Monday, August 21, 2017

A social history of crime, individualism and violence

When we talk about "crime", it's usually assumed that we all know what we're talking about, but it's also worthwhile reminding ourselves: what do we mean when we talk about "crime"?

"Crime" is the breaking of accepted social rules; or more exactly, the rules that government (and society) has defined as there to protect individuals. In this sense, "criminals" are also, by definition, anti-social i.e. against society and social rules. Crime is an anti-social act.

From a psychological point of view, this explains why psychopaths (who have Anti-Social Personality Disorder) may be responsible for a great deal of society's crime. There is an inherent aspect of individualism (which we could also call Narcissism) in the criminal act, for it means that the perpetrator wishes to do something knowing this is against the inherent rules of society. So, by seeing "crime" as the ultimate expression of malignant narcissism, this helps explain - from a psychological point of view - what is really going on. The individual wants to - if even for a fleeting moment - feel omnipotent. The question is: why does this happen? The "social" aspect of crime is something this article wants to look at in more detail.

The worst crime of all

A casual look through history books tells us that the history of mankind is also a history of violence. The nature of war means that for a "war" to be declared, someone in authority (i.e. an individual) must make that decision.
 "War" is surely the most extreme form of violence one individual can cause: a person in supreme authority has immense social responsibility towards his subjects; equally, given his whim, he can use that authority to cause unparalleled violence. While in modern international law, wars are "illegal" if they are not officially declared, this really makes little difference to the victims. The effect is the same: they are dead in either case. A brief look at the history of wars since the establishment of the ICC tells us that few individuals responsible for the worst violence are ever brought to justice. So the idea that war is somehow more "humane" today than it was a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago is (in many cases) a fallacy - for proof, look no further than the brutal wars that have been carried out in the Congo in the last twenty years, or (most obviously) by ISIS in the present day. Today's wars are carried out overwhelmingly in the "developing world", and these wars differ little in their moral conduct than they did millennia ago.

So "war" can be seen as the most anti-social act of malignant narcissism possible; the expression of an all-powerful individual's will on a population. The idea is that to this warmonger, the nation in question has somehow "offended" him. As wars are about territory or security, it follows that the ruler's brittle and insecure ego is where the desire for war comes from - in other words, narcissism. When we look at the events that led to the First World War, it has often been said that one of the main reasons for it spiralling out of control was due to the psychology of those in authority, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II. A look at history's most famous rulers - from Alexander The Great, through to Genghis Khan, to England's own Henry VIII and Cambodia's Pol Pot, is a look into the psychology of psychopaths and narcissists. History isn't just made by the victors; it's also made by the psychopaths. A look at the life of Stalin is an education in psychopathy.


A social history of crime

As said earlier, if "war" is the most anti-social act possible, then an individual's desire to commit crime is that same psychology on a more localised scale.

It's impossible to understand the motivations behind crime without looking at its social context. It's also impossible to do this without understanding how human society has changed, and also (in the modern day) how human societies change from one part of the world to another, and thus, how the level of crime changes.

It has been noted by researchers that Rhesus monkeys, when in captivity, exhibit greater levels of stress (and therefore violence, and sexual violence) than in the wild. Mankind progressed from being hunter-gatherers to settled agrarians thousands of years ago; this also resulted in people living permanently in close proximity with each other for the first time in their history. Not long after this, cities developed, and cities then built walls. Why? The reason for the walls was simple: war.

As we have seen, war is the ultimate expression of a ruler's will on a population; in the same way that Rhesus monkey's will fight for status and territory when forced to live in captivity, it seems that rulers of cities felt the need to fight war for status and territory; perhaps violence (and therefore "war") was a form of stress relief, which also served as useful for the city's male population.

In the ancient world, judging from records of official tablets, "crime" seems to have been a comparative rarity compared to more recent centuries. What we would today call "community spirit" might also have something to do with it. Individualism in the modern sense of the term is - hence the phrase - a modern concept (more in this later). Ancient societies seem to have been much more minded on each other than themselves. Religion probably had a large part to play in this, in that when  cities had their own gods, they all (even the ruler) felt subservient to a higher (or wider?) purpose. To put it in another way, these ancient societies were less focused on "material life" (the "here-and-now"); life was fleeting in any case due to short life expectancy, so it makes sense that people were more interested in their community as a whole, and also why the men were willing to go to war to defend it.
This also explains why, to modern eyes, this ancient mindset might seem extremely narrow-minded and ignorant; to the city's inhabitants, travel was difficult (even unthinkable due to social obligations) and daily life was about survival and planning for the next winter; thinking beyond that was pointless. So in this sense, "crime" was probably socially-unthinkable in these kinds of small communities as the effect on the criminal (and the city) would be socially-devastating.

This social analysis of crime probably rang true for most of the world until the nature of society began to change. Criminals were still considered something of a social aberration (and thus a source of entertainment when they were hanged); due to comparative difficulty in travel (e.g. with serfdom being widespread), foreigners a source of curiosity and mirth. A community's experience of "crime" would more than likely be through war than through personal experience: someone living in what is now Germany during the Thirty Years War would have had an endlessly-traumatic experience with "crime". But for many people, very little of any significance would happen in their community throughout their life. In many ways, their community was their life.

Society changes the rules

As we know, the human population of the world remained generally static, until it began to rise sharply with the onset of industrialisation and a growth in cities. The nature and frequency of crime seems to have seen a change around the same period.
To be fair, there had been some social changes in many countries prior to industrialisation, such as a relative decline in the role of religion and the rise of the scientific method in the 18th century in the West; some cities, such as London, grew noticably. With this came a gradual shift of culture, towards the individual.
But these were gradual changes. Industrialisation made living in cities and towns necessary for the new economic opportunities of industry to be taken advantage of, and it is this which makes fundamental changes to society.

Industrialisation gave new opportunities for movement of labour and capital; something which had been very difficult in an agrarian society based on static communities. In other words, for people to be successful in this new economy, they had to act more like individuals. It is therefore possible to identify the rapid growth in cities and changes to society as a factor that helps explain the higher frequency of crime; in particular, violence and sex crime.
We have already discussed how Rhesus monkeys react badly to captivity. In an insecure and uncomfortable social environment, such as in socially-cramped industrial cities, humans can react in much the same way.

