Reading Time: 2 minutesDefining collaboration in today’s world. Feature update from Cronycle about how the product is adapting to these changes. “We all have the same amount of time in a day, and there is no way to get more of it. It doesn’t matter how successful or wealthy one is – we are all capped at 24 hours per day.” [..]
Reading Time: 2 minutesAssume that you are one of the nigh on 90 million people worldwide subscribed to Netflix. It’s a good deal for you – you get access to a catalogue of popular TV and those weird movies which you never saw but always thought might be fun to watch […]
Reading Time: 2 minutesCharity is not the most obvious use of cryptocurrencies. In fact, it might be fair to say that most anecdotes involving blockchain-derived monetary systems are about conmen and almost criminally gullible suckers. Between ridiculous Initial Coin Offerings, with proposals as wild as reshaping the dental sector, the association with petty criminals and the far-right, and […]
Reading Time: 3 minutesCoverage of Trump’s recent tour of Asia has tended to focus on a few areas. There were his readiness to speak kindly of China, in spite of earlier campaign promises. Then there was the continuing war of words with North Korea, which has reached farcical levels. And finally, the obligatory snaps of Putin and Trump […]
Reading Time: 3 minutesIn 1956, when Philip K. Dick wrote The Minority Report, the internet wasn’t around. In fact, the internet’s forbears wouldn’t appear until the next decade. But whilst the detection of ‘precrime’ in Dick’s short story was through the power of unfortunate mutants, we are rapidly moving into a present where the power of big data and […]
Reading Time: 2 minutesThe EPA under Scott Pruitt – a man better known for fighting with it in his previous life as Oklahoma Attorney-General – has not moved in directions which are healthy for the planet, it would be fair to say. Between slicing up legislation on mercury, essentially purging any mention of climate change from government websites, […]
Reading Time: 8 minutes[Note: In this essay, I only discuss the cultural aspects of the left-right divide, and leave the economic aspects to others who have a far better grasp of these. Of course, culture and economics are not entirely separable, and I regret any blind spots that may result from this.] What has been called the “alt-right” is only the mirror […]
Reading Time: 2 minutesVault 7 was first teased by Wikileaks at the start of the year, through a series of Tweets which were fundamentally fodder for conspiracy theorists: images from Gestapo archives, the seed bank at Svalbard, old photographs of US military aircraft being built. In the end, the contents of the Vault (a title made up by […]
Reading Time: 3 minutesWith the election of Donald Trump, there was a mixture of glee sprinkled in with the horror in the world of reporters and opinion writers. The new president was an easy target, both for his outrageous statements and for the ever growing cast of leaks which surrounded him, on everything from his alleged charity to work […]
Reading Time: 2 minutesConsidering the many rights which we routinely see trampled upon in the news today, making the case of access to the internet seems a little frivolous. After all, this the era when millenials are pilloried for avocado toast on Instagram, whilst we’re told by a succession of psychologists and journalists that smartphones are destroying the […]
Reading Time: 3 minutesThe old adage for dealing with dealing with online abuse was ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ – a statement based on the premise that they could fundamentally dealt with like offline bullies. By refusing to give them the emotional response and the attention which they crave, the argument went, they would get bored and move off […]
Reading Time: 2 minutesFew pet peeves have attracted the ire of Donald Trump as much as the Iran nuclear deal completed by his predecessor. President Obama’s 2015 action was meant to reshape policy in the region, breaking the long-standing divide between the Shia powerhouse and the US which dates back to late 1970s, and which had only intensified […]
Reading Time: 5 minutesAs the star of ISIS (apparently) begins to fade, it is perhaps worth interrogating its vision of returning to Islam in its original, pure form. A Salafi Islamist movement, ISIS seeks to purge contemporary Islam of its heretical accretions. Its English-language magazine Dabiq, explains that the Khilafah [caliphate] could not be established except through a jama’ah [group] […]
The standard for elected leaders in the free world has plummeted incredibly over the past year or so. In Britain, Theresa May has been hobbling since the General Election, surrounded by hyenas. Her speech at the Conservative Party conference almost received sympathy from all quarters, even as factions within the Tories move against her. Over the Pond, Donald Trump’s fan base has continued to shrink as he picks fights with Puerto Rico (in the wake of Acts of God), North Korea (as their nuclear arsenal expands) and Iran (as they stick to their agreement), whilst calling some white nationalists ‘good people’. No matter how you massage the facts, it’s clear that it’s not been the easy ride which he appeared to envision when it comes to ‘draining the swamp’.
But Emmanuel Macron – young, charismatic, pro-EU – looked like he might buck the trend. A former Minister of Economy and Finance with a maverick streak, his meteoric rise to take the Elysée (snatching it away from Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National) was the stuff of liberal dreams. Then, his party En Marche! – a mixture of veteran politicians and political neophytes drawn from across society – beat critics in legislative elections, crushing both the established parties and the Front National.
