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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Populism Works ?

I'm reminded of the well-known satirical novel by Robert Escarpit – The Literatron. I haven't read the novel but just a summary of its review is reproduced from eurozine article. It explains in subtle about how populism works....

I'm reminded of the well-known satirical novel by Robert Escarpit – The Literatron. The Literatron is more or less a machine for creating texts similar to a computer. The idea of its creators was to generate the perfect novel based on the best images from world literature. In response to the highest of expectations, the machine produced a bestseller – Virgin and Typesetter! When the Literatron was asked to compose a political speech the outcome was even more scandalous. After processing the entire history of political rhetoric the machine spewed out a series of gaffs such as: "This politics thing the more it changes the more it stays the same... There are no two ways about it, the clever people are the most stupid of all... All you have to do is hang a few of them (politicians) and things will improve...". This line of thought fits perfectly with an eloquent phrase from the Bulgarian transition, wrought by another merciless critic of his time, the Bulgarian satirist Aleko Konstantinov: "They are all rogues, on both sides!" The speech generated by the literatron was welcomed with raptures by the electorate and the politician whose job it was to make it quickly became a star. Every attempt to deviate from the absurd scenario led to vigorous disapproval.

I can't remember what happened to the literatron, whether it was destroyed as a malicious invention or if it destroyed itself. What was more important was the principles on which the machine operated. Its aim was universality and in the process it purged all nuances, simplified the meaning and looked for an arithmetical mean. The aim was for the text to reach the widest possible audience. The greatest irony was that a message meant for all was in practice a message for no one. This undermined its purpose, since it would have left its audience completely indifferent. The literatron is clearly a metaphor for populism as a leading principle of the political machine. However, populism works. If it didn't, politicians wouldn't resort to it so often.

The story is over dudes..

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