The growth of industrialisation to different parts of the world has often seen much the same trend; a concurrent rise in crime, for the reasons mentioned above. Where this differs from country to country depends on the social structure. Obviously, not all industrialised countries have the same rates of crime: compare, for example, Japan and the USA, or China and Russia.
For the other factor that also seems to be important indicator of crime levels is the extent of what we might call "community spirit". As mentioned before, the "community spirit" that seems to have been a strong element of ancient cultures was a strong indicator of a "pro-social" environment where crime was almost morally-unthinkable. This was probably because those communities were extremely closely-knit and shared a high level of empathy due to their shared experiences, and therefore naturally looked out for each other. In other words, we could call this an ancient form of "crime prevention"!

Scandinavia is industrialised but has low crime levels because its society does not seem to suffer from the "dislocation" that is typical in most industrialised societies. This "dislocation" (or "social alienation") usually comes about through the nature of work: individuals forced to leave their families to get work in the city, for example. This situation is worsened by other factors such as lack of strong government institutions (e.g. a welfare state), which perpetuate higher levels of inequality, and a lack of a family support unit, feeding into the malignant narcissism that can gestate in an individual. When there is no-one there who seems to be there to support you, it takes little for an individual to resort to crime to get what they want. Countries such as South Africa have extremely high levels of crime partly because of the lack of strong government institutions, gross inequality, and weak family connections. All the devices which can be used as a social form of "crime prevention" are not there. This can also be said (to an extent) of the UK, when comparing crime rates to those of other European countries such as Germany. Scandinavia seems to have few of these problems because of a strong social fabric from both government, the family, and society in general.

In some ways, crime in the UK bears more similarites to those in Russia. As British society has become more unequal, government support less reliable, family units breaking down, working life more insecure and stressful, we can see the effects of this in the crime and violence on Britain's streets. The drugs epidemic which seems to be sweeping through the country (especially its homeless) is surely a result of this variety of social pressures. Russia has experienced the same "social pressures" (albeit in much more extreme manner) since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The same culture of casual violence, petty crime and alcoholism exists in Russia as it does in Britain; the only difference is the question of degree. It would be interesting to make a social (and crime) comparison between the post-industrial cities of Northern England with those in, say, Siberia; the similarities may well be striking.

One wonders what the Rhesus monkeys would do.























Monday, August 14, 2017

Extremism, Populism and malignant Narcissism

What do the American "alt-right", white supremacists, hard "Brexiteers" and Jihadists have in common?

A common thread that runs through each of these "extremist" movements, regardless of their background and religion, is a sense of feeling "left behind" or "lost" in modern, globalist society. Identity politics is something that has been gradually gaining traction in the Anglo-Saxon sphere for some time, but the financial crisis seems to have given it a substantial leg-up.
The extent to which this has been quietly brewing under the surface had been ignored or played down, until it was no longer possible to deny its influence: the recent events in Charlottesville, USA, simply add to the danger of pretending this issue doesn't exist. When the ranks of the "left behind" suddenly emerge from the shadows, the effect is all the more frightening.

In some ways, the hand-wringing and moral equivalence by Donald Trump of these extremists is as bad as those in the UK (both in the Muslim community and left-leaning liberals) who are wary of calling-out the hateful racism and misogyny evident in the "sex gangs" that exist in the Pakistani community. In spite of the different motivations, what connects the  Muslim "sex gangs" and the home-grown Jihadist network is the common vein of malignant narcissism that runs through their psychology: the basic desire to control others (either through sexual domination or violence) regardless of the consequences.
In a different way, the same accusation could be leveled at the "alt-right", white supremacists/nationalists, and the devil-may-care attitude seen in some hard "Brexiteers": they are determined to do what they want, regardless of the consequences on others (or the national interest).

The author has stated before that Islamic extremism could well be seen as a form of malignant narcissism; it takes only a small leap of logic to identify all forms of extremism (both religious and ideological) as a form of malignant narcissism.

From a psychological point of view, narcissism has been identified as an increasingly-conspicuous problem in modern society. Over the last thirty years, changes to the structure of the economy have created greater inequality as well as greater work insecurity. At the same time, this has led to an explosion in under-educated men from run-down parts of the country finding it more and more difficult to identify their place in society. It can be no surprise that white men from under-educated, low-skilled backgrounds tend to be the ones that flock towards nationalist extremist movements, and that Muslim men from under-educated, low-skilled backgrounds tend to be the targets for Islamic extremist movements. While this might be a simplification (there are graduates that can also be drawn to the same movements), the overall trend is clear: violence and hate are now seen as legitimate means of expressing the frustration these men feel at modern society.
The issue of Islamic extremism is more complex than that of what (for the sake of simplicity) can be broadly called "White Nationalism" i.e. including the American alt-right and British far-right. "White Nationalism" has more palatable tones in the "take back control" style of rhetoric used in Brexit, in the same way how Donald Trump's populism found a more mainstream method of expression for this undercurrent of malignant narcissism. The alt-right and British far-right (such as the EDL) are merely violent expressions of the same form of frustration as that expressed by Jihadists; the only difference is cultural.

In the Anglo-sphere, a clear up-welling of political violence has occurred in the years since the financial crisis: shootings of politicians, attacks on ethnic minorities, violent protests by ethnic minorities etc. etc. Meanwhile, the superseding of Al-Qaeda by ISIS in the public consciousness has led to a similar exodus of home-grown Muslims to fight for "Jihad". If one were to be stereotypical of the trend, it would be to say that poor White men become neo-Nazis, poor Muslim men become Jihadists, and poor Black men become gang members. On the last point, the London riots of 2011 were sparked by the killing of a young black gang member, and recent riots in Hackney were sparked by similar violence by the police against a black man.
As said earlier, what links these types of men together, in spite of the difference in culture, is the under-privileged backgrounds and lack of education. This has been a growing issue for the last thirty years in the Anglo-sphere: a lack of opportunities simply can lead to frustration; the outlet many seek is to transfer the blame through violence and hatred.

