Political myths have always been part and parcel of the political processes, and always influenced their objective pace and direction to a certain extent.
With the midterm elections approaching, irrationalization of politics is becoming stronger and more evident nowadays due to polarization in social and political life, and an ongoing revolutionary and rapid development of information technologies.
The current polarization of politics was a result of people’s reaction to a global political turbulence and ever-changing political landscape of the world. Trying to comprehend contradictory trends, people embrace mythology that offers fast and easy solutions, in contrast to rationalism.
In the context of the global instability, informational and media technologies become a tool of the manipulation of the mass consciousness, thus switching its purpose from factual informing to sophisticated ideological indoctrination.
What makes myth so appealing and widespread? There are couple of factors. Myth creates an understandable picture of the world. It generalizes everything that is happening and divides it on to binary oppositions – Good and Evil, Us against Them, Heroes and Villains. Myths are nourished by human emotions, and creators of myths try to exaggerate them to the maximum, since the hysterical herd is so much easier to manipulate.
The political history shows that although mythology is a universal phenomenon, nondemocratic powers tend to use it more, making it a primal tool of their rhetoric. No wonder that the main producers of myths in the 20th century were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and now mostly totalitarian and authoritarian countries such as North Korea, China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, and the others.
Most of them are poor and have leftist governments. Naturally, as it is nearly impossible to rationally present and promote a harmful ideology that suppresses freedom, violates human rights and undermines economy, political elites create scarecrows and paint pictures of apocalypse that would happen if not for them.
Tragically for America, the political left, represented by the Democratic party and its celebrity talking heads, chose the path of a destructive mythology. It became especially evident with the beginning of the “Trump era,” that challenges the liberal political establishment, exposes the impotency of their policies and, most of all, simply works for the good of America.
More and more, the left refuse to present its arguments in a civil manner preferring personal insults and even physical aggression against its opponents as it simply cannot rationally prove the validity of its own points.
One of the most distinctive features of the left’s mythology is a belief that the “Trump era” means the end of the world, and the end of America “as we know it.” It aims to create a troubled feeling of doom – “it (Trump’s inauguration) felt like the beginning of a new, dark era of politics and public life,” declared Vox.
Mainstream media predicted a full-scale “economic fallout” as a result of Trump’s policies. Now, not to look entirely out of touch with reality, even they reluctantly admit that Trump’s policies benefit the economy.
Liberals, however, continue to see the signs of doomsdays in every decision that is made by the Trump administration, whether it is nuclear talks with North Korea, tariffs war with China, immigration reform, or repeal of Obamacare (“Millions will die”) and so on.
What kind of emotions does it form? Fear, hatred, and rage that lead to political violence. If the world is over, anything goes. That is why we’ve witnessed so many cases of outbursts of violence from the left. One stark example would be an activity of the groups such as antifa. But we also face everyday harassment and hostility against Republicans and those who are assumed to be Trump supporters.
It is significant and highly disturbing that the left-wing politicians, instead of condemning the violence, often encourage it.
Warming up people’s frustration instead of offering them a program of productive counterpolicies is highly irresponsible and dangerous. Democrats must stop playing with fire and reflect on the assumption – what if they are losing popularity because they have cocooned into a closed elitist group that just does not understand people’s needs anymore?
Heroes and Villains
The central symbols of any myth are heroes and their adversaries, anti-heroes and their “minions.”
In a myth, heroes possess only “good” characteristics, anything “wrong” (like, for instance, use of a private email server for official communications while holding the world’s highest diplomatic position) the myth excuses as an “honest mistake.” Heroes act as an axis of the political system, living symbols of the core values that are important to the people.
The left depicts itself as an all-inclusive, peaceful and highly knowledgeable group that knows how to make America prosperous – that is, by curbing capitalism in favor of “more fair” socialist policies. Despite proven records of exclusivity, intolerance and violence of the left, as well as failures of socialist approach around the world, the left stubbornly continues to promote this mythology.
As for the anti-heroes, they, obviously, personify all evil and aim to destroy the existing world order. One of the prime examples of a deeply mythological and troubled consciousness was demonstrated by the New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who stated that Trump’s policies “came from the darkness,” and sees herself as “wearing armor of God” to fight them.
The most distinctive description of “villains” was given by Hillary Clinton in her infamous speech. She, ironically, strove to serve as a uniting symbol and represent all Americans, which is often assumed by the position of the president. Instead, she called half of Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables,” who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” Naturally, these disrespectful remarks backfired on the Election Day.
Now, on the eve of midterm elections in November, the left is exploiting a purely mythological narrative of Trump’s impeachment — despite the lack of impeachable offence. But myth does not care much about facts — if it “feels right,” it should be right.
Overall, the nature of the political mythology of the left proves that they use it as a crutch for their agenda that cannot be fully supported by reason. Does the mainstream right use myths, too?
Certainly. But there are destructive and there are constructive myths. Right-wing myths do not aim to harm their opponents, or overthrow the government, or destroy our very country – when was the last time you have seen conservatives claiming that “America was never great” and chanting “No borders! No wall! No USA at all!”?
Veronika Kyrylenko, Ph.D., is a research fellow at GeoStrategic Analysis in Arlington, Virginia.
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