20/01/2017 08:47 GMT | Updated 21/01/2018 05:12 GMT

On The Need To Fact-Check Populists

Why are populist politicians popular today? Because they give people a chance to blame someone else for their problems. The others. The foreigners. The aliens. The people who don't belong to OUR country. If populists are such con artists, why do people fall for them?

The populist pattern.

A populist is the politician who hears the news that a blind man has killed two people in driving his friend's car on the motorway, then appears in the media (TV, radio, papers, social media) to tell voters that they had predicted it would happen one day.

They start claiming they were the only ones talking about it for a long time, but the establishment had tried to cover it up and the government did nothing to stop it from happening.

They continue by blaming all blind people, men and women, who they claim can obviously not be trusted, should be treated as second-class citizens, and are too many in our towns and cities anyway.

At this point, the populist increases the volume and says that all blind people should apologise for the actions of the one blind man on the motorway and if they don't they should stop receiving benefits or be taken out of this country for ultimately their refusal to apologise obviously means they fully support the action of the 'guilty' man on the road.

Answering accusations of segregation from mainstream politicians and harsh questions from mainstream media, the populist then claims that there is too much political-correctness around disability anyway and explains that all this social ostracism against one minority is being totally justified because of the threat all blind people potentially represent to our society and our civilisation.

The madness of populism.

As proven in the simple and obviously disturbing example above, with their rhetoric, populists always preach exclusion and hate. One may easily replace the blind people in the example by any minority that has ever been used as a scapegoat in history, whether they were Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Black people, Eastern Europeans, EU citizens, Mexicans, migrants, foreigners, LGBT, HIV-positive people, communists, judges, etc. The populists' abject rhetoric is always the same and using the very same arguments. Whatever the country, whatever the period, the blaming of the 'other' for everything that goes wrong is always the same.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

People follow populists in their madness, alike the children following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, because they want to believe in the fantasies they are told. It is always easier to blame others for one's misery. French Philosophical anthropologist René Girard once said that "scapegoating serves as a psychological relief for a group of people". People don't want to listen to the experts because they know they will tell them the hard truth of what lies ahead and that is simply inevitable.

2016. The year of populism.

The thing is populists and their followers always miss the main point in the story: why was the blind man driving that car in the first place?

Blaming others for a problem is easier than finding the actual roots of the very problem. To find the roots of a problem, you first need to look at the problem, understand why it happened and use common sense to solve it.

Unfortunately, understanding and common sense were two things that obviously lacked very much in 2016. Think about Brexit, Trump's election, the Colombian peace deal referendum to end 52 years of war with the Farc guerrillas, or the Austrian presidential election. Hopefully, 2017 will be the year people wake up from the pied pipers' toxic illusions and dangerous lies.

In 2016, populists have challenged the world. In 2017, let's fact-check everything they say.


Please join the conversation over populism on Twitter: Follow @jnpaquet and use the hashtag #iceberg