This malignant narcissism is the psychological vein that runs deep in these segments of society. The vote for Brexit was also a vote from the "left-behind" for something different; anything that wasn't the status quo. The same psychology was evident in the kind of areas of the USA that voted for Donald Trump; the same "neo-Nazis" that claim his support do so because of the feeling he supports the "left behind" white men; the same "left behind" white men from places like Burnley and Darlington than voted for Brexit.
Voting for Brexit and voting for Trump psychologically amounted to the same thing: a vote against a system (neo-liberal globalisation) and a retreat to "cultural nativism"; Jihadism is simply a more violent expression of the same psychology from frustrated Muslim men (and women).

In this sense, it is the pendulum swinging back the other way: after thirty-odd years of dominance of the neo-liberal model, some of those "left behind" by these changes to the economic system are finding violence and extremism as the best way they can make their point. The sad truth is that a society that creates inequality (and considers inequality to be a good thing) is one that implicitly gives sanction to a psychology of violence; it is this culture of violence that breeds "angry white men". There is plenty of research evidence to support the view that more unequal societies are more violent, and it is well-understood that it is the underclass of those societies that descend into a career of casual violence. From a criminology point of view, therefore, could Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump be partly because of a malignant psychology that has been allowed to stew unchecked for the last three decades?

These may well be the dark forces that have been unleashed on the Anglo-Saxon world; coalescing into something identifiable since the financial crisis, while quietly stewing for the last thirty years, an under-current of violence and hate have now found their vehicle on both sides of the Atlantic. The question is what will be done next.


















Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Narcissists, relationships and obsession

The narcissist sees human relationships through the lens of possession and narcissistic supply: any relationship the narcissist has is only for the purpose of narcissistic supply, and for the "gratification" the narcissist gains from feeling they "possess" the other. For the purposes of this article, I want to focus primarily on intimate or sexual relationships, expanding on some points made elsewhere about narcissists and sex.
This sense of "possession" can extend long after the narcissist has even been in any meaningful contact with the person (the source of "narcisssistic supply") in question. The "relationship" may well be long over, as far the the "victim" is concerned, but (as Kim Wilson explains) the narcissist will never see it that way, as they never fully "let go" of the relationship.
The only way that will happen is if the "victim" can fully sever all contact with the narcissist; however, the narcissist may well have an insidious way of maintaining "contact" with this victim (for instance, through using a false identity).


"Seduce and destroy"

The narcissist sees relationships through the prism of their own "value system". What this means is that the narcissist's view of the "victim" is completely skewed in relation to reality: as the narcissist has an already inflated view of his (or her) own ego, it corresponds that anyone who is seen as a "source of supply" must also be seen in relation to what kind of supply the narcissist seeks from the "victim".
As Kim Wilson mentioned in the first of her links highlighted, the narcissists perspective on the victim also affects how the narcissist deals with the "victim": whether the narcissist considers them to be "high level" or "low level" supply.

In the context of sexual relationships, "low level" supply here may well mean that the narcissist will callously "take what he can get" (i.e. that "low quality" supply is better than no supply); in other words, the women he is involved with at this level he considers as nothing more than human playthings, to be used and discarded when he's done with them. As said in my earlier article about narcissists and sex, the narcissist will use them as a way to masturbate into someone's body. They are treated in the same way as prostitutes, except that the narcissist here, for his own (vain) reasons, prefers a game that may as well be called "seduce and destroy".
What is most important is that the narcissist is always seen as "winning" in some superficial way. Psychologically, "low level" sources of supply are somehow meant to feel grateful of the narcissist's attention (or even what he sees as "pity"); by being with them, he's somehow "helping" them altruistically by giving them his time and attention. Using his charm, he is "allowing" them to feel better about themselves for him being around them, gaining from his "reflected glory"; using his charisma, he's giving them the "opportunity" to learn from his own character to better their own (and thus, implicitly, characterise himself as a "role model" and "God-figure"). Then, when the supply source is inevitably discarded, the narcissist will callously justify this as an educational "lesson" for the victim; an experience that the victim can learn from, where ultimately the narcissist has  - in an act of benevolence - given their victim their freedom back (as a jailer would a prisoner), once they're no longer of any use to him.
Thus from this twisted and perverse logic, the narcissist sees his usage of "low-level" sources of supply as practically a form of altruism, where's he's "doing them a favour" by deigning his victims with his time and attention.


"Idealise and devalue"

When it comes to what the narcissist would characterise as a "high level" supply source, the "game" is very different, for the "stakes" are considered far higher to the narcissist.
In this case, the relationship takes on a much deeper, much more serious, meaning. If the victim is a "high level" supply source, it follows that they must have been worthy of a great deal of the narcissist's praise and devotion; to be worthy of such elevated standing is "high praise" indeed from the narcissist. This is where the "idealisation" of the victim comes from. The narcissist is not truly in love with the person themselves, but the "idea" of what the person represents.
In order for the narcissist to consider a relationship with  "high level" source of supply, they must somehow either be considered a "match" (i.e. "soul mate") for their own ego in some manner, or (even more drastically) a kind of fantastical version of an ideal partner. In either case, the victim is in for a very rough time.

The problem here is that the narcissist is never truly happy for long, even in a relationship with what he sees as his "perfect" life partner. Even when they are "happy", they are insecure.
In Oliver Stone's brilliant biopic of Richard Nixon (played by Anthony Hopkins), he is portrayed as someone who could never be truly happy, even when he seemed to have everything he wanted; in the film, this was something his wife knew about her husband all too well. It was this neurotic aspect to Nixon's character - i.e. his inability to never feel secure, which fueled his paranoia - that was seen as the driving force to his destructive fall.
In relationships, the narcissist's incessant insecurity is what feeds a self-destructive cycle. The constant need for "validation" from the narcissistic supply source would make any ordinary person go crazy; the narcissist's relationship with their "idealised" partner becomes increasingly possessive and suffocating. This would then make the victimised partner feel the need for more space, resulting in the narcissist becoming paranoid about their partner's activities, resulting in a greater need for control over their partner, leading to greater alienation, and so on, until the inevitable break. This is just a summary of one possible outcome, but one that the narcissist would make inevitable through their destructive behaviour; the only question is if the "idealised" victim takes the initiative to sever the relationship.
Another possibility is that the supreme narcissist decides he can "have his cake and eat it": he may decide that now he "possesses" the ideal partner, he can "play the field" as well. In this "rationalisation", he finds the best way to "prove his manhood" is by cheating on the very person he deems his "ideal" partner. By the same "rationalisation", this acts as a true "test of loyalty" towards their partner; if their partner "fails" the test by disapproving of his conduct, then this simply proves how the "idealised" partner had been somehow "unworthy" of the narcissist's attention all along (the "devaluation", which we'll talk more about in a moment). So in this sense, the narcissists desire to "test" the person he is meant to idealise would be another sign of his inherent insecurity. This "testing" behaviour could take many forms; cheating, is simply an extreme example.
As there is little way that the victim could live up to the narcissist's "fantasy image", the victim is bound to ultimately "disappoint" the narcissist in some way. So cheating, or finding various ways of making the victim seem less and less in control of their lives, is how the narcissist sees himself as the "winner". There are many others (for instance, see my summary of "cerebral narcissists").

