Sunday, December 11, 2016

Michael Signer - Demagogue (Palgrave McMillan, 2009)

I read this book because I looked for books on demagoguery and populism in political, and apparently there aren't many, so I ordered this one through Amazon. The reason why I read it is because of what is happening in Russia, Turkey, The Philipines, the United Kingdom, the United States.

Populist politicians, whether left-wing or right-wing, win votes because they manage to deceive people, not by logical and fact-based arguments, but by appealing to the most basic emotions of fear, complemented with outright lies. They can do that of course, that's the risk of democracy. The question I had how we can make sure that these demagogues, once in power, do not undermine the very foundation which brought them to power by installing a totalitarian system that is utterly anti-democratic, as we have witnessed in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Tunesia.

And that was exactly how this book presented itself. And even if it starts well, with good definitions of what a demagogue is, and giving a good historical background from the ancient Greeks to today, with lots of attention to the United States' Constitution.

Yet then it fails miserably by the bizarre assumption that the United States is the world's leader in democratic thought. It zooms in on the United States as if there was no other democracy in the world. The outside world only exists to give the negative examples, such as why in the US a new Hitler would never be able to come to power.

Michael Signer is a Democrat, as in an active member of the political party. And maybe his book was written with a US audience in mind, although he keeps emphasising a lot that the US has other countries' best interests in mind, so I guess he's also expecting some foreign readers.

The US still has a long way to go. President Trump is the best example that even the US are not exempt from being ruled by a demagogue, despite all the checks and balances that Signer says the US system has in place.

If anyone can recommend a good book on the subject, please let me know.

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