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Political Super Brands trumps political facts

2017-07-17 00:20:02
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Everybody knows that
the dice are loaded   
Everybody rolls with
their fingers crossed   
Everybody knows that
the war is over   
Everybody knows the
good guys lost   
Everybody knows the
fight was fixed   
The poor stay poor,
the rich get rich   
That’s how it goes… 

 

- Leonard Cohen

 

The focus in this column is on a new level of advanced capitalism that is driving political processes globally. Thus a few lines from Leonard Cohen may give one an appropriate vibe to engage with 
this column.  

Political crises that are plaguing the Trump administration are increasing at an unprecedented pace, while global political theatres and political performances were many last week, the predominant story was the Russian connection in the Trump election victory. There were other significant milestones in global political measures, Turkey and the Philippines were the less reported, while both administrations of Erdogan and Duterte tried to create impressions of what were significant to them.  

President Erdogan and the Turkish establishment led a global campaign to commemorate the first year anniversary of the failed military coup. Turkey is still in a state of emergency since the coup, yet it had declared July 15 as a national holiday. The holiday itself is branded as day of ‘democracy and unity’.  
While Turkey’s domestic political situation seems to be firmly under the control of the current administration especially after the April 2017, referendum where Erdogan consolidated a virtual super presidency by getting sweeping reforms to the constitution.  

 

  • President Erdogan and Turkey led a global campaign to commemorate the first year anniversary of the failed military coup.

  • The Duterte administration crossed its first year last week, after shocking the world with his announcement...

  • Trump.. acknowledging a meeting ..now vehemently denies the conversations were revolving around the election.

  • The latest political scandal that has struck the Trump administration has to be analyzed in this light

  • Trump is America First, thus anyone taking on Trump is someone that undermines this dominant narrative hence seen as a traitor


The Duterte administration crossed its first year last week, while shocking the world with his announcement that he is willing to kill three million drug addicts to save the future generations of the Philippines. President Duterte’s popularity ratings remain firm and significant while President Trump is not at all bothered about his ratings.  
While many international affairs analysts have been busy going through facts and trying explain global events, understand political leaders using facts it seems that there is a worldwide resentment of the truth and a deep uncritical belief of narratives that are been spun and a simultaneous attack on scholars and scholarship that challenge such narratives. 
The latest political scandal that has struck the Trump administration has to be analyzed in this light.  
Exactly a year ago a notorious hacker that goes by the screen name Guciffer 2.0 started leaking sensitive information about the Democratic National Convention, the DNC leader and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The leaks, nearly 100 GB in size contained detailed research done by the Democratic Party on Donald Trump, emails that were exchanged among various party officials to the naming of all donors of the Clinton campaign.  
The American intelligence community strongly believes that a covert Russian hand is behind all Guciffer 2.0 Operations. During the campaign many claimed that a foreign government or a third party was heavily involved in attempts to influence the result of the US Presidential Election. 
The issue suddenly shot up last week, when Trump’s son  was forced to admit and release elaborate email threads, as a response to an impending revelation of emails in the Washington Post. 
The emails clearly outline a conversation that was initiated by Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who was the go-between a number of Russian individuals, who claimed that the Russian Government did have incriminating evidence against Hilary Clinton and if Trump Jr. liked to have it. 

 

"Trump embodies the super brand, which has the power to deflect the truth, twist it and deploy it for the advancing of a political project"

 


This led to a physical meeting at Trump towers on 15th June 2016 which included Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and a few others. It is alleged that Akhmetshin has been under the radar of the American intelligence services on the suspicion of having links with the Russian Government and Russian intelligence operations  

President Trump while acknowledging that such a meeting did take place now vehemently denies the conversations were revolving around the election. Instead they argue that it was on matters of dealing with Russian business enterprise, which was hit by sanctions under the Obama administration. 
Instead the American domestic political debates seem to be taking the form of a war between political reality and political branding.  Naomi Klein the renowned Canadian activist and intellectual appearing on an Al Jazeera interview claimed that this was the high point of global capitalism and emergence of super brands. 

Klein’s argument was that leaders like Donald Trump who have reaped the benefits of this system has also understood the power of creating ‘Hollow Brands’ irrespective of what they were worth, what they mean is what we have come to consume and relate to our own identities. 

Trump is America First, thus anyone taking on Trump is someone that undermines this dominant narrative hence seen as a traitor.  Trump embodies the super brand, which has the power to deflect the truth, twist it and deploy it for the advancing of a political project, which could even withstand scandals such as the current one.  The emergence of a brand of politicians who have managed to transcend and negate the dichotomy between the real and the truth, have managed to create an alternate reality, in times of virtual reality as a key means of dealing with human feelings and human needs,  Trump, Duterte, Macron, Modi, Erdogan, Xi Jingping, all represent political super brands that irrespective of the truth may shape the political establishments of the 21st Century. 

This article does not attempt to pass a judgment as most of these leaders are democratically elected, it is illuminate the challenge of how one can outsmart the subversion of truth, facts, rational political debates and deal with the reality that Political Super Brands have longevity. It is still pertinent to end the piece with where it started a few more lines from Leonard Cohen.   

“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking, Everybody knows that the captain lied, Everybody got this broken feeling, Like their father or their dog just died…  

 

The writer is the Director, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS)


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