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A phenomenon is scaring me.

No, not just SCROTUS, although he’s a big part of it.

There’s a peculiar anti-word, anti-thought movement spreading through our societies, which opposes reason and embraces slogan. Nothing new there, a blunt cudgel of opinion-bashing has its historical precedents.

Which should be terrifying by example. I’m not telling you where to look. I don’t need to.

Go check a random oppressive regime. How far down the list do you find ‘silence the thinkers’?

Here’s a mini test:

Name three regimes whose policy was to slaughter intellectuals.

Name three governments who imprison opponents without trial.

Name three countries which spread misinformation and propaganda to sway their population into supporting their own agenda.

(Hint: you probably live in one and this is why we need a free press, even if some of them are gits.)

One of the scariest phrases I heard was Michael Gove’s comment during the Brexit campaign: “Oh I think people have had enough of experts”.

These inexpert, self-interested campaigners for anything that will get them up the career ladder speak for ‘The People’. One of their base tools is arguing against argument. It’s the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting your own position over and over until ‘The People’ (or ‘Folks’ if you want the current Imbecile-in-the-White-House version) can repeat it verbatim.

This is a crass, patronising assumption on every level.

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Firstly, ‘The People’ enjoy argument, rationale or reason. Engaging and discussing issues in person often leads to a less fossilised position. Online is a different matter. Comment is as dehumanising, reductive and debasing as a scrawled cartoon of a bear shitting in the woods. But it still works. Make us yell at each other and we take our eye off the argument. Sit us in a bar to chat and it’s a whole different game.

Secondly, simple words – make, great, take, ours, us, we, sad, bigly(?), danger, wall – is a reductive and banal way to communicate. Joined-up thinking requires a sense of cause and effect. People – yes, even ‘The People’ – are aware the credit crunch and subsequent drain on the working and middle-class was not due to immigration, fake news or or the liberal elite, but rampant pocket-lining by the very same people who tell you ‘You Ne-ver Had It So Good’. (One syllable at a time, folks.)

Thirdly, attacking people who dare to show some more articulacy than bellowing ‘Lock her up!” are derided for being elitist, intellectual and not of ‘The People’. It’s much more difficult to reduce the problems inherent in destabilising the EU to a tidy ALL CAPS phrase on a banner.

Lastly, how highly do you rate your supporters when you stand up in front of them and lie? Lie loudly, repeatedly and with bombast in the conviction they will believe it. If this is your methodology, your rationale must be that ‘The People’ are truly stupid.

We are not. You, me, all of us will be remembered by our thoughts, our words and our actions.

In a time like this, words are the bridge between thought and action.

They could not be more vital.

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This is a blog about stories.

Some pretty amazing stories people are being told in the US election campaign. To me, it often feels more like an extreme reality show than politics.

I asked an American, recently relocated to Chicago from Zürich, how she reads the potential presidential candidates’ stories.

Over to Chantal Panozzo

 

Mostly unfortunate conversations from those attempting to be presidential

“Shoot someone and win”

Donald Trump
I could shoot someone and still win.

Ted Cruz
Great. Let’s test that theory and allow open-carry at the convention.

John Kasich
Should I bring my gun if those guys do?

Hillary Clinton
If Obama thinks it’s a good idea, then yes.

Bernie Sanders
Wealth inequality. Wealth inequality. A little Birdie told me there’s wealth inequality.

“Bird on podium”

Bernie Sanders
This bird is like a dove asking for world peace.

Hillary Clinton
Oh right, a dove asking for world peace. That’s perfect for my Twitter feed.

Donald Trump
Security, arrest this fucking excuse for a bunch of feathers. Now!

Ted Cruz
Ah! It’s an illegal alien. Secure our borders.

Donald Trump
Fuck. Where’s that wall when you need it?

Ted Cruz
Hey, the wall was my idea!

John Kasich
Um, guys, most people here illegally flew into the States and overstayed their visas.

Donald Trump
You are so boring, Kasich.

“Your Wife is Ugly”

Donald Trump
Your wife is ugly.

Ted Cruz
Your wife is uglier.

Hillary Clinton
I am a wife and let me say this conversation is the ugliest.

Donald Trump
Guess you don’t want to be invited to my next wedding once my current wife does get ugly.

Hillary Clinton
I didn’t mean…

Donald Trump
You’re not going to be invited anyway. Last time the only gift you gave me was your presence. Talk about ugly.

Hillary Clinton.
It wasn’t fun anyway.

Bernie Sanders
Wealth inequality. Wealth inequality. A little Birdie told me there’s wealth inequality.

“Women Should Be Punished”

Donald Trump
Women should be punished if they get an illegal abortion.

Ted Cruz
Right. Unless they’re in the top 1%.

Donald Trump
Shut up. That part is our little secret.

Hillary Clinton
Whew, I’ll tell my daughter not to worry then.

Bernie Sanders
Wealth inequality. Wealth inequality. A little Birdie told me there’s wealth inequality.

 

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Chantal Panozzo is the author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. Not surprisingly, the sequel, American Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known is in the works. She blogs at www.onebigyodel.com and www.writerabroad.com

 

Images courtesy of Chantal Panozzo and Creative Commons/US National Archives.

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