Why did the world go crazy in 2016?

I’m mainly talking about Brexit and Trump since those were the two big unambiguous results in two major powers but any answer would have to cast a wider net both for causes and effects. Maybe the answer comes down to one fundamental thing or maybe the interaction between many parts or maybe it’s just one big black swan.

But still, it’s like we were in a boring office party that turned into a gross orgy and then a beer brawl and then a Molotov-throwing riot and now what the fuck is even going on?

Successful use by white nationalist elements of social media and outlets for blatant propaganda, such as Fox News, convinced a sufficient number of people to vote in favor of those elements’ agenda. IMO this was against those voters’ own best interests, but that’s just my opinion.

Really, I wouldn’t necessarily say the world went crazy, though. IIRC both the Brexit vote and Trump’s election were really rather close-run things.

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachan have a tremendous amount of media power world wide. As Rupert’s grasp on his multi billion dollar, global media empire slips his grasp, his favored son’s views are taking hold. Lachan us much more of a racist than his dad.

The Murdochs have always been right wing, cut tax, anti government, pro inequality types. To grow their media empire, they have literally gained influence over powerful government figures in Australia, Britain, Europe and obviously the US, getting them to change restrictions on media monopoly laws for the Murdochs’ benefit. They have used this to sow confusion, to encourage the lowest common denominator everywhere, to sow controversy because it sells papers, to heighten divisions for the drama of it.

I am sure there are more reasons, but things came to a head decades after the Fairness Doctrine (remember that) got revoked in the US, at the urging of the Murdochs, and similar moves in the rest of the English speaking world.

Tl dnr: propaganda.

People tend to go from one end of the pendulum to another. In the many years leading up to 2016, there had been steady movement towards globalization, liberalism, multiculturalism, etc. Eventually people got agitated and the backlash happened.

The election of Trump and Brexit are rather tame incremental changes.

The reaction has been extreme because people don’t remember what extreme looks like. There are elements in the media, social and otherwise, who play things up for ratings and attention. Nothing has actually happened on any large scale.

IMHO the backlash to that backlash shows how misleading the media from Murdock and other reactionaries was.

The interesting thing is how similar the opposition to those items is now. While more people are now against Brexit or Trump, Brexit and Trump do however get just enough support to continue going on the bad path. There is now almost a 10% difference against approval, more disapprove of Brexit and there is a similar percentage of disapproval for Trump.

The increasing ubiquitousness of the internet, real demographic changes and economic stagnation in the WEIRD countries. 2016 was not a discrete point though. These changes were a long time coming. The death of mainline Protestantism was one of the big canaries in the United States. It was long the glue that held our great experiment together and there really hasn’t been a glue to rise and take its place. Political polarization really took off after the rise of Facebook and sorting into extremely large, but politically homogeneous online communities. Economic dissatisfaction following the end of the recession, but no real gains to the working class. When you are economically dissatisfied, you have no uniting ideology and there is a growing demographic that is easy to demonize, you brew a recipe for fringe political positions. You end up with Trumps.

Yup, I came in here to say mostly the same thing…in fact, I was crafting a post in my mind and using ‘pendulum swings’ and ‘backlash’ but you obviously beat me too it. I think that, for a long time the media and the politicians (in a lot of countries) took some things for granted, and 2016 is when the backlash happened and all those people saw their chance to basically do a huge fuck you to the establishment. Sure, a lot of it was based on ignorance and also based on politicians using them and their ignorance for their own ends, but the fact that there was this vast pool of people who were disgruntled and felt they weren’t being heard or being ignored or just being screwed over boiled up, and now we have what we have. It’s not just in the US and the UK that this happened, either. Which should tell us all something about all the folks out there and perhaps what we should do to prevent something like this in the future.

I’m pretty confident that the widespread sense of dissatisfaction that made people push the pendulum was largely caused by targeted propaganda.

I’d add in general political apathy as a culprit. When voter participation is low, what matters stops being “which idea is more popular” and becomes “whose base is more enthusiastic”, and the types of leaders/campaigns are different.

Eight years of recession. Just like in every other time in history.

Taking a global view, I’m not convinced it’s a case of pendulum swings, as insanity has cropped up in places that were far more multipolar or where the trend has been mostly in one direction without any swings. The lunacy isn’t just in the UK and US, there are also populist fascists in Brazil, Russia, and the Phillipines, and populist wannabe-fascists in Hungary, Italy, et al.

I think the reason is that there are no consequences to anything anymore. Well into the second decades of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s been no action on war crimes, torture, and imprisonment without trial in Guantanamo, just for examples (indeed, instead there is still pushback on even investigating some of these things). A decade ago there was discussion about to what degree the West is now responsible for “fixing” things in Iraq, which now appears to have ended. Before, the West at least showed public shame and held hearings regarding involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition, without real action being taken; now there’s not even any display of shame about shameful actions. Why should there be? The Saudi government has murdered a journalist and carries on a brutal war in Yemen, and there are no consequences. Turkey, oppression of journalists and Kurds, nothing.
Russia continues to have troops in Ukraine (and Georgia? Not even sure anymore), and it’s barely discussed. Duterte promotes the murder of his citizens, Bolsonaro is publicly opposed to a majority of his population (by denigrating women, the non-white, and non-heterosexuals), and both continue in power by popular vote.

Of course there’s an economic factor to this too. Amazon, Apple, Google, and more pay essentially nothing in taxes, yet with their business being movable, countries fight to give them the best tax breaks, because getting 0.1% of their fortunes in taxes is still better than 0%. Banks caused a recession but it’s the taxpayers who pay for it by bailing them out while getting nothing in exchange apart from increased bank fees.

