by Roberto Savio
Publisher of OtherNews, Italian-Argentine Roberto Savio
is an economist, journalist, communication expert,
political commentator, activist for social and climate
justice and advocate of an anti neoliberal global
governance. Director for international relations of the
European Center for Peace and Development.. He is
co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and
its President Emeritus.
When all is said and done, it appears that
Thomas Hobbes, the
17th century English philosopher who had a dire vision of
man, was not totally wrong.
From the frivolous to the serious, in just a week we have had four
items of news which would not happen in a normal world.
porn beauty with 86,000 followers on social media has put bottles of
the water she bathes in on sale at 30 pounds a bottle and has sold
several thousand bottles.
A survey in Brazil found out that 7% of citizens believe that
earth is flat (40 percent of American schools teach that the world
was created in a week, according to the Bible, so there cannot be
Another survey, this time
of members of the British Tory party, who seem likely to elect Boris
Johnson as prime minister (not exactly a triumph of reason) are so
in favor of a "hard" Brexit that they do not care if this means the
exit of Scotland and the end of the United Kingdom.
Finally, in order to win
election, US president Donald Trump has made racism one of
his banners and, in a country of immigrants, this has given him an
increase of 5 points in opinion polls.
There are so many signs of barbarizations that they would fill a
book… and, as
Euripides famously wrote:
Whom the gods would destroy,
they first make mad.
White supremacists clash with police
in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017.
(Evan Nesterak, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
It is not a popular task, but we have to look at the reality and
observe that, in the most scientifically and technologically
developed period of history, we are living in times of precipitous
Social inequality has become the basis for the new economy.
have now lowered their expectations and are prepared to work
part-time in a precarious job, where young people (according to the
International Labour Organization) can hope for a retirement pension
of 600 euro a month.
This has been accepted by the political system.
We even have a study from Spain according to which, in the present
housing market, nearly 87% of people need 90% of their salary just
to rent a house.
A Salary Means
Today, for many, a salary means survival, not a dignified life...
new economy has developed the so-called gig economy:
you work to
distribute food, but you are a co-entrepreneur without any of the
rights of an employee, for an amount that will never allow you to
Children have grown accustomed to look at phenomena such as
poverty or war as 'natural.'
And now politics are not based on ideas
but on how you can successfully exploit the guts of the people,
waving banners against immigrants (when we are witnessing a rapid
fall in the birth rate) and splintering countries between "We" who
represent the people and "You" enemy of the country.
States is the best example, where Republicans consider
enemies of the United States.
And this brings us to a central
Matteo Salvini, Brazil's
Bolsonaro and company, not been 'elected democratically'?
And they are
the symptom or the cause of the "populocracy" which is replacing
It is not possible to offer a sociological or historical study here.
Let us just use a bite:
we have gone from the Gutenberg era into a
new era -
the Zuckerberg era...
Those who greeted the arrival of
the Internet with enthusiasm also
did so because it would democratize communication and therefore
bring about greater participation.
The hope was to see a world where
horizontal communication would replace the vertical system of
information which Gutenberg made possible.
Information was, in fact,
a support for states and business that used it to reach citizens,
who had no recourse to feedback.
With Internet, people could now
speak directly throughout the world and the propaganda which
accompanied its arrival was not considered relevant:
it is not
important to know, it is important to know where to find It.
we have all the statistics on how Internet has affected the general
level of culture and dialogue.
Ad for a company offering
"freelance services on demand."
The attention span of people has declined dramatically.
of Internet users do not stay on an item more than 15 seconds.
the last five years, book volumes have been shortened by 29 pages.
Today, articles longer than 650 words are not accepted by
The last meeting of editors of international
news agencies decided to lower the level of news from the level of
22 years to that of 17 years.
In Europe, the percentage of people
who buy at least one book a year now stands at 22% (in the United
States it is now 10.5%).
According to a recent study in Italy, only
40% of the population is able to read and understand a book. In the
same country, 13% of libraries have closed in the last ten years.
very popular transmission in Spain was "59 seconds" which saw a
number of people debate round a table; at the 59th seconds their
microphones would disappear.
Today, the dream of a TV interviewer is
that the person interviewed will give a shorter answer than the
Newspapers are for people over forty.
And there is a
unanimous complaint about the level of students entering the
university: not all are free from mistakes of orthography and
And the list could continue practically ad infinitum.
The problem of barbarization has major relevance for political
The Gutenberg generations were accustomed to dialogue
Today, 83% of Internet users (80% under the age of
21), do so only in the virtual world they carved out for themselves.
People of Group A gather only with people of Group A. If they come
across somebody from Group B, they insult each other. Politicians
have been able to adjust rapidly to the system.
The best example is
Trump. All US newspapers together have a circulation of 60 million
copies (ten million those of quality, both conservative and
Trump has 60 million followers who take Trump's tweets
as information. The do not buy newspapers, and if they watch TV it
is Fox, which is Trump's amplifier. No wonder that over 80% of
Trump's voters would vote for him again.