For Europhiles, this was welcome news, with suggestions that it meant that the populist groundswell which had overtaken the Anglo-American world was over. Whilst the Dutch elections in March had created a fractured political system (albeit one in which the far right candidate Geert Wilders was locked out of power sharing agreements), Macron’s victory was virtually complete. A fresh-faced figure – in spite of his past as a minister under an unpopular government – the prospects looked bright in May.
With the end of the year drawing near, it’s difficult not to imagine that those who were most enthusiastic about Macron might be feeling somewhat disappointed. His performance at a recent TV appearance seems to epitomise the mixture of bravado and arrogance for which he’s become well-known, with attacks on those who disagree with him bearing a somewhat disturbing resemblance to another president. Whilst Trump may have gone after the press more viciously (decrying them as liars in the pay of his enemies), Macron has taken a more contemptuous if equally dismissive route – his thoughts were ‘too complex’ for journalists, a spokesmen declared back in June. At a time when technocrats have come under routine attack, it seemed a remarkably bold approach.
That he made the television appearance at all was a sign that his complex thoughts had not translated into successful actions. His aims for a stronger Eurozone have been stymied by the German elections, which saw the once redoubtable Angela Merkel significantly reduced in stature, as the economic heart of the EU made a decisive shift towards the Eurosceptic right. At the same time, Macron has shown he’s just as keen to keep France’s interests at heart as any of his predecessors, angering other EU nations – he swooped in with the might of the French government to nationalise the STX shipyard, keeping it from Italian hands, much to Rome’s annoyance.
And worst of all, his attempts at labour reforms have largely stalled. His declaration that those opposing him were ‘slackers’ galvanised a popular movement against the former banker’s attempts to loosen regulations – although, as the Guardian notes, the numbers were bigger under Macron’s universally unpopular predecessor Francois Hollande. At a time when the French economy has been stagnant for years, it’s difficult to draw consolation from this latest turn of events.
In the bigger picture this is deeply distressing: Macron’s brand of centrism offered one of the few plausible antidotes to populism in Europe. Marine Le Pen may have lost out on the election this time, but the president’s mixture of aloofness combined with failures to enact policy suggest that the next time around, France might not be so lucky.
Whilst British politics has been in turmoil over the past few months (even ignoring Theresa May’s disastrous speech to her own party), Europe’s attention has been rather rudely diverted by events in Austria. After the shock success of the Alternative fur Deutschland at Germany’s elections shattered the nation’s belief in its immunity to populism, legislative elections at Austria appear to have done the same there.
It’s not an entirely unexpected turn of events there, admittedly. Over the course of a twisted presidential election last year, the far-right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (the Freedom Party of Austria or FPO) received the most votes in the first round, only to lose out in the second against the Green Party. Then, the whole election was declared void due to apparent irregularities in the process. Finally, the FPO was defeated in December 2016, but gained a respectable 46% of the vote.
At first glance, the victory of the conservative Österreichische Volkspartei (OVP) under Sebastian Kurz is less significant than the FPO’s presidential performance. Whilst it has anti-immigrant rhetoric, the OVP is broadly speaking a less extreme party, defined by economic liberalism and Catholicism. But an alliance between the OVP and FPO now seems likely, and would have the precedent of an earlier coalition as recently as 2002.
In essence, this gives the FPO a run at power on its key issues: most notably immigration, euroscepticism, and Islam. Where the centre (both in Austria and in the European Union at large) would have provided a bulwark against changes on these fronts in 2002, the situation today is almost unrecognisable, with Britain leaving, Germany lurching rightwards from under Angela Merkel’s feet, and Emmanuel Macron, the greatest supporter of Eurozone integration, isolated and losing popularity fast. Instead, as Politico reports, Austria is joining a vaunted club of Central European countries whose leading political movements (Fidesz in Hungary, and PiS in Poland) care little for Brussels and even less for Muslim refugees. A dangerous and growing isolationism, tied to archaic ideals of national identity (often carefully skirting the knottier bits of history).
That broader context is what makes the groundswell of right-wing populism so dangerous, creating a cycle in which parties in neighbouring countries see the successes of these ideologies and find themselves emboldened. There doesn’t seem to be a master plan for a grand European populist alliance as yet, in part because Europe is a messy patchwork built by generations of wars and treaties (the FPO, for example, demands part of Tirol – historically an Austrian province – back from Italy) – and yet each victory is a blow against the EU.
In light of all that, Theresa May’s situation looks a little less grim. Britain might be a ship with no clear helmsman, but the mood in Europe, towards the idea of Europe – tempered by the refugee crisis of 2015, growing ethnonationalist tensions, and a general displeasure with neo-liberal elites – is turning increasingly ugly. Brussels’ power has taken yet another blow, and this is unlikely to be the last.