Editorial: New clothes for old Nazis

A portrait of Donald Trump dressed up as Adolf Hitler during a protest. (Reuters)

A portrait of Donald Trump dressed up as Adolf Hitler during a protest. (Reuters)

American writer Naomi Klein describes the “Shock Doctrine” as the exploitation of national crises to push through controversial policies while people are too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters to mount any resistance. Donald Trump’s successful election campaign shocked many. But it also left many in the media itself, in the United States and elsewhere, aghast.

How did this happen?

We cannot continue reeling from shock. As news media we ought to know the measure of the pulse of the people. We ought to know when people are so fed up with the likes of Hillary Clinton that they would rather vote Trump. Just as we ought not to be so shocked that people are so fed up with not being able to afford university tuition that they would rather shut down every institution of higher learning in protest.

We cannot continually be caught reeling in our own shock.

The alt-right is supposed to represent a new brand of conservative politics. Except it’s not at all novel. And it’s certainly not new. The alt-right is white supremacy dressed up in new clothes. When Trump was asked by New York Times editors for his response to a video of the so-called “fringe alt-right” group that celebrated his election win with Nazi salutes, he said: “I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn.”

But Trump’s own repudiation of the group means little when his entire election campaign was built on appealing to just that kind of sentiment.

The US media have dismissed the alt-right as the wild imaginings of a fringe. And yet, the election of Trump has proven once more that our failure to take seriously the undercurrents of emotion brewing beneath the surface of global financial crises and the associated trauma of organised politics leaves us distant from people. And some people are poor, and pissed off. Others are just bloody racists.

Ultimately, however, what we must ensure is that people are heard, that their sentiments are engaged with and, indeed, their ideologies exposed to the harsh light of truth.

We need to get back to the hard work of finding the stories on the streets. We need to quit the fixation with polls and gimmicky journalism and get back to what we ought to do: facilitate democracy through the open exchange of ideas and opinion.

Never mind putting the world in rice. Spray Doom on the alt-right.

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