When the narcissist's conduct results in the end of the relationship, we come to the "devaluation" stage (of course, if the narcissist's "affection" is unrequited from the start then this opens up another can of worms entirely).
Now that the narcissist can no longer physically "possess" the victim, the "possession" must take other, more insidious, forms. If the victim is a "high level" supply source, the narcissist will do whatever they can to maintain that supply. How this is achieved depends on the circumstances.
First of all, the narcissist may try to maintain a platonic relationship. This is (in some ways) perhaps the least "destructive" option available, but the fact that the narcissist has that link to the victim feeds part of the narcissist's sense of control (i.e. supply), and gives no comfort to the victim. This is especially true if the narcissist shares, or infiltrates, the victim's social circle. By being part of the victim's social circle, the narcissist can feel they have psychological control over how the victim is perceived. This is one example of how the narcissist uses insidious methods to maintain narcissistic supply even after the relationship is over. The narcissist can then "devalue" the victim among their peers at will.
Failing this, the narcissist will create supply from the victim in other, more destructive, ways. A real-life example of this is the proliferation of so-called "revenge porn": if the narcissist cannot  psychologically "devalue" the victim through their relationship with their peers, they will do so in more direct, and humiliating, way. The narcissist fundamentally doesn't care if the source of narcissistic supply loves or hates them for their actions; what matters is that they're thinking about them. Supply is supply; attention is attention, whether positive or negative. That's all the narcissist cares about, when it boils down to it: as they see it, the more the narcissist does to become part of the victim's thoughts, the better. And by this point, the more "devalued" the victim is, the higher the narcissist rates his own status in comparison to them. This is the ultimate form of "victory".

A dark obsession

What happens when a narcissist's attention is not returned? This is the destructive, dark path that can lead to obsession: in real-life, this is the psychology of the "stalker". As mentioned earlier, narcissists "idealise" their victim when they are identified as a "high level" supply source. They live in their own fantastical world, and when they have identified the victim as a "high level" source of supply, they become an integral part to the fulfillment of that "idealised" fantasy: this can then become a dominant feature of their life.
In the case of an obsessive narcissist (e.g. a "stalker"), the levels of control seen by other narcissists in relationships are taken to another level: the need to know about their victim's daily movements are in itself a form of "control", even if from afar, and without the victim knowing about it. As said mentioned before, when it boils down to it, the narcissist doesn't care if he is "loved" by the victim, only that the victim is somehow controlled by him. This idea of "control" is the source of the supply. A "stalker" takes this to dangerous level: as we know from real-life examples, stalkers have psychologically tormented their victims for years, through to causing actual physical harm to them.
In yet other circumstances, the logic of the narcissist can become so twisted around to fit their own narrative that the fact that the victim does not know about the existence of the "stalker" may be seen as a form of "victory". In other words, the "stalker" here enjoys their anonymity while knowing everything about their victim's life: to the narcissist, this is yet another form of "victory".

As can be seen from these examples, the narcissist's use of relationships is all about power and the need to "win" over the other. The only question is how this is manifested.






















Monday, June 19, 2017

The psychopath at work: some "psychopathic" career choices

Robert Hare's well-known book "Snakes In Suits" looked at the prevalence of psychopathy in corporate industry, and its connection to white collar crime. There is plenty of research to support the idea that psychopaths tend to gravitate towards particular fields of work, which we'll look at in more detail here.

The psychopath tends to (not surprisingly) gravitate towards careers where his personality traits could be considered advantages: jobs with elements of risk-taking, where it is an advantage to be thick-skinned and have an ability to hold fast under pressure, and make "cold-blooded" decisions; and where charm and charisma can bring rapid rewards, and machiavellian behaviour is tolerated (or even unofficially "encouraged"). Equally, they would gravitate towards career choices that would indulge their need for excitement and their habitual proneness to boredom and innate unreliability, where their machiavellian traits could be well used to hide their true nature.
In this sense, these kinds of careers would share a common thread of appealing to a psychopath's natural low level of anxiety, and high level of risk-taking; this is also matching with the narcissistic traits that psychopaths possess, as these types of jobs are ones that usually come along with a high level of authority and attention - either moral, financial or otherwise.
An excellent thread labelled the "Sixteen faces of a psychopath", and went some way to infer some of the kinds of careers that psychopaths might gravitate towards, based on the "type" of psychopath they are. As the title of this article may imply, these types of psychopaths may also be called "successful" or "sub-criminal" psychopaths. The obvious choice for some "successful" (and more disciplined) psychopaths might be the military, or other "high adrenaline" careers like the police or fire service. I've skipped these in the listings below simply because their appeal is self-evident. Instead, I've looked at other areas. In no particular order, we'll look at some of the "career choices" that may well appeal to a psychopath, and why (plus any supporting real-life evidence):


THE TEMP

There is plenty of research evidence to suggest that psychopaths are attracted into the "temping" industry. In his book, "The Anatomy Of Violence", Adrian Raine discovered that potentially up to a quarter of those working in the temping industry may have signs of Anti-social Personality Disorder. The nature of the work - being temporary and insecure - would appeal to the transient nature of the psychopath's mentality. Being unable to hold down a "steady" job, becoming easily bored, the flexibility that this type of career allows would naturally draw on the psychopath's attributes. If temps are therefore seen as "unreliable" by industry insiders, this might be blamed on the insecure nature of the work acting as a disincentive to ordinary workers, rather than the fact that the nature of the work also by definition attracts the "wrong" type of people i.e. potential psychopaths. As a wag would say, you don't have to mad to work here, but it helps! As we'll see in other fields, employers are restricted to hiring from among the applicants who apply: in some sectors, if a substantial number of the applicants are "crazy", there's nothing that they can do about it, often until it's too late.
The growth of the "temping" industry is one of the significant changes that we have seen in the workplace over the last twenty-five years. These days also called the "Gig Economy", the rise of insecure work must inevitably attract some "undesirables" who thrive in this type of economy, but often at the expense of someone else. As said elsewhere, the changes in the economy over the last thirty years have also played a part in this worrying development.


