• Steve Podmore

Dismantling autocracy. Communication of how change can be created is as important as the substance.


This interview with Masha Gessen for me is the best take yet on what has happened in the US. quoting her book 'Surviving Autocracy' Masha explains how in their support of Trump the GOP have become an Autocratic party. She explains the three stages of Autocratic Attempt, Autocratic Breakthrough and Autocratic Consolidation. She touches on how the conditions that enabled Trump's rise to power and his ability to get and keep legions of followers (the base) mirror the conditions that paved the way for Hitler; why people will vote for autocrats because of their fears, for a promise against what they are scared of and for a better future - even though history shows the promise is never delivered; how autocrats consolidate power and dismantle the organisations and competence of government, reinforcing their power with every legal and illegal means necessary; how they can be stopped; and, how the conditions for a shared and better future can be created moving forward. The dialogue about what has happened being key to this - as is holding the autocrats and their enablers to account - not sweeping their abuses under the carpet - as sleeping dogs always wake up, and when they do, they create more chaos and catastrophe.

While this is a stunning take on the current US situation, what is happening in the US is also occurring all over the world - including the UK where I believe peoples fears and very real concerns have been widely exploited - and it is worrying to say the least.


Along with the actions that can counter the psychology of propaganda and fear, I feel what is missing is a broader discussion on these quotes from Joesph Goebbels: “There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be "the man in the street." Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology”. And also “The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it”, and finally “There will come a day, when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, and truth will again triumph”.


In the dismantling of autocratic regimes - it is critical to study and use the psychology and management of propaganda, addiction and de-radicalisation - because if we are to move forward intelligently, a lot of people have to rethink and reimagine their identity and their future. When one's identity gets attacked - people dig in. And the polarisation that has increased massively, has meant entrenched positions have become the norm. We all need to realise the need for positive rethinking and re-imagination, without attacking others or being attacked ourselves. But when we are attacked, and we will be, we should still try and be patient - and dig deep into our resources of humility and rationality - not dig into those entrenched positions that get us nowhere. Perhaps this humility is the hardest thing to achieve in the world today.


It’s not just about getting rid of authoritarian leaders and their cabals, or institutions that might have become disagreeable and dysfunctional in the views of many - but it is about systematically and thoroughly removing the conditions that created them and the widespread fears which they exploit - or dissatisfaction that they or such institutions create. Regardless of the good they might have achieved, there will be many who want to bring institutions like the EU down - and the propaganda machines thrive on amplification of faults and spreading negative stories while failing to mention the positive ones.


Should those who genuinely want a better world fail, the coming years are going to make the last four look like 1935-1939.


I realise many people, including those I respect, will disagree with me strongly. If you are a Donald or Boris or Vladimir or Nigel or Marine - or a Brexit supporter - and yes, I realise this grouping is loaded - then I am guessing you would fear and fight against what you might see as the much weaker liberal alternatives you suppose I am arguing for. Or for institutions such as the EU as they are - such as is the case with Brexit. However, it is also just possible that you, or I, or both of us have succumbed to the propaganda machines utterly so we can never escape from them? Who knows, but I think we all need to take a deep look inside ourselves, free as we can be from influences - and ask, who are we, what do we want our future to be, and what would we like for others too. It’s not just me in this world - but we - and the larger we of others who we don’t know and cannot see - has to be included in our thoughts - or else who are we really?


This is why I believe what I am doing with www.TransformGlobal.co and www.fundingtheglobalgoals.tv is so important. We need catalytic and innovative finance to flow in every possible way to the individuals, ventures and infrastructure projects that will deliver the greatest levels of good job creation alongside added social and environmental impacts - and not forgetting the healthy financial returns that enables this to work for all. And we need to do this all over the world. This is the great promise of the positive financial sector in all of its guises, from impact investment to SRI, ESG, active philanthropy, alternative currencies and related policy, technology, media and especially the intelligent setting, application and rule of law.

For these areas to achieve critical mass and necessary scale to displace extractive economic activity - which I know they can - the most important gaps, barriers and bottlenecks need to be filled, jumped over and widened - so the right kinds of innovation are enabled and supported. Only then do we see a chance at creating a world of economic health for the many and not the few.


So many fears start with the unbalanced economics, which capitalism as it has become, has enabled. People want, need and increasingly demand the ability to have a fair crack at the means of life. Keeping their heads just far enough above the water line so they can provide for their children, manage the health needs of themselves and their loved ones, enjoy the occasional away day, vacation or concert - and do so free from the anxiety that real or imagined pain and hell and suffering of today, will be worse tomorrow. For this, it is also critical that nature, on which we all depend is protected and replenished and not raped and pillaged. If we don’t live broadly in harmony with nature - then the great lives for the many or the few is simply not possible.


The worst behaviours of the human condition happen in the vacuum that is created when economics fail. Unbalanced economies create the vulnerabilities and fears that authoritarians on both the left and the right exploit. So people want hope. Not false hope delivered through the crack pipe of propaganda - but genuine hope that they can see and feel and know with every ounce of their being. But hope that is not based only on a win loose reality, where the gain of one is another’s loss. But where all can have real quality of life gains - and where the real risk and resilience threats can be understood and minimised.

All should have a fair shot at a better life - that is except those who would do harm or create an abundance of what economists term ‘negative externalities’. Those who pollute, steal and prey on the vulnerable should have their incentives to do so - reversed dramatically. That can only occur - if the number of positive economic opportunities can be increased dramatically..


Covid 19 has created an additional layer of anxiety that has amplified the economic unbalances - but Trump was elected prior to Covid. He has kept and perhaps even increased his popularity despite such a disastrous response to the pandemic.

One could argue his mismanagement and poor leadership has already killed - or not prevented the deaths of - many thousands of American citizens. While all deaths might not have been preventable, some estimate a President who was Presidential, clear and honest - and advocated mask-wearing - aside from any sensible mix of local and national strategy, alone could have saved tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths https://wapo.st/36sxyiG. 10% is a low estimate, but at the time of writing - that’s 25,000 lives - the equivalent to 8 x 9/11 - and it's still rising. And the most worrying fact is Trump still received circa 70 million votes. People see what they want to see - and ignore what they don't. How can we get people to really open their eyes?


In my view, one of the few ways to sway those voters who are reasonable and open to reason - and many are not, is to show them that the better economics for all that the far right or far left will never ever create, can be achieved by the innovations and policies and massive effort that I speak of. The messaging has to be continually reinforced that they need to be part of changer - and they and their kids can be the beneficiaries. To achieve it, its both the substance of how it can be done - and it’s how it is communicated that counts.


I’ll be covering more of both how I believe it can be done and how it can be communicated on the launch of www.fundingtheglobalgoals.tv at 8 am on the 16th November 2020.. Be sure to subscribe to learn more.

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