you derive your success from and the worldview you subscribe to.

The establishment (I’ll use the British term) consists of two layers.

The first layer are those actually in it. It’s made up of people whose life success depends on the opinions of a small number of people in the public sector. Civil servants for example, but also politics journalists (who depend heavily on whether government officials will grant them interviews or leak gossip to them), think tankers, NGO/”charity” employees when they depend heavily on government funding, academics and so on. These people don’t get ahead by being right but by impressing people who control the flow of tax money. Politicians are sometimes members of the establishment, e.g. when parachuted into safe seats or when they are pre-ordained “winners” like Biden/Clinton. But when they reached their position by winning genuinely competitive contests they don’t have to be.

The second layer are those who aren’t really in the establishment but who are loyal to establishment values. You can sometimes find these people in the private sector or on the bottom rungs of the public sector (e.g. teachers). Their personal success might be judged somewhat empirically, but they sound and act as if they run the diversity team of a mid-level government department.

Establishment values aren’t written down anywhere but are widely understood nonetheless. One key value from which many others are derived is “reasonableness”, defined as making every decision by interpolating a compromise between as many “stakeholders” as possible. Because many decisions taken by the establishment affect everyone but you can’t put everyone in a room, stakeholders typically ends up meaning whichever well connected people were able to get into the right room at the right time, which establishment values say is unfortunate but unavoidable: making a decision this way is deemed inherently good, even if the result is nonsensical and could never have been reached logically from known facts. Indeed, insisting on a certain decision being taken because it’s logically correct, even if everyone else in the room disagrees, is a sure sign you aren’t a subscriber to establishment values and will probably be kicked out soon if possible. From this value we can reach another sacred value: diversity & inclusion, defined as granting special benefits to women and minorities. The justification for this is that otherwise they wouldn’t be in the room when decisions are taken and because they’re “stakeholders” like any other, that would be bad. Does that specific woman really represent the views of all women? No, but how else are you meant to make decisions? Thinking for yourself, building a logical argument for a certain plan and then implementing it? No way: whichever stakeholders lost out would say you were being unreasonable and that would be terrible. Finally, a complete refusal to judge others based on competence is another consequence of this worldview: excluding people for being incompetent would reduce the pool of “stakeholders” and make any resulting decision less middle-of-the-road and thus less legitimate, so it’s just never done regardless of how provably wrong someone is.

Academics deserve special consideration. Deep down establishment types know that the wider world expects decisions to be understandable outside the room they were made in: they expect some degree of logic and evidence to matter. Academics are great because they make claims that they say are based on logic and evidence, yet those views are also peer reviewed and signed off by institutions, thus the process of compromise and stakeholder-inclusion is already baked in and you don’t even have to actually read anything they’ve written – establishment values already require you to assume that any conclusion reached by a public sector institution is correct! Even better is when academics claim to represent a scientific consensus: this is absolutely the best result possible because it means every possible stakeholder is satisfied. This represents the perfect decision.

Defined this way, it’s easy to see that Trump is the anti-elite. His personal “success” was derived entirely from winning competitive contests, first in business, then in the Republican primaries and then in the election against Clinton. He doesn’t care what the collection of self-selecting pseudo-stakeholders that inhabit Washington thinks, and very visibly cares a lot about people whom the establishment normally excludes, like workers in the rustbelt or on his construction projects. He takes positions nobody else has simply because he personally concluded they’re correct (e.g. hawkishness on China). He has no time for diversity agendas and doesn’t care if people call him racist. Worst of all he doesn’t even care if people say he’s unreasonable, which is a total rejection of the groupthink-and-compromise based decision making the elite stands for. In every way possible he is the opposite of what it means to be elite.

apenner83
M
apenner83
3 years ago

A bunch of regressive paleocon nonsense and hyper-partisan right wing buffoonery. The unherd isn’t really trying to appeal to its liberal readers who are against wokeness anymore, huh. Guess I won’t spend my time anymore reading this “Liberalism is mental disorder” nonsense from this pub.

Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  apenner83

You can have a bunch of bananas, but you cannot have “A bunch of regressive paleocon nonsense and hyper-partisan right wing buffoonery.”
It just doesn’t make sense as an English sentence.
You could spend some of your spare time improving your command of our language.

apenner83
M
apenner83
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Are you sure that you are English, you sound very German to me with your arrogant “Kommandoton” .

Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  apenner83

And yet…, I can speak coherent English whereas you cannot.

apenner83
M
apenner83
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

How typical of the Little Englander to have his amazing command of the language of the country he was born in as his sole source of self-esteem. Now go and jerk off to Brexit or whatever it is your types do.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  apenner83

“Jerk off”? Are you American?

San Rub
SR
San Rub
3 years ago

It will never cease to amaze me how conservatives see vindication in everything. 2 million less in the popular vote count is a decisive win Trump, bit an 8 million loss is a narrow victory for Biden.

Republicans lost with an incumbent President, which is unusual. The last time an incumbent lost in an US election was 1992 and that was the Vice President from a previous two term Republican President. You would have to go 40 years back to find a President who lost after having his party in The White House for only one term.

But hey, they seem all happy about the election result.

Lyn Griffiths
LG
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

Whatever the scenario of explanation, one things for sure. A president of America has never been the cause of so much suffering and so many deaths in peace time towards people in his care. This due to inaction, and his ability to frighten and bring the immediate downfall of elites within his sphere. Where this year to show us all with clarity the rich nor educated are strong, but sheep. What the world needs are people of a mind to understand the ways of the global society and introduce what was once regarded as fair play, truthfulness and to pay their taxes.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Lyn Griffiths

But you won’t get the Trump cultists here to accept uncomfortable facts like that. Most of them can’t even accept that the American people voted him out of power by a majority of seven million.

TheBigT T
TT
TheBigT T
3 years ago
Reply to  Lyn Griffiths

You do understand that in the USA, healthcare administration and delivery, including public health services, is controlled at the local and state level? The role of the US federal government is quite limited. Same for Canada, btw, where health care is an exclusively provincial responsibility from a constitutional perspective. Unfortunately, this makes hanging responsibility for the USA’s COVID response on the Bad Orange Man exclusively is very inaccurate, to say the least.

Alex Hawk
AH
Alex Hawk
3 years ago

WAHH WAHH WAHH.

Cry some more.

(lmao at an idiot like Siegel blasting anyone for “failing upward” with no talent. no self awareness on this site at all)

andy.prutsok
AP
andy.prutsok
3 years ago

It’s really been refreshing not having Republicans or Trump stirring up the culture war.

Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  andy.prutsok

And what do you think that you stir up?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  andy.prutsok

The Republicans and Trump are two very different things. The Republicans, for the most part, are part of the same UniParty with the Democrats. This UniParty takes its orders from the corporations that fund them. This UniParty united to ensure that Trump – who threatened to disrupt their corrupt cartel – was defeated.

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
3 years ago
Reply to  andy.prutsok

The culture war by definition has been manufactured by woke universities and colleges abetted by the media and Hollywood. Conservatives by definition, prefer tradition and sanity.

Andre Lower
AL
Andre Lower
3 years ago

I spotted the author’s agenda as soon as he misquoted the CDC’s appeal against widespread mask use at the very beginning of the pandemic, which anyone with a brain would understand was designed to mitigate the public hysteria that was about to deprive medical staff of access to the critically low supply of masks back then. Yes, in America the institutions have to protect the public from its own stupidity…
Every portion of the article after that reinforced the picture of ignorance and bias that defines way too many “heroic american citizens” of the MAGA crowd…
The sad truth is that the US is plagued by an ever growing divide between enlightened elites and a moronic mass of ignorant citizens. The split model worked fine for a while, with the best-suited creating prosperity while the rest just basked in the benefits. It is going to waste because of a nasty combination of internet-driven “freedom of speech”, devaluation of scientific knowledge, short-sightedness and hubris. And on will the world move.

Paul Reidinger
PR
Paul Reidinger
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

“Enlightened elites”? I gather you haven’t spent
much time with them.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Reidinger

I suspect that he is one of them.

Paul Reidinger
PR
Paul Reidinger
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

He thinks he is, yes. He IDENTIFIES as elite, we might say.

Michael Cowling
MC
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Moronic mass of ignorant citizens … some years back, I was told by US university students that Italy was in California (or was it)? Certainly then there was little knowledge and even less understanding of the rest of the world. If you’re not willing to look at what other people do, you’re unlikely to improve what you do; rather, you continue to delude yourself that you’re in the best of all possible worlds.

Andre Lower
AL
Andre Lower
3 years ago

Reality check: The average US University population are by no means part of the elite I referred to. As a matter of fact, many of the really relevant US people have not been educated in the US.
The elite is typically unencumbered by the ideological fanaticism that obscures understanding for the rest of the US population. “Not willing to look at what other people do” defines this majority quite nicely…