THE SALES REP

Equally, there are careers where superficiality and a flexible (amoral) attitude is the key to success: these are careers such as advertising/ marketing and sales (more on the lowdown on this industry here). As sales experts would say, you're not selling a product; you're selling yourself. Unsurprisingly, psychopaths can also be found in large numbers in these types of fields, owing to the charismatic and machiavellian characteristics in a psychopath's personality. The sales industry is by its nature a ruthless one: only success sells. The "gift of the gab" is an essential part of this, as is a "sixth sense" for identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of the "victim" who you're selling to. Any type of con man fits into this mould, of course: the sales industry is simply a legitimate method of the charming psychopath "conning" his way to success.
It also goes without saying that the same malignant "mentality" is prevalent in the financial sector; reckless risk-taking, machiavellian conduct, and an insidious influence over government is also what has led to how the financial sector has overtaken the politics of the global economy, with the effects that were seen in 2008.
Like with the "temping" industry, the sales industry and its "psychology" has become ubiquitous in everyday life. As call centres are used more and more by large and multinational companies as a cheap way of doing business, the likelihood of running into a psychopath's sales patter increases. Buyer beware.


THE PROFESSIONAL

The term "professional" here is used broadly to apply to anyone in a position of trust and institutional authority (typically with an educated background), where that "authority" can be easily abused. The many examples that have been found in recent years include doctors, teachers and so on who have been implicated in routine sex abuse or exploitation of one kind or another. The example of Harold Shipman is another.
What this also tells us is how these types of psychopaths are able to use their charisma and natural aura of authority to hoodwink their colleagues and the wider population, sometimes permanently. In The UK, the wider issue with "the establishment" is how respected institutions have, until recently, been free of public scrutiny, allowing these "respected" institutions to get away with all kinds of low (and illegal) behaviour for decades, thanks to an unwritten "code of silence".
In this way, psychopaths with a perseverance towards education can thrive as "professionals" as they can also take advantage of the institutional fear of the damage that would be done from "scandals"; using their machiavellian skills, they can exploit the "weaknesses" (as they see it) in these institutions to their own advantage, and effectively "become God".
Of course, the highest form of "professional" is the politician; but the dangers (and the lessons in history) are there for all to see.


THE "SHOWMAN"

This is where the psychopath is able to become an autocratic, larger-than-life figure, usually in a creative field. This may include such sectors as the entertainment industry (TV, film, the media) or the arts (such as music, fashion, design and so on). In his book, "Office Politics", the psychologist, Oliver James, made a point of stressing how much "psychopathic behaviour" he saw first-hand in the TV and film industry. Certainly, from a psychological point of view, the attraction of this type of career to the psychopath is clear: to indulge their whims and then blame their explosive and erratic behaviour on their "artistic temperament", would be easy for them. Misogyny is also a widespread "given" in these types of industries (see the "sexual psychopath").
More infamously, in the UK there is the example of Jimmy Savile, who was at the forefront of Britain's entertainment industry for nearly thirty years, and a serial sex abuser. Similarly, there is the example of rock singer, Ian Watkins.
It should lastly be said that of course there will always be an element of "overlap" regarding the "showman psychopath" in other sectors too (see below) - and it should not be forgotten that some of the world's most infamous dictators were also extraordinary "showmen" in their own way, a characteristic often seen in politics in general, and some other "professional" career paths.


THE "TEACHER ABROAD"

This is an unusually-specific example, but for specific reasons. The worldwide education industry is, alas, set up in a way that allows a potential psychopath to effectively "disappear" into it without trace. Links between institutions and countries are weak (it is very easy, for example, to hide a person's criminal record in such circumstances); meanwhile the ease for people to move around at whim is, in the modern age, great.
In some ways, this particular line of work already fits into a few of the categories mentioned above: like "the temp", it is easy for them to move around if they become bored (or get into trouble) - indeed, many do this simply as a method of travel, like a pilot; like "the professional", their respected status as a teacher allows them an elevated level of respect (and thus potential "leeway" for getting out of trouble); and like "the showman", some go into this field do so for vainglorious reasons, seeing the classroom as a small-screen "stage" for their own "performance" - indeed, there is a large incidence of failed actors becoming teachers abroad (!).
In this way, the lifestyle, authority and freedom offered by this kind of career may well be emblematic of the fluid nature of work in the 21st century; it appeals to what some have called "Anywhere People", who are fully at ease in the modern global world, willing and able to move from country to country for work. More generally speaking, the high-flying careers of "jet-setters" (i.e. expats who are able to earn their trade in far-flung places like Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so on) also offer the same kind of "excitement" that would attract the psychopath. Sadly, there is real-life evidence of this indeed being the case.
There have been cases reported in the media about tales of abuse at private high schools abroad, and even at highly-respected institutions. This may well also be a case of where certain types of people are drawn to live and work in certain parts of the world. As Cambodia and South-East Asia became infamous after the arrest of Paul Gadd (AKA "Gary Glitter"), one wonders at why there are so many middle-aged male expats living in Thailand. It certainly isn't for the money.
In another respect, though, there are some careers in some parts of the world which could only attract the "mad" or the desperate: the education sector for expats in the Middle East is extremely lucrative, but also not for everyone - and that's before talking about the security issues. As said earlier with temping:
"you don't have to mad to work here, but it helps! Employers are restricted to hiring from among the applicants who apply: if a substantial number of the applicants are "crazy", there's nothing that they can do about it, often until it's too late"
Talk to any insider of these industries (and this author can be counted as one of them), and you'll quickly find plenty of anecdotes of some the "characters" they've met; tales that will entertain an audience, but may also have them wondering if this career choice isn't also possibly one of the "last redoubts of the scoundrel".








