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28 December 2016

2016's Unholy Triumvirate: Xenophobia, Fake News and Extrajudicial Inititiatives

While not new, among the most disturbing trends I've witnessed in 2016 are increasing tolerance for xenophobia, proliferation of fake news and greater acceptance of extrajudicial initiatives.

Xenophobia: As previously discussed, the concept of foreign or non-familiar as inherently dangerous and something to be avoided at all costs, ironically including self-destruction under the false premise of protection or security while the inherent weaknesses and limitations of isolationist policies or those initiatives which seek to limit diversity in a world brought increasingly closer together with technology and trade further underscore the problems with this world view. Opposing every aspect of modern progress and humanity, this paradigm encourages a return to some "simpler" and "safer" time where the more troublesome aspects of globalism or even modern life could simply be ignored. Anyone can see a future growing tide of refugees and displaced persons as a result of continued armed conflicts and even climate chaos and to advocate for regressive and anti-human, even hateful, thought forms is a cozy hiding place from a reality that must be faced and even embraced if we are ever to heal the planet and create a better future. One can argue hate and racism have always existed in the United States, for example, but what we've seen in 2016 is an open embrace of these ideologies, even pride in using hatred as a tool for "progress." Many of the statements and policies advocated by President-elect Trump are unprecedented in my lifetime. The US is not alone. With a strong undercurrent of xenophobia in the Brexit vote, you have arguably the two most progressive nations in human history advocating regression and abandonment of humanistic values. That to me is truly shocking.

Fake News: As evidenced by the proliferation of websites and links seeking click-bait as I would call it and defined by made-up stories profiting off the complete abandonment of even the premise of critical thinking or rigorous analysis while appealing to those seeking narratives that conveniently explain "reality" or more directly, an unwillingness to live with the unknown and ambiguity. Fake news subverts scholarship and rigor, which admittedly are difficult and often lead to more questions than answers, in favor of scattered fragments of meaningless conclusions based on fabricated sources. Ripe with fast and shallow conclusions replacing any depth of analysis, this phenomenon is the dark side of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In my previous post I delve into the implications of fake news; most troubling not simply the existence of these websites but the open acceptance, even championing of them by many individuals who seem fine with making important choices, such as how to vote, for example, based on this nonsense. I imagine people in former times being ashamed of sloppy and anti-intellectual pursuits; today people appear to hold the opposite values, even condemning attempts to reign in this intellectual pornography as somehow limiting free speech, as if I were to stand up as tall and straight as I possibly can in a public square and shout mightily to the welkin my loving embrace of ignorance while a mob cheers me on.

Extrajudicial Initiatives: The growing perception that the structure of longstanding legal and democratic processes have reached their limits in terms of the ability to solve the incredibly complex and difficult problems facing the world--the solution simply to subvert laws in favor of a mob rule,whereby the means supposedly justifies the ends. This paradigm is increasingly popular among politicians who willfully and openly tout simplistic solutions to impossibly difficult issues.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is the most striking example with his advocacy for extrajudicial killing of drug addicts and criminals; he reportedly bragged about his exploits as former mayor of Davao City. But Duterte is by no means the only one. US President-elect Trump has vowed to bring back torture while in India there has been an exponential rise in extrajudicial killings over the past decade, just to point to a few examples.

These current trends push the human race toward dangerous and completely unpredictable outcomes while standing in tacit, even open defiance to the values modern Western civilization first honed precariously and often rescued over the past two-hundred fifty or so years, the future of humanism and democracy now in peril. The strangest aspect is the manner in which people seem to embrace these regressive thought forms openly with no regret or pause.

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