Cummings is proving that disruptive stories and lies, allied to Machiavellian cunning and upending convention by framing our institutions as “out of touch” and “elite”, could be much more populist than reason and fact.
This Article / Opinion is from The London Economic by James Melville.
In an article on his website on 30th October, 2015, Dominic Cummings reflected on the failure of our political elite to make accurate political predictions and solve social problems. In it, he said:
“The processes for selecting, educating, and training those at the apex of politics are between inadequate and disastrous, and political institutions suffer problems that are very well known but are very hard to fix – there are entangled vicious circles that cause repeated predictable failure. (a) The people at the apex of political power (elected and unelected) are far from the best people in the world in terms of goals, intelligence, ethics, or competence. (b) Their education and training is such that almost nobody has the skills needed to cope with the complexity they face or even to understand the tools that might help them. Political ‘experts’ are usually hopeless at predictions and routinely repeat the same sorts of errors without being forced to learn. While our ancestor chiefs understood bows, horses, and agriculture, our contemporary chiefs (and those in the media responsible for scrutiny of decisions) generally do not understand their equivalents, and are often less experienced in managing complex organisations than their predecessors. (c) Government institutions (national and international) within which they operate, and which select people for senior positions, tend to have reliably poor performance compared with what we know humans are capable of doing. Westminster and Whitehall train people to fail, predictably and repeatedly. The EU and UN do not have the effectiveness or legitimacy we need for international cooperation.”
In the UK, the pillars that uphold the workings of a civil society – the state funded judiciary, international organisations, legislature and media are under threat from the other state pillar – the executive – who are telling people that these institutions need to be stripped down or removed. We are sleepwalking towards authoritarianism.
Authoritarian leaders who ignore parliament
According the Hansard Society’s audit of political engagement, the UK public is increasingly disenchanted with MPs and government and ever more willing to welcome the idea of authoritarian leaders who would ignore parliament. The study, found that when people were asked whether “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules”, 54 per cent agreed and only 23 per cent said no. In all, 42 per cent of respondents agreed with the idea that many national problems could be dealt with more effectively “if the government didn’t have to worry so much about votes in parliament”.
This is a worrying trend. For the public to state a preference for a strong leader or authoritarian government willing to break the rules, or thinking that the government should be able to tackle the country’s problems without worrying about the approval of parliament shows how large sections of the population appear to be sliding towards brainwashing manipulation against the tenants of democracy that, despite their flaws, serve us well.
We now have a government that appears to be working under the premise of disruption theory that is led by Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s Rasputin, who would be better served giving lectures about disruption rather than serving as an unelected government representative who is ideologically driven to whack our institutions.
To achieve political disruption, an established institutional victim is found and it is repeatedly bullied. But projection psychology is deployed to make the bullying sound like a noble path where the institution is portrayed as the bully and the people are the victims. The objective is a power grab of increased authoritarianism. When people do not trust traditional political systems, they look elsewhere. That’s when support for disruptive political extremes grows and society sleepwalks from disruption and towards authoritarianism.
Under the guidance of Cummings, these applications have spread across the EU, parliamentary sovereignty, the civil service, the judiciary and the BBC. They are softened up by repeatedly challenging, undermining and weakening the targeted institution through the media to the point where the public attitudes to the institution changes. The messaging is wrapped around democracy, Independence, nationhood, sovereignty and making our own laws and decisions to ‘take back control’. But paradoxically, the perpetrators of this disruption are not giving control back to the people they serve, but are tricking people into giving away the control to the people who claim to serve them.
Tragically, these cloak and dagger tactics are working. “Take back control” with lies about the European Union, the National Health Service and Turkey’s EU membership created the outcome of Brexit. Members of our gold standard rule of law under the judiciary have been undermined as ‘enemies of the people’. MPs (including expelled senior members of the Tory party) who tried to prevent a no-deal Brexit were targeted as ‘saboteurs’ or ‘unpatriotic’. The BBC are consistently referred to as “part of the metropolitan liberal elite”.
Cummings is proving that disruptive stories and lies, allied to Machiavellian cunning and upending convention by framing our institutions as “out of touch” and “elite”, could be much more populist than reason and fact. He is deploying all the techniques that have worked for him during the EU Referendum: disruption, deception, duplicity, intimidation, witch-hunting, populist sloganeering and applying them onto a new set of targets.
What isn’t clear, is whether Dominic Cummings’ boss, Boris Johnson actually buys into this disruption ideology. Johnson doesn’t appear to enjoy conflict; he wants power accompanied by confetti, flowers and applause. The only ideology that he buys into is the ideology of winning a popularity contest for himself.
The love of government-led disruption against established institutions runs the risk of becoming a destructive force. It becomes harmful for society. The foundations of a civil and protected society are replaced with rubble. It risks becoming nothing more than emperor’s new clothes theory. History has taught us that when you disrupt and destroy the machinery that has served a society well and replace it with something much worse, it turns into something that becomes repugnant and with disastrous consequences. We ignore the lessons of history at our peril.
From The London Economic by James Melville.
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