Monday, May 29, 2017

Narcissism and politics: Theresa May

It's nothing new that politics attracts narcissists. In the UK, the rise and fall of the career of David Cameron is a textbook case of what happens when narcissistic politicians over-reach, as they inevitably do: the end result is a very public meltdown, which can often affect the fate of the country as well as that of the politician. The UK is beginning to discover that.

Narcissism can be manifested in different ways, and sometimes it's not obviously apparent that a politician is a malignant narcissist. With David Cameron, the signs had been there for years; likewise, with Turkey's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has been clear what type of persona has been running the country. Cameron liked to call himself the "heir to Blair", and he certainly possessed the same kind of superficiality and short attention span as the former Labour leader. Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, exhibited narcissism in a different manner (insiders talked of paranoia, control-freakery and furious bouts of anger), which made him and Blair's character's as chalk and cheese. The child of a priest, Brown's personality was more serious and workmanlike, whose narcissistic traits (brazenly calculating and authoritarian) would reveal themselves when under pressure. Cameron's successor, Theresa May, another priest's offspring, seems to be in the same (narcissistic and insecure) mould as Brown.
As they say, history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

A cynical opportunist

Theresa May's rise to power was accidental, but also nakedly opportunistic. The irony is that in her early years as a politician, she was the one who invented the "Nasty Party" label, setting herself out as a moderate and visionary against the reactionary tendency that dominated the Tory Party before Cameron became leader in 2005. This put her in good stead when Cameron took over and changed the agenda of the party to a more liberal one.
By the time the Conservatives won power in 2010, in the name of "reform" and "austerity" the "Nasty Party" label became not something to be avoided, but for some almost appeared a badge of honour. Ministers out-did each other in where they could reduce the size of the state and cause the most upheaval in the civil service and public sector. Theresa May, in her role as Home Secretary, was at the forefront of this in her drive to reduce the size of the police, regardless of insiders telling her of the potential effects on crime and the threat of terror. At the same time, the abject failure of the government's target to reduce immigration to the "tens of thousands" (when it in fact surged to ever higher heights) was something that Theresa May was keen to obfuscate on and ignore as an inconvenient truth. Whenever challenged over the numerous scandals that hit her department over the years, May was brazen in her efforts to intimidate and blame others; all of this was noted gratefully by Cameron as a sign of her political usefulness.
Her role as Home Secretary, supposedly overseeing immigration, should have put her in the spotlight when the EU referendum campaign started, but, as was typical of her, she went "submarine" during this crucial phase, leaving her contribution to the debate to a rhetorically-minimal speech that covered her bases with the government's (pro-EU) standpoint, but with a vagueness that left open her real allegiances.
So this left her in a key position as an apparent "safe pair of hands" when the EU vote was lost and Cameron resigned. And it was at this moment that May decided to "own" Brexit: in a piece of naked political opportunism, she took the Conservatives into UKIP territory.

As Home Secretary, it was known among associates that she brooked no opposition, and kept a tightly-knit circle of loyalists. Two of these have since continued with her into Number Ten as her joint chiefs of staff (who also helped with the current manifesto - more on that later).
This paranoid "bunker mentality" (most recently associated with Gordon Brown) continued with her into Downing Street: almost her first act as Prime Minister was to get rid of those seen as a threat (and often the most competent in cabinet): George Osborne's sacking seemed gratuitously sadistic in the bluntness of its execution, while others such as Nicky Morgan (whose loyalty was deemed suspect), and Michael Gove (who was never forgiven for a tempestuous row over the "Trojan Horse" scandal in the previous parliament) seemed a personal vendetta. Of those left and those brought in to replace the casualties, the foreign policy "triumvirate" of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox might as well be called the "three stooges": each of them lending themselves to caricature for their frequent buffoonery and/or questionable competence.
Of those in office, Hammond seems the most quietly competent (though even his days may be numbered); the rest are there more for their incidental usefulness to May (e.g. as political protection) or their unquestioning loyalty (due to patronage or ideological overlap). Apart from Hammond, none of them have any obvious competence beyond the ability to talk nonsense to the media when required. It has only been the amateurish state of the opposition that has saved their blushes so far (and thus created an aura of complacency around Theresa May and her "team"). In this way, May's cabinet is a manifestation of her own narcissism; surrounding herself with loyalists and incompetents that will do as they're told.

Since her rise to power, Theresa May's personality and character have been seen as the main asset that the Conservatives have over the main opposition, Labour. Since the Conservative Party conference, it's all been about Theresa May, to the extent that there seems less of a party and more of a "personality cult". This was true to an extent with Cameron as well, certainly in the first years of his leadership of the party. But with May, it has gone into over-drive, to almost satirical extent. This has been wonderfully picked up by John Crace of "The Guardian".
The problem with the focus on just her is that it works both ways. Having been "submarine" for much of her political career, now all her flaws and faults can be potentially exposed. Which is just as well.

Whose idea was the "personality cult" thing? Given May's evident social awkwardness (who makes Gordon Brown seem like a rhetorical giant on the stump compared to herself), was it all due to her over-confidence and narcissistic complacency? While less superficial than Cameron, May's narcissism seems more "cerebral" than "somatic": she complacently thinks she is smarter and more charismatic than she actually is, and thus comes across as arrogant and robotic instead. Deep down, she obviously knows all this, which must feed the innate insecurity that all narcissists have, making her react even more unnaturally. Her initial popularity was probably down to a combination of factors after the Brexit vote, rather than due to anything in particular that made her stand out. It was this popularity - which now seems to have dwindled under the stark spotlight of actual attention - that must have led to the initial "personality cult" strategy.

