The controversial author predicted the rise of Trump by placing "a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair" in his new book, written before the election. But can he explain the hate of knowledge that persists in the world today?
Well! Salman Rushdie pretty much predicted the future in his new book, The Golden House, wherein the antagonist is "a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair." Read into that what you will, but Rushdie here posits that he's baffled by the sudden worldwide rejection of knowledge and the elites. He says that it's not just an invention of the American right wing — that it's a worldwide problem that's helped in large part by the likes of Fox News et al — and he wonders both what gave rise to that and how it will stop. Perhaps he'll have to write a sequel.
Elitism has come under fire since the recent wave of populist politics. But when we don't listen to experts, we end up listening to politicians' lies, says Richard Dawkins.
You want expert pilots to fly your planes, top doctors to perform your surgeries, the finest musicians in your orchestra, and for the same reason, you should want experts leading the nation, says Richard Dawkins. There has been a backlash against expert knowledge amid the rising wave of populist politics, but Dawkins doesn't think elitism is the dirty word that people are implying. He contends that not all opinions are equal, and that the leaders of the UK were profoundly misguided in allowing a referendum on Brexit to occur. No average citizen—not even Dawkins himself—was fit to decide on whether to leave a federation of states with so much economic and political importance, and decades of complex history attached to it. And much like the 2016 US presidential election, it was a political movement fueled by misinformation. A representative democracy is one thing, where citizens entrust experts to make national and local decisions, but a referendum democracy seems to Dawkins extremely ill-advised, particularly given that the top Google search in the UK the day after the Brexit vote was 'What is the European Union?'. Dawkins isn't shy: he's an elitist, but a rational one. He affirms he would never want a world where your IQ determines how many votes you get, but he sees the clear benefit of making political decisions based on knowledge rather than emotion or misinformation, deliberate or otherwise. Richard Dawkins' newest book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.
Malcolm Gladwell does a post-mortem of the U.S. presidential election, speaking to issues of sexism and moral licensing, and makes a bold prediction.
This election was one for the record books. Donald Trump became the president of the United States with a solid electoral victory despite a loss in the popular vote. The statistical data is still coming in, but interpretations of it exist already.
Two days before the election, English-Canadian thinker Malcolm Gladwell discussed his interpretation of the election up to that point, and offered his shocking prediction of what will become of President Trump. Mr. Gladwell is a well known author, with works on crime, psychology, and the viewpoints of dogs.
He suggests that this election is going to be recalled as strange in every way. One in which the “elite” candidate was born in the middle class and the populist was born a millionaire. "One guy is the child of privilege who grew up in a multi-million-dollar household, and has every advantage handed to him on a silver platter," Gladwell says. "The other is a woman who came from the most ordinary of circumstances." One in which pending lawsuits were given less airtime on major networks than criminal investigations which never materialized. Where coverage of those lawsuits earned more time than discussion of issues. One in which the winning candidate “caught ten different breaks.” An election so odd, he feels the confidence to say “This is not going to happen again."
The boldest statement he made, however, is his prediction that Trump “will be in jail within a year”. Citing the various lawsuits for fraud in cases such as the Trump University suit that the President Elect finds himself dealing with, Gladwell supposes there will be “criminal charges” forthcoming as well. Such a situation would be nearly unprecedented; the only comparison would be to Watergate, which did not occur to an incoming president but to one that was re-elected in a landslide two years prior.
[Before the election results were in, Harvard psychologist Susan David came to the Big Think studio and questioned the media's role in normalizing Donald Trump's hate rhetoric. Should journalistic ethics override human ethics?]
He suggests a reason that this election has been going as it has: the idea that our election of a black president has given many of us a blank moral check. This idea is called “Moral Licensing”. Having taken a positive action, we grant ourselves the freedom to act in a less moral fashion at a later time.
In this case, Gladwell suggests: “Having taken the extraordinary step of electing a black man as president… Americans feel free to indulge every dark impulse inside their hearts, because they think they have proven to the world how open minded they are... I think there is something to that theory.”
He also sees this election as a frank statement on the condition of our views of women in power in the United States. To an outside observer, it demonstrated that Americans would not vote for a woman of a particular description. In this case, one who was honest in her desire for power, who was more aggressive and less modest in her disposition than seems becoming for a woman in politics. "To me, the most disturbing lesson about this election is that the United States is a good deal less open to women in positions of power than it would like to pretend that it is," he says.
Mr Gladwell offers us an interesting view of what the election says about Americans, not all of it is good. He suggests that the only way to explain the number of breaks that Donald Trump has seemed to have in this election is by way of sexism. A sexism that reflects on Americans in general. It shows to him that the American media is more concerned with story than substance, and that the nature of this election will be recalled for years to come.
Watch the full interview here.