In her excellent summary of the lessons of Donald Trump’s victory in the US election that morning, on 9th November 2016, Judith Curry wrote:
Apart from the obvious political/policy implications of the election, there are massive social implications:
• a triumph for U.S. democracy, in spite of those that have tried to break it …
• a triumph for social media versus the mainstream media. Remember all of those big endorsements for Clinton from the major newspapers? People want a lot of information, they want to decide what is important and believable, and the [sic] want to make up their own minds. Social media enables this.
Second ‘massive social implication’ listed by the climate professor turned blogger. Agreeing with Dr Curry that social media was key to Trump’s success I felt it might be interesting to consider on this fairly new addition to the climate blogosphere.
Facebook has reportedly been agonising about its role in enabling a Trump victory, with this key paragaph in the New York Times four days ago:
Some employees are worried about the spread of racist and so-called alt-right memes across the network, according to interviews with 10 current and former Facebook employees. Others are asking whether they contributed to a “filter bubble” among users who largely interact with people who share the same beliefs.
So for filter bubble read echo chamber and confirmation bias in old money. It isn’t just Trump supporters of course. As The Onion had it on 9th:
“This just isn’t the America I know,” said Garlock, adding that the broad national support for a candidate who openly expresses misogynistic, racist, and authoritarian views had caused him to call into question everything he thought he knew about his spectacularly unrealistic, wholly imaginary conception of the nation he calls home. “I just can’t believe that almost 60 million people would vote for someone who called immigrants rapists and attacked women and disabled people. The America [selectively constructed from my own experiences and personal values, and which only exists in my mind] that I love would never do that.” At press time, Garlock’s sentiments were reportedly echoed by all 1,273 of his Facebook friends.
Although Facebook is no doubt an important piece of the puzzle, like many I’ve been most aware of Donald Trump as a particularly active user of Twitter. This of course cuts many different ways:
which elicited this comment, among many others:
It seems a reasonable question, given Trump’s apparent propensity to scapegoat others when he comes in for criticism. Unchecked by wiser heads that could turn nasty in the ‘leader of the free world’. And there are of course plenty of hostages to fortune out there as real policies now need to be worked out:
Going back further there’s a series of hard-hitting tweets about Edward Snowden:
Which haven’t escaped the attention of one ex-Tory MP:
Lastly we will not be allowed to forget this one from four years ago:
Robin Guenier’s comments on that at The Conversation four days ago are well worth taking in. And on Sunday Judy Curry did an admirable summary of all Trump’s output on climate, energy and the environment, without neglecting the ‘hoax’ meme. There are plenty of ways greens should be able to work with the new President, she suggests. Will they be able to stomach it?
‘Populism’ and the Hitler analogy
Changing tack, here’s another tweet from Sunday:
For the experience of one well-known comedian in California see The Election Has Emboldened Racist Behavior on Storify (a glorified list of tweets). I believe Kumail that this has never happened to him before. Lastly this seemed particularly nasty as a way of celebrating the result:
What are we to make of this darker side of the Trump movement and its online expressions? Some go straight to comparing the president-elect with Hitler. The historian Niall Ferguson had a useful disagreement with ex-Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on that on Channel 4 last week.
There are at least two similarities to Hitler that I think are worth highlighting: the populism and the use of the latest technology. By populism I mean primarily the way Trump spoke directly and without normal restraints to ordinary US voters. That’s a good thing – though it can be used for evil, like everything else. And strongly linked with that, in my mind, is the use of Twitter by the candidate himself to address hot issues, often late at night, without the tweets being mediated by his staff. Just as Andrew Roberts has drawn attention to Hitler’s use of the modern of his day, almost all of which was copied by future political hopefuls of 20th century. Again, a good thing – but sadly in the hands in that case of the monster who ultimately presided over the Holocaust.
In which context this passage, which I only read a couple of days ago, was bound to have impact:
Breitbart came along as promoter and ringmaster. When I spoke with him afterward, he described Bannon, with sincere admiration, as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement.
That’s from Bloomberg‘s excellent portrait in October last year of Steve Bannon, the man who has just been rewarded for his early support by becoming Trump’s chief of strategy in the White House. Not all liberals are delighted.
Finding a middle way?
This guy seemed to be talking sense on Twitter the other day – but then doesn’t he always?
There is legitimate hopefulness about what Trump may do in climate and energy policy, best captured for me by Holman Jenkins Jr in the Wall Street Journal today (thanks GWPF).
What a Trump election will do is mostly dismantle a green gravy train powered by moral vanity that contributes nothing to the public welfare.
A phenomenon like Trump, whatever its antecedents, is an opportunity—in this case to purge a rottenness that begins at the commanding heights. The New York Times last year published a feature entitled “short answers to the hard questions about climate change” that was notable solely for ignoring the hardest question of all: How much are human activities actually affecting the climate?
This is the hardest question. It’s why we spend tens of billions collecting climate data and building computerized climate models. It’s why “climate sensitivity” remains the central problem of climate science, as lively and unresolved as it was 35 years ago.
Happily, it only takes a crude, blunderbussy kind of instrument to shatter such a fragile smugness—and if Mr. Trump and the phenomenon he represents are anything, it’s crude and blunderbussy.
So let’s trust, in the main area of CliScep concern, but verify. On broader issues Laura Perrins’ article in The Conservative Woman today, Trump’s women are not all bimbos, is also well worth a look. Perrins is certainly right to say this:
The fight now for team Trump will be to make clear the distinction between illegal and legal immigration as well containing and sidelining the racist minority that no doubt exists within it.
There is a racist minority that needs to be shown the door as real policy-making begins. On where racism itself begins and ends I strongly recommend Jonathan Haidt’s When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism from The American Interest in July.