A contemptuous autocrat

The fact that she had repeatedly said (through her minions) that there was no reason for an early election, and then to suddenly call one out of the blue (even to the surprise of ministers), displays a callous contempt for the intelligence of the electorate, the media, and her peers. The fact that she positioned herself as "different" from the "games" played by Cameron and Osborne, only for her to carry out the most cynical of "games" to call an election three years early, demonstrates what little regard she has for political niceties. Brown was lampooned as a "bottler" by the Tories for not calling an early election shortly after becoming PM; May has torn all precedents up by having one, not only so soon after the last one, but after many months of repeatedly saying she wouldn't have one, and then pretending that its timing wasn't for naked political gain, but instead blamed the opposition (for daring to oppose!). Again, this treats the electorate with contempt. While this is hardly the first time an early election has been called, never before has it been done under such disingenuous circumstances.
This contempt for the electorate was added to with her decision not to have a proper debate with the other party leaders. While Cameron was rightly criticised during the 2015 election for brazenly manipulating the terms of the debate for his own ends, at least he decided to have one. Theresa May can't even be bothered to do that; instead her terror at being found out to be a terrible speaker under pressure means that she attacks the other parties from the sidelines like a coward and a bully. This alone ought to disqualify her from being PM; she doesn't even have the strength to defend her own record before her peers and under public scrutiny. Because Cameron did his best to avoid proper scrutiny before, she thinks she can go one better and avoid it completely, or send someone else in her place.
These are strange times, and they became even more bizarre when, only a few days after launching the Conservative manifesto. one of its key proposals was dropped. For a party to change its manifesto during an election campaign is unprecedented in modern political history, and the fact that May tried to paper over this as though nothing had happened, shows again how detached she is from reality: only a delusional narcissist could think that she could get away with pretending that no-one would notice or realise that this was a massive deal. May's U-turn came about due to a poorly-planned manifesto that took the electorate for granted; another sign that "Theresa May's team" thought that they could offer up any old nonsense and people would vote for it, showing their contempt for the opposition as well as the electorate.
As time has gone on, we have also seen how personal attacks against her opponents, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, have been used again and again, especially during the election campaign. These attacks usually bear no relation to reality. Somehow, Corbyn is "dangerous" to the country, while she offers "strong and stable" leadership. Both these assertions are evidently laughable: compared to the economic chaos that the coming years of Tory-led Brexit offer, Corbyn's agenda is hardly terrifying - only "terrifying" to the Tories' ultra-rich, tax-dodging, donors; and May's leadership credentials have just been shot to pieces by her manifesto U-turn. One of the major differences in character between May and Corbyn is that Corbyn clearly enjoys campaigning and enjoys being with people (something that - shockingly - he and Cameron have in common!); by comparison, May seems twitchy and nervous, and completely robotic.

Theresa May's arrogance, complacency, as well as her innate insecurity and resulting autocratic behaviour are all clearly evident. Her public events are strictly limited to party functionaries, so that she is surrounded by sycophants that won't challenge her. Her media appearances are controlled so that she receives only limited air-time. The "Supreme Leader" is only all-powerful because she is unchallenged; her veneer of respectability and competence is supported, like the "Wizard Of Oz", by a complex facade; once the mask slips off, the real pygmy behind it is revealed.






















Saturday, May 6, 2017

Brexit, nationalism and fall of UKIP: a new realignment in British politics?

The results from the local elections have told us a number of things, but perhaps the most important one is that the decision for Theresa May to turn the Conservative Party rhetorically rightwards into UKIP territory has paid off.

That this was a coldly-calculated political decision there can be no mistake; the signs were there in the fiery rhetoric of the Conservative Party conference last autumn. Once the vote had happened, Theresa May decided that she was going to "own" Brexit, with the hope that UKIP supporters would therefore transfer to the Tories, giving them an unassailable advantage over Labour. And this is infact what has happened. On top of the weakness of the Labour leadership itself, the effect of the UKIP vote effectively transferring to the Tories means we are in a whole new political ball park (more on that below).
For Labour, this is another mortal blow. After the Scottish referendum effectively killed off their party's historic dominance north of the border, the EU referendum has brought another blow all across England, leaving them with few "heartlands" left. If anything, Labour has come to represent parts of what its critics call the "urban liberal demographic" (what has also been called "Remainia" as opposed to Tory-held "Brexitland"); however this leaves them fighting over a segment of the vote also divided between the Libdems and the Greens, with the Conservatives now seen as fully representing the interests of "Brexit". In this way, the demographic split between these two ("Remainia" and "Brexitland") could as easily be seen as an updating of the classic conflict that pits "city versus country" and "rich versus poor".

How The UK became like Turkey

Political parallels are always inexact, but nonetheless can be useful. The author has been an observer of Turkish affairs for more than ten years, after having lived there in the past.
Before the rise of the Islamist AKP fifteen years ago, religion was kept strictly out of politics, following in the Turkish republic's secular constitution and traditions. Apart from a brief period in the 1990s, religious parties in Turkey had never been able to achieve power, or anything close to it: simply, the issue of religion was in effect politically off the table.
Turkish politics had always traditionally been dominated by either the CHP (the vaguely left-leaning party of the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk"), or by a right-leaning party (these changed over the years, but the politics was generally consistently conservative). This left no real room for religion to enter the debate.
This changed when there was an inflationary, financial crisis in Turkey in the late 1990s, which ended up tarring the main secular parties with the charge of corruption and incompetence. The AKP, a newly-established Islamist party, took advantage of this by appealing to moderates (both secularists as well as Islamists) who wanted a change. They also played down their Islamist credentials.

We now know what happened afterwards: Turkey has been ruled by the AKP for the last fourteen years, and looks destined to be ruled by it for the foreseeable future. Why? Because by the introduction of a new dynamic into the mix, politics became unrecognisable: the "old" secular parties became old hat, and their natural electoral base became sidelined by the agenda of the more dominant Islamists. Because the AKP were the only party seen to represent the interests of Islamists (i.e. they "owned" the brand), it meant the AKP could rely on a consistent "base" that would vote for it regardless of how extreme it appeared to the rest of society, or to outsiders. The rhetoric has become more and more extreme as the tendencies of the government became gradually more openly authoritarian. Meanwhile the opposing secular parties remained divided and impotent. The vote for the secular parties have thus been restricted to the relatively-affluent, more liberal urban areas of the country; like in the UK, where the Labour/ LibDem vote has remained more robust in places like London and Manchester, while it has retreated everywhere else.

