Alternative facts are nothing new

190415-20Perhaps the claims by elites that their system is benefitting, or will benefit, everyone are part of the reason why so many are pinning their hopes to populists like Trump. Perhaps ordinary people have experienced that this is also an alternative fact.

The Bowling Green Massacre really took place. Trumps inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period.” Millions of illegal votes were cast by illegal immigrants in the US election in November. Chicago is like a warzone.

Trump and his employees are spreading what Trump’s counsellor Kellyanne Conway calls “alternative facts” (read: lies). But aren’t the neoliberal claims of the Clintons, Obamas, Camerons, Merkels, Zumas of this world part of the reason why people choose to believe, or disregard, the lies of the likes of Trump?

The populations of the world have heard claims from their political and business leaders that free trade is helping them, that lower social benefits create more jobs, or that the control-fixation of New Public Management creates efficiency, for decades. They have now seemingly realized that these claims are having a negative, not positive, effect on their lives.

Perhaps they would rather swallow Trumps clearly self-serving and petty alternative truths, and hope (more or less selfishly and blindly) that he will help improve their lives, than they are willing to continue to believe the more overarching alternative facts that have been told as truths since Reagan, ever-louder since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and Francis Fukuyama could declare that neoliberalism was the “end of history?”

Insistent claims that the neoliberal system is actually helping everyone, improving everything, the solution to everything. Aren’t these claims, and the facts that are supposed to substantiate them, also more or less alternative facts and part of the reason why people end up wanting to believe populists like Trump, Farage, Malema?

Not because people like Trump are necessarily seen as credible or likable, but because their alternative solutions and claims are not necessarily less plausible and credible than those of other self-serving elites. Elites that have seemingly been proven wrong is the eyes and experience of millions who are the losers (comparatively or absolutely) of a neoliberal consensus.

People who have seen inequality in the world and in individual countries explode, a few uberwealthy benefit, and the majority lose out, and who have therefore come to accept that this system is not their friend. Perhaps it is therefore not surprising that they are looking elsewhere for someone who just might be.

That many are looking to right-wing populists like Trump and not to the left ought to be a wake-up call for a left that should be thriving during a time when global warming (brought on by consumerism and the neoliberal need for endless growth) and increasing inequality is proving that the neoliberalism that has been embraced by most parties across the political spectrum is more utopian than socialism ever was.

But perhaps too many on the left – politicians, academics, journalists who together with big business to a large degree control what is put forward as facts and what is not – benefit too much from the present system themselves to see that so many others do not.

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