Since there are no consequences, there’s no reason for anyone to promote sensible long-term policies. Sensible government, and socially conscious long-term business policy, is too complex in modern systems to gain attention, while the other side always has solutions that are simple, easy to grasp, and also stupid and wrong. “A sensible environmental policy would involve a gradual transition to renewable energy and nuclear power at the cost of the coal, oil, and shipping industries which cause a majority of our pollution, with an interim period of either higher taxes or higher energy costs for all citizens” is a mouthful - “recycle and buy an electric car if you feel you must” isn’t. Or, for example, “Britain’s relationship with its European partners is a complex web of treaties and hard-fought multilateral economic benefits that are not easily unravelled, and were we to do so, it would take time and carry enormous costs in the short and long term, so taking other measures to safeguard our sovereignty while maintaining our European relationships would be preferable to a summary exit to an unclear future” is boring and seems vague. “Strong and stable, brexit means brexit” is memorable, and sounds decisive despite being meaningless. “With decreasing first world birth rates and aging populations, immigration is a net positive and steps should be taken to maintain and even promote legal immigration of those willing and able to contribute to our society” is wonky and uninteresting. “Build a wall” is idiotic, ineffective, and easy to remember.

At the end of the day, I think the insanity we see in populations’ votes is from a mixture of factions ending up voting for the greater evil, for different and even opposing reasons. You have the well-meaning misinformed (e.g. those in Norway calling to ban diesel cars outright because they pollute - what about biodiesel, which is carbon-neutral?), the willfully misinformed (save our NHS, Britain out of the EU!), the outright malicious (build the wall! No migrants into Hungary! Death to drug addicts!), the economically dissatisfied (climate change is a hoax, protect my coal mining job!), and the angry who just vote for any anti-establishment candidate (why have there been no consequences to those who lied us into wars in the Middle East, the bankers who crashed our economies, or the Brazilian politicians who bribed a majority of their parliament on a monthly basis using public funds?). In the “good old days” even pretty bad leaders seemed to intend the best for their countries most of the time and tried to do good work, even if it just meant keeping a quietly competent and effective corps of public servants running. Now there’s always a gleefully incompetent halfwit willing to spread comforting lies and bullshit for personal fame, likely getting paid by business interests along the way. As always, it’s the population that suffers.

As a postscript, a handful of companies and businessmen have apparently already pledged 600 million Euros to rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame, despite the Catholic church being one of the richest organisations on the planet. When it comes to receiving public glory for restoring a building, there is money. When it comes to paying taxes for the health, schooling, housing, and feeding of their fellow citizens, instead it’s the plebs who must tighten their belts.

Mostly agree Toffe, but, about that last bit…

Thanks for that GIGObuster, I actually figured the building wasn’t owned by the church but couldn’t be bothered to look it up. Still, your same cite also states “The Archdiocese of Paris is responsible for the upkeep of the church”

Rather than church ownership, my point was more that wealthy figures can earmark their money for rebuilding monuments while avoiding paying taxes when the money might go anywhere else. I would rather see the same 600 million ending up in the public coffers as normal taxes, with the state paying for the church restoration as simple good policy (public interest, value as a tourist destination with attendant revenue, etc), and one would hope also with a tax-based contribution from the church involved since it’s also in their direct interest to maintain it. What offends me is that businesses and wealthy individuals can choose when to contribute even a tiny portion of their wealth to society while the vast majority of individuals have no such choice. That they then might be praised for this tiny contribution is even worse. For another example, Ingvar Kamprad, who founded IKEA,left half his fortune ($46 billion) to charity in his will, yet him and his company paid sod-all in taxes for decades. Yet he’s considered a hero in Sweden!

Oh, shit. We must keep this a secret. Over in the Fox News comments they are already saying the socialist firefighters couldn’t put the fires out because of environmental regulations. If they find out that the French government owns all churches from before 1905 they will go into full meltdown about the socialist takeover of religion.

I don’t think that you’re giving people in the “red states” the credit they deserve for thinking on their own. From their perspective, they were being left behind and no one spoke for them, until Trump came along. (A hard sell for millions of African Americans I know.) In my family, cousin after cousin was laid off and couldn’t find a job in the manufacturing industry in which they had previously made a living. Not having a pay check to pay the rent wasn’t a “sense of dissatisfaction” to them, it was real life. Even this “liberal city boy from Washington” as I was called felt the increasing discomfort as I’d go to the mid-west to see them. They didn’t need Fox News telling them that their lives were worse off than they had been.

Or as one politician once said, “It’s the economy stupid.”

My relatives out there would argue that CNN/MSNBC is propaganda as well.

Funny how this disaffection and attraction for Trump only seemed to hold widely for working class white people. Not working class people of color, who overwhelmingly opposed Trump.

FWIW, this peculiar state of affairs is part of the reason the cathedral’s maintenance work had been pretty terrible up until the fire : while both France and the Vatican knew something had to be done soon-ish, they both insisted the other oughta pay for it, with France arguing that “hey, it’s a big catholic building, that’s your turf !” and Rome answering “yeah, but you went and revolutionized it, it’s yours now !”.

I share the disbelief of the Original Poster.

About Trump’s election, I find the usual explanations inadequate.

Recession? Unemployment? But we went through the Great Depression! Not to mention the 2008 recession! These were far more stressful times than the situation in 2016.

Immigration? White racial anxiety? These have been explosive issues before.

And yet never before did U.S. voters decide that the “solution” was to put an ignorant demagogue con-man in the White House.

Great point. Wish I had thought of that and mentioned that. Ohh, but I did.