"Brexit" seems to have had a similarly-radical effect on British politics as what happened to Turkey. The issue of "Europe" had never been something high up in the minds of the British electorate. This began to change slowly, and then seemed to suddenly be taken advantage of by UKIP after the years of the financial crisis and the first difficult years of the Coalition government.
It was the fateful decision of David Cameron to go ahead with the EU referendum that set the ball rolling, to destroy his career.
By opening the issue of "Europe" to the electorate (in effect, "confecting" a political fissure from a previously-unchallenged orthodoxy), it gave all the advantage to UKIP and the Eurosceptics in Cameron's own party.  Like how secularism in Turkey was a previously unchallenged statement of fact, then turned on its head by the AKP, the issue of Britain's position in Europe had been a long-unchallenged fact, turned on its head by the decision to have the EU referendum. This gave an in-built advantage to the "Leave" camp: whatever the problem was, "Europe" was the cause of it. This was how they managed to turn the EU referendum into a vote about everything that people were unhappy with - whatever you were unhappy with, it was Europe's fault! In the febrile atmosphere of Britain in the years following the financial crisis, like in the years of Turkey's inflationary crisis that preceded the AKP's success, it gave an advantage to "outsider" movements, and an excuse for people to vote against the political orthodoxy.

The comparison with Turkey here becomes muddied, because unlike in Turkey where the AKP took advantage of the Islamist vote, UKIP were not the ultimate beneficiaries of winning the EU referendum.
And this shows us something of the chameleon-like nature of the Conservative Party, which never misses an opportunity to cement power. By Theresa May's calculated decision to fully embrace the cause that was UKIP's raison d-etre, she had effectively turned the Conservative Party into UKIP. UKIP no longer had any reason to exist.

In this way, by re-aligning the Conservative Party (i.e. the party of "the establishment") to quickly take full control of this new "fissure" in British politics, it has left the other parties looking out-of-date and moribund. In the same way that the secular parties in Turkey now represent a segment of the electorate that can never have a realistic chance of power, the same could be said of the "pro-European" parties in the UK, at least for the foreseeable future.

Both Turkish politics, and now British politics, have experienced events that have seismically-changed the electoral landscape, but the beneficiaries have been different in each case. In Turkey, the rise of Islamism was partly due to an inflationary crisis that damaged its traditional parties, which have not been able to recover since. In Britain, however, the Conservative Party, after initially being a "victim" of UKIP over the issue of Europe, then took advantage of its own fractured situation to copy UKIP's agenda post facto, leaving it as the "master" of the new political reality. As with the AKP, "moderates" in the Conservative Party had nowhere else to go politically, even as its rhetoric became more and more extreme. The Conservatives now have both the nationalist votes from UKIP over "Brexit", as well as the tribal loyalty of their traditional party supporters, who could never bring themselves to leave: the "moderates" are effectively hostages to the extremist agenda that has been thrust upon them by an opportunistic few.

We have already seen a sign of things to come, from Theresa May's hostile and paranoid rhetoric towards Europe, and her authoritarian tendencies at home, to see where this kind of ugly nationalism could take Britain in the coming years.

This is the other similarity that The UK now shares with Turkey: that Theresa May appears to be copying the nationalist authoritarian rhetoric of Turkey's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the same way that Erdogan's regime has brought about a new sense of Turkish identity that has been called "Neo-Ottomanism", it appears that Theresa May's strategy is turn the country's self-imposed isolation from Europe into some kind of "renaissance".
This would have Britain (or more exactly, England) hark back to a time when Britain was isolated against a hostile Continent, reviving the jingoism of the Second World War. The difference now, of course, is that Britain's isolation is a self-inflicted wound, when the rest of Europe sees us as the "bad guy" by wanting to wrangle our way out of previously-made financial commitments, and wanting to have our cake and eat it. In other words, in some quarters Britain is now seen as something of a bad joke. At the same time, much of the rest of the world sees Britain's choice on "Brexit" as an opportunity to take advantage of its self-inflicted weakness. Meanwhile, the self-inflicted hardships to come can be blamed on "Europe" and scheming outsiders; and like other authoritarian leaders, using a cult of national solidarity and sacrifice (in Britain's case, what's called "the spirit of the Blitz") at home to quell opposition.
Like Erdogan, May and her supporters paper over this weakness with a resurgence in rose-tinted nationalism, which turns to hostile paranoia when concerning outsiders and opponents at home. Erdogan's foreign policy engagement with the Middle East (a re-kindling of historic Ottoman ties) may be seen as a potential inspiration for Theresa May's administration to want to re-kindle former Imperial attachments.
In this way, "Brexit" can be seen by the government as Britain's way to find its own form of "Neo-Ottomanism" from the wreckage of its Imperial influence.











Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Brexit, The Conservative Party and Theresa May: using Orwellian language and tactics

The author has recently been re-reading Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-four". Apart from the brilliant insights into human psychology and politics, it's now hard not to be struck by how much of what Orwell was warning us about (such as the insidious use of language) is actually used - quite openly - by our political masters.
In one respect, the book represents an astute warning; in another (and in the wrong hands) of course, it may represent more of an authoritarian "manual".

Orwell's influence on British culture has been massive over the decades; his language has permeated many aspects of popular (and political) culture. What is striking, though, is how his insights in language and politics have been used by some modern-day strategists almost as a template to follow, as we shall see below...


"He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future"

Today this is called creating a "false narrative". Orwell's insights here go back to how, for example, the Nazis propagated the myth of Germany being "stabbed in the back". The Soviets, at a whole new level, had people literally "airbrushed" out of existence.

Orwell saw this tendency, as he demonstrated in "Nineteen Eighty-four". In the story, the all-powerful "Party" re-wrote history and talked about the time "before the Revolution" as one of chaos and exploitation; the protagonist, Winston Smith, made the observation that half the population didn't remember, and the other half weren't even born. This was what made the job of falsifying history easier.

In Britain, the "false narrative" has been used by the Conservative Party (by whoever has been in charge) to denigrate the record of the