The Economist Indicts Western Democracy


Recently, The Economist magazine published an article titled “The Meddler: How Russia Menaces Western Democracies”. The essay was striking in two ways: it was astonishingly light on details of Russian meddling, and quite harsh in its indictment of western democracy.


Their description of how “the Russians” threw the election to Donald Trump in 2016 by using social media spammer techniques does not sound any different from what Hillary Clinton’s campaign was already doing. Clinton’s “big data” machine was going to guarantee an easy election win. It targeted social media messages to extremely narrow and specific audiences. The Clinton campaign bragged, that doing something like this on such a scale was a true first and a major achievement. That is, critics accuse, until the Russians did it better, and cheaper..

The Economist’s advice for stopping Russian meddling consists of strong verbal threats by western democratic leaders directed at President Putin. That, by itself, does not seem to be any significant breakthrough in the fight for open and honest elections.

The essay further claims that western democracies’ divisions run so deep that intruders swoop in at any moment. The author does not explain how to fight these divisions.

Traditional nationalism and a religious-based culture used to be the cure for broad, threatening divisions. Yet, such things are anathema to the global corporate establishment and their culture warriors. The only answer the author seems to suggest is the brute force by a state security apparatus.

As The Economist claims, democracy cannot thrive unless western leaders regain voter confidence, which starts with transparency. However, the authors do not suggest acts of transparency by the media or the political class. Rather, they insist the western nations must undertake investigations with Robert Mueller’s scope and authority. In other words, opinions that diverge from the western democracies must be rooted out and crushed in the basements of the secret police. Debating them openly in the public square of ideas is not an option.

What this latest essay demonstrates is that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ dictum “Repeat a lie enough and it becomes the truth” is alive and well in the western democracies. The Russian meddling meme is very old. Russian meddling is a tired story after fifteen months of international attention. Yet, established corporate-owned media feel they have a duty to repeat the lie for the sake of long-term goals. It may be for the profit of their political benefactors, or for users locked in social media ghettos who need to be awakened so they will see advertisements for other consumer products. Whatever the reason, it is definitely not for the benefit of a more informed voter.


Sidney Petron is a historian and political analyst currently situated in New Haven, Connecticut.

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