A cross between Trump and Berlusconi
Czechs may have made immense progress, but the mood among them is awfully bitter. They are convinced that the political establishment has failed them. And their way out? They’re all set to elect a party headed by a billionaire who hates immigration, writes Yascha Mounk in Slate.
“A cross between Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, Andrej Babiš, a candidate for prime minister in upcoming parliamentary elections, owns a lot of the country’s media, revels in being politically incorrect, and strongly opposes immigration. He also uses his political power for private gain.”
“In other words, the Czech Republic seems poised to join a growing club of Central European nations in which the very survival of democracy is now in doubt. Like in Poland and Hungary, in Slovakia and Macedonia, the state media may slowly turn into a propaganda tool for its strongman leader; the judiciary slowly start to rubber-stamp government decisions; and independent associations as well as critical NGOs slowly face increasingly insurmountable obstacles. Within a few years, yet another country that once seemed on the sure path toward liberal democracy will be in danger of turning into a dictatorship with a thin electoral veneer.”
Harvey Weinstein and a culture that protected the predator, not victims
“The old saw that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing was never truer than it was in Weinstein’s case,” writes Bret Stephens in The New York Times. The Harvey Weinstein saga has the storybook villain, scores of victims, whose career he could wreck or make, but no heroes. It instead has many enablers, “those who facilitated his predations and those who found it expedient to look the other way”.
“Hyenas cannot help their own nature. But the work of a morally sentient society is to prevent them from taking over the savannah. Our society, by contrast, festooned Weinstein with honors, endowed him with riches, and enabled him to feast on his victims without serious consequence for the better part of 30 years.”
“It may be that Weinstein’s epic downfall will scare straight other sexual miscreants, or at least those who tolerate their behavior and are liable for its consequences. Don’t count on it. Our belated indictment of him now does too much to acquit his many accomplices, and too little to transform a culture that never gave him a reason to change,” Stephens concludes.
Social networks need to buck up
Facebook, Twitter and Google are all wonderful products, but the last election suggests they’ve connected more people than they can handle, and with a kind of naiveté about “how many bad guys were abusing their platforms”, writes Thomas Friedman.
Their “business model was to absorb all of the readers of the mainstream media newspapers and magazines and to absorb all their advertisers — but as few of their editors as possible. An editor is a human being you have to pay to bring editorial judgment to content on your website, to make sure things are accurate and to correct them if they’re not. Social networks preferred to use algorithms instead, but these are easily gamed.”
Why are these companies ambivalent about taking responsibility for the uses, and abuses, of their platforms, asks the Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel. “They can’t have it both ways. If they claim they are neutral pipes and wires, like the phone company or the electric company, they should be regulated as public utilities. But if, on the other hand, they want to claim the freedoms associated with news media, they can’t deny responsibility for promulgating fake news,” he said.
Chinese might not even want democracy after Trump and Brexit
The failings – some real, some perceived – of liberal democracy might have given the Chinese a reason to reject the “Western” political systems which hinge on the principle of freedom of speech, judicial independence and ultimately democracy, writes Jamil Anderlini in The Financial Times.
“The rejection of ‘Western’ political systems has been made easier recently by what the Chinese see as the ludicrous buffoonery of Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, the self-inflicted damage of Brexit and EU infighting,” Anderlini writes.
“Given the perceived failings of liberal democracy, many, perhaps most, Chinese are quite willing to accept creeping dictatorship and political persecution of individuals as long as they continue to see their livelihoods improve.
“Outside China many in the West will shrug and ask what all this has to do with them. But they should be aware that Mr Xi’s other big shift has been to jettison the foreign policy mantra of non-interference that has also guided China since the days of Deng [Xiaoping].”
A new window
Afghanistan and Pakistan’s latest round of bilateral rounds of talks may have been called a “new chapter” by US Defence Secretary James Mattis. But for the “wall of distrust” between the two to come down, there is still a long way to go, writes Zahid Hussain in Dawn.
“It is apparent that this bilateral initiative has American support. US Defence Secretary James Mattis saw the Kabul meeting as presaging ‘a new chapter’. It may be too early to draw such optimism from the meeting, but it demonstrates America’s keen interest in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It remains to be seen, though, how the Trump administration can help bridge the gap between the two countries while getting India more deeply involved in Afghanistan.”
“Another sticking point is the issue of reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban. The Trump administration has often hinted that it would be willing to look for a political solution to the Afghan conflict. But there is no clear strategy or policy for negotiations with the insurgents. President Ghani, too, has called the Taliban to come to the negotiating table but there has not been any positive response.”