Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hurtful words can be a "hidden form of terrorism" -- Pope Franics

Swedish journalist and author Goran Rosenberg wrote about the effect in Europe of our election of Donald Trump.

". . . .  What we do know for certain is that Trump’s victorious election campaign has poisoned the political climate of liberal democracies. We have been shown that defamation, hatred and lying can be a road to power. The outcome of the U.S. election is a clear message to the burgeoning populist and xenophobic parties of Europe that hate and fear-mongering is a winning concept and that they henceforth should feel free to smear, vilify and incite without any fear of transgressing the “politically correct” borders of decency and shame."

He then refers to a recent interview in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, in which Pope Francis spoke of slander and vilification as "a form of terrorism."  Quoting the pope:

Pope Francis:  “Every human being is capable of turning into a terrorist simply by just abusing language . . . .  You see, I am not speaking here about fighting a battle as in a war. I am speaking of a deceitful and hidden form of terrorism that uses words as bombs that explode, causing devastation in peoples’ lives. It is a sort of criminality and the root of it is original sin. It is a way of creating space for yourself by destroying others.”

Rosenberg then observed that the political fallout of the U. S. election "might be more devastating for Europe than for America. . . .  [W]e are again learning that democracy ultimately depends on the people, the demos, having a democratic disposition and that the terrorism of vilification is a weapon in the hands of those who intend to weaken and demolish it."

If this election indeed does represent an attack, and a crack in the foundation of democracy itself, then this is more disturbing than other problems we have been worrying about.   I tend to see it not so much as that, at least not on a large scale.

After all, Hillary  Clinton did win the popular vote, at latest count, by at least one and a half million votes.  And much of  the Trump vote, especially in the battleground states, that tipped the electoral count, was from voters who decided in the last week of the campaign.   Which suggests that the FBI and Comey's letters played a major role, as well as the social media blitz that falsely exaggerated and amplified what that meant.

But we also have to look at the Democratic party's neglect of the forgotten, "left-behind" white people who gave Trump his big boost.   In trying to expand our scope we forgot the core of working class, middle class and union members (now unemployed) that used to be the core of the Democratic Party.  

I think widely disseminated false news played a bigger part than an attack on democracy.   And in future elections, we're going to have to learn to cope with the role of social media in disseminating false claims, outright lies, and misinformation. 


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