30 November 2016   Leave a comment

I do not always agree with David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, but he has written an op-ed piece which is truly unnerving.  His argument is that social media and sophisticated government efforts to manage information have created what he calls a war on “truth”.  In this new world, reality is completely plastic and the strategy of information is not to confront, but to undermine established institutions by spreading seeds of doubt.  Combating this new element of our lives is difficult–it is a subversive idea that everything is nothing more than a social construct and that there is no essential reality.  In many narrow respects, that observation is unquestionably true, but it appears that those narrow limits have been expanded to cover all aspects of our lives.

Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk have written an essay for the Journal of Democracy which is also unsettling.  Their findings can be summarized as follows:

“Over the last three decades, trust in political institutions such as parliaments or the courts has precipitously declined across the established democracies of North America and Western Europe. So has voter turnout. As party identification has weakened and party membership has declined, citizens have become less willing to stick with establishment parties. Instead, voters increasingly endorse single-issue movements, vote for populist candidates, or support “antisystem” parties that define themselves in opposition to the status quo. Even in some of the richest and most politically stable regions of the world, it seems as though democracy is in a state of serious disrepair.”

The data supporting this conclusion are interesting because it is age-dependent:  younger cohorts have less of a commitment to democracy.

"Among older generations, the devotion to democracy is about as fervent and widespread as one might expect," Foa and Mounk said. But that support declines as the survey respondents get younger.

It also appears to be the case that income has an effect on support for democracy–the richer one is, the more likely it is that authoritarian rule is favored.

The number of people who think that military rule is a "good" or "very good" thing is rising rapidly. "In 1995, just one in 16 respondents agreed with that position; today, one in six agree," the report said.

The conclusion to the essay is sobering:

“In a world where most citizens fervently support democracy, where antisystem parties are marginal or nonexistent, and where major political forces respect the rules of the political game, democratic breakdown is extremely unlikely. It is no longer certain, however, that this is the world we live in.”

“More than half of the world’s fresh water is frozen in Antarctica” and there is growing evidence that the ice sheets on the continent are melting from the bottom up.  Warmer seawater is apparently intruding on the land upon which the ice sheets rest.  The American Geophysical Union has released photographs which suggest that the ice sheets are breaking off in ways that were not fully anticipated.  Because the melting occurs beneath the ice surface, it is very difficult to determine what the rate of melt is.  But the evidence suggests that the rate of melt is higher than initial studies predicted.

Image result for west antarctic ice sheet melting

 

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Posted December 1, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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