And the media, which have
lost the ability to offer analysis and cover processes, not just
events, take the easy path. Let us follow famous people and make the
famous more famous.
Analytical journalism is disappearing. In the
United States it exists thanks to grants… in every European
country, there are few quality papers left, and the largest
circulation goes to tabloids which spare their readers the effort of
The Daily Mirror in Britain and
Bild in Germany are the
Symbolic representation of Internet addiction.
(Sam Wolff, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
The Internet has made everybody a communicator.
This is a fantastic
achievement. But in this increasing barbarization, people also use
the Internet for transmitting false information, stories based on
fantasy, without any of the quality controls that the media world
used to have.
And artificial intelligence has been taking over,
creating many false accounts, which now interfere in the electoral
process, as was proven in the last US elections.
We have to add to
the algorithms used by the owners of the Internet aim to
trap the attention of users in order to keep them as much as
This month, El Pais published a long study entitled
toxic effects of YouTube -
Así caemos por la Espiral Tóxica de YouTube", where it shows how its algorithms push
the viewer to items that are of fantasy, pseudoscientific and of
Citizens into Consumers
This is due to the fact that the owners have become fabulously rich
by transforming citizens into consumers. They find out our identity,
and they sell it to companies for their marketing, and also for
Those owners have unprecedented wealth, never achieved in
the real world:
not only in that of production, but even in the
world of finance, which has become a casino with no control.
entire world of production of services and goods, man-made, is now
close to a trillion dollars a day; that same day, financial flows
reach 40 trillion dollars.
Jeff Bezos's divorce gave his wife 38
That is equal to the annual average income of
20,000 dollars of 19 million people...
No wonder that 80 individuals
now possess the same wealth as 2.3 billion people (in 2008, they
were 1,200 individuals).
According to historians, greed and fear are great engines of change
in history. That was also true in the Gutenberg era. But now, they
have triggered a combination of both in a short period of time.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the doctrine of liberal
globalization arrived with such strength that Margaret Thatcher (who
with Ronald Reagan ushered in the new vision of individual profits
and elimination of social goods) famously talked of TINA: There
Protesting the Wall Street bailouts
at Chicago Federal Reserve / Board of trade,
Sept. 21, 2008.
The entire political system, including Social Democrats, accepted
riding a system of values based on greed and unfettered competition
at individual level, at state level and at international level.
took twenty years to understand that,
the poor have become poorer,
and the rich richer,
...and that states have lost much of their
sovereignty to multinational corporations and the world of finance.
It is worth noting that,
in 2009, in order to save a corrupt and
inefficient financial system, the world spent 12 trillion dollars
(the United States alone, 4 trillion).
Since that rescue, banks have
paid the impressive amount of 800 billion dollars in penalties for
The financial crisis of 2009 has triggered a wave of fear. Let us
not forget that until 2009, there were no sovereignist, populist,
xenophobic parties anywhere, except for Le Pen in France.
traps such as "in name of the nation" and "the defence of religion"
were resurrected by politicians able to ride fear.
A new scapegoat - immigrants
- was found and populocrats are now undermining democracy
Populocracy is the new wave.
Former Italian prime minister
Berlusconi ushered in a new language, and that language has now been
updated by Salvini, Trump and so on.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
are the new medium and now the medium is the message. The old elite
had not found a new language.
The Zuckerberg era is an era of
greed and fear.
Zuckerberg is now
attempting to create a global currency, the Libra, to be used by his
2.3 billion users. Until now, states were the only entities able to
emit money, a symbol of the nation.
Zuckerberg's currency is based
entirely on the Internet and will have no control or regulations. In
case of a default, we will have a world crisis without precedent. In
the Gutenberg era, this was not possible.
Who has made able Jeff Bezos to give
38 billion dollars
to a former wife?
Who has elected Trump and Salvini
Who speak on behalf of the nation and the people,
and turn those who do not agree into enemies of the nation and
the people, creating an unprecedented polarization, accompanied
by an orgy of revolt against science and knowledge, which have
supported the elite, and must now be put aside for the good of
This process of barbarization should not obscure an old proverb:
every country has the government it deserves. It is called
However, the traditional elite has no code of
communication with the new era.
The answer will come from citizen
A young Swedish girl,
Greta Thunberg, has done more with her
stubbornness to raise awareness about impending climate change than
the entire political system.
Even Trump (albeit for electoral
reasons) has now declared that climate change is important.
Today, there many "points
of light" appearing in the world.
The elections in Istanbul are a
good example, as are the mobilization in Hong Kong, Sudan and
Nicaragua, among many others.
Let us hope we will reach a point
where people will take the reins of the process and awake the world
from the precipitous course of barbarization.
Even Thomas Hobbes
humankind will always, soon or later, find the right
path, and give itself good governance...
He thought that an elite
would always be able to lead the masses.
Well, elites are now the Greta Thunbergs of the world...