Joe Biden’s announcement that US troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan this year on the 11th of September is the umpteenth example of the pervasive liberal hypocrisy that dwells within the western media sphere. The point here is not a condemnation of Bidens decision: rather what is of interest is the way the press and social commentators and then the general public react to it with nonchalance. When Trump proposed to return US troops who were illegally occupying parts of Syria, even the peace loving, non-interventionist liberals were incandescent with outrage. Everyone repeated like indignant parrots “What about the Kurds?”
Today there is a remarkable absence of such emotive questioning as the US troops leave the Afghani people behind to a resurgent Taliban. Why is nobody asking: What about the Hazara, the Tadjik, the Aimak, the Turkmen, what about the Balochi? Hannity summed up the double standards succinctly: “why do I know that if you lied on a gun permit, if you threw a gun out in a dumpster, if you smoked crack, if you hired hookers, you got money from Ukraine with no experience, millions of dollars, you got money from a Kazakhstan oligarch, a Russian oligarch, $3.5 million, $1.5 billion deal with China and a hundred thousand dollar shopping spree with the Chinese national — I don’t know, I would think that the media might cover that?”
Indeed, why does Joe Biden get a pass? For the traditional left the answer to this issue is provided in the Gramscian concept of cultural hegemony. Cultural hegemony is a state in which the “bourgeoisie” use cultural institutions such as the press to maintain, legitimise and perpetuate their power. It’s a concept that interlinks perfectly with Marx’s ideas on “false consciousness”, where Marx argued that it was the economic base of production owned by the dominant class that determines the political superstructure of a society. The class-interests of the elite therefore determine the superstructure and give justification for the prevailing ideology. In other words, our vision of reality is both dependent on and shaped by those who rule over us.
The dominance of liberal hegemony in our societies is perhaps best reflected by the realisation that those who purport to seek change no longer question the dominant narrative, rather they have become defenders of the liberal capitalist press. The consequence is that today power has usurped them to maintain the status quo by taking away this desire to question. Today the mainstream that always was associated with power has become the golden standard of truth. Ironically the global capitalist “regime”, power and the old social divisions as a consequence are perpetuated. Everything that is either left or right of centre is lambasted as extreme, be that Corbyn, Melanchon on the left or Farage, Trump on the right. Key is that the status quo is strengthened.
Any diversion from the liberal capitalist ideology is dismissed as the result of either ignorance, idiocy, fake news, racism or some other great moral decline. These arguments however are not new and have been been around for hundreds of years. Indeed a 1930s collection of the works under the title “The Revolt of the Masses” by the Spanish liberal Jose Ortega y Gasset has been revived following both Brexit and the election of Trump to strike home the point that the plebeians are both morally and intellectual inept.
Ortega y Gasset’s book is a typical celebration of western liberalism. However, as with all defences of the status quo, it rests on a utopian vision of an impeccable and noble elite, that unlike the ignorant masses are the only ones truly capable of moral and efficient leadership. But can anyone realistically defend the status quo on such lofty ideals, ideals that to all intents and purposes are beyond man?
After all it is entirely reasonable post 2008 that the masses have risen. It is a logical consequence of the inequalities and the nihilism that liberal societies provoke, but is it also not natural that man constantly seeks the betterment of his condition and by consequence perpetuates the political dialectic?
The elite as described above lay the blame for any turn away from the centre as simply the idiocy of the uneducated, but this is mere denial of reality. There are genuine problems evoked by the status quo. Above all the work of Merton’s strain theory highlights the social pathologies inherent in liberal capitalist societies and serves as an explanation for why people may reject or deviate from the current social modal.
Further we may question: who is noble, who are the educated elite? For Ortega y Gasset it’s clear that being noble here is equitable with representing liberal democracy. Therefore Marx and Engels, while admittedly educate are still disregarded by the fact that they are but highly immoral individuals. Simply they are not liberals. But the biggest question is: where do we find these noble individuals, especially those imbued with the mental faculties to govern all outcomes decisively? Are not all men fallible, are we to believe there are Gods walking among us on earth? For I fail to detect them anywhere in the long history of man. The “virtuous” liberal press pays constant homage to the likes of Clinton, Obama, Merkel and the technocrats running the EU, however they were certainly deficient in avoiding the crash of 2008 and were extremely proficient in wreaking havoc for their populations by the imposition of harsh austerity.
This leads us to realise that when US citizens rejected Clinton and voted Trump it was not simply the idiocy of the masses who had been manipulated by fake news, but rather they had grown weary of the false promises made by an establishment, who for neigh 50 years had neglected their plight.
The notion that fake news was decisive is simply another fallacy then the power of manipulation remained entirely with Clinton who enjoyed the support of all the broad sheets and TV channels with the exception of Fox News. Again, culturally the mediascape is dominated by liberal hegemony, it is the narrative of the elites, that people rejected this narrative is a reflection that the story conveyed is out of step with their day to day lives. Trump won because the liberal elite was corrupt, insulated for years from democratic legitimacy, politics had become stagnant. Voters hence rejected their elites on the basis of their daily lives, not with the fantasies of the middle and upper classes. It was a break with ignorance, it was the masses awakening to the realisation that the status quo for forty-five years had cheated them along with a desperate desire for change.
Of course, an insulated elite, distant from the day to day lives of the ordinary folk are in no fit state to comprehend their realities and this is also reflected in the current of mainstream media. It is your typical blind spot. It is also an indication of how genuine democracy in the West is needed to avoid permanent stagnation.
Since the enlightenment we have been told that the strength of Western society rests in its rationalism and in what Karl Popper refers to as open societies. Yet more and more we see the exact opposite is taking hold. Debate is squashed, people and opinions are being cancelled, we see the application of double standards, facts are being replaced by the whims of emotion driven ideologies and we are seeing how the liberal establishment with renewed vigour is trying to impose its narrative. Nonetheless they fail to realise that at a given point in time the people will no longer heed liberal cultural hegemony irrespective of the measures taken to preserve its message and at this point the people will no longer be massified by a false consciousness, rather they will be informed by a brief awakening to their daily realities.