The world is being gaslighted by people in power. They want us to think that there’s a dangerous radical threat but the truth is that elites of all persuasions are conservative. That’s how they stay in power.
Take a swim in the murky waters of current affairs and you’d think that the world is a couple of protest marches from becoming a Marxist utopia/hell (delete according to personal preference). People talk about a ‘liberal elite’, the most establishment of establishment people are boarding the anti-establishment bandwagon and banging on about bringing down the ‘left-wing establishment’.
Just this week, the president of the US, Donald Trump, labelled leaders of Democrat-run cities ‘radical left’. People accuse the BBC of being some kind of anarcho-Stalinist propaganda machine or a pinko-liberal hippy commune. People have been accusing vast international companies like Google, Nike and Netflix of wanting to destroy capitalism. Which would be like you or I wanting to destroy oxygen.
Some people are even trying to tell the world that Hitler was left-wing.
If it wasn’t so tragic, it’d be hilarious. I mean, have a look around. Bar the odd freakish exception, every government and major corporation on the planet, every mainstream media outlet (yes, even the BBC and CNN), from Belgium to Brazil, is centre-to-right-leaning in its thinking and policies. They are all conservative, with a small ‘c’ at least, because the truth is that power is unavoidably conservative. I.e. it likes to keep things pretty much as they are.
What’s happening is gaslighting on a global scale to protect established power structures and reinforce the cycle of privilege that perpetuates the real elite – and it’s not just coming from the traditional right.
From their perspective, there are clear tactics to reinforce their influence. Labelling someone as a ‘Commie’ to discredit them has been happening for over a century. If someone with enough power (say, a president) tells people that Organisation A or Individual B is a dangerous left-wing radical, plenty of people will believe them, no matter the truth. It allows the goalposts to be moved. So, when PresidentTrump calls centre-right Joe Biden ‘radical’ and ‘left-wing’ (lol) and people believe him, then what becomes the ‘centre’ is farther to the right – and farther right he can go with mainstream policies.
But this conservatism runs through anyone with power. There are no powerful and radical people. Biden isn’t left-wing. Democrats may be a bit more liberal than the Republicans, and the edges of the two camps pretty far from each other, but you can put a political cigarette paper between the people at the top of each party. They all have a vested interest in the status quo. That’s why they don’t offer major change because major change would see them lose their power.
Look what happens if someone is ‘too different’ or wants too much, too quickly. Look at Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They’re self-proclaimed socialists but they’re not hardline Trots. Nothing they propose is particularly far-reaching. And yet they’re regularly painted as leftist nutjobs ready to dismantle America.
The same happened with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. Again, no extreme policies, but listen to the mainstream press (including the BBC), commentators or opponents and you’d have thought he was plotting to turn Buckingham Palace into a vegetarian commune for reformed Islamist terrorists.
These outliers do, however, want too much change for the establishment’s liking and therefore are a threat that must be dealt with; so the establishment arranges a character assassination (because you can’t do the other kind quite as easily these days). Cue money-led smear campaigns and distorted portrayals by a predominantly conservative mainstream media. Cue back-stabbing from their own parties. Alternative agendas ain’t getting a look-in no matter where you live.
This conservatism applies to corporations, too. They might give out the right messages, utter nice liberal noises, but how sincere are they? Is it just good marketing? How many of these companies have eliminated the gender pay gap? How many have ethnically representative boards? I mean, these aren’t crazy notions, yet somehow all we see are platitudes, targets and promises.
And this is another part of the gaslighting. Governments and organisations want to look like they’re changing things and so if there’s enough public pressure, they throw us the occasional bone to placate us, to turn the hunger for progress into mere peckishness.
Let’s talk about racism and racial discrimination – everyone else is. No one in their right mind thinks that racism is a good or acceptable thing. Moral arguments aside, even the most puritanical of free-marketeers realise that discrimination is ‘inefficient’. And yet systemic racism exists pretty much everywhere even after decades of campaigning (clue: the Black Lives Matter protests aren’t happening for a laugh). Change could have been bigger and faster, but it’s been drip-fed. A little law here, a little human right there.
Gay marriage, something that makes a lot of people very happy and has literally no effect on anyone else’s life whatsoever, took forever to arrive in those places that now have it and isn’t even being considered in many that don’t. Women are still paid less than men for doing the same job. Social mobility has been confined to a wheelchair. The poor die younger.
Basic fairness is not a wild concept but because true equality threatens those already in power (why have more challengers to the throne?) progress creeps along like a stoned slug. You mark my words, the scale of the BLM protests will dwarf any significant changes to come from them. Changing the name of a sporting franchise does not a revolution make.
Instead, we have the status quo being turned up to 11. The gap between rich and poor is growing at a faster rate than ever before, especially during economic crises. Sitting governments are using legislation to tighten their grip on control. You have a US president encouraging the police to take a stand against elected politicians. The chances of anything or anyone vaguely anti-capitalist or anti-establishment getting their mitts on most countries are slim to cat-in-hell.
Even something that could be seen as radical change, Brexit, will benefit the wealthy over ordinary people. If it didn’t, do you really think it would have been allowed to happen?
The problem is gaslighting works and people’s minds are very hard to change. There’s a quote misattributed to Mark Twain that says, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” Sadly, I think Fake Twain was probably right.
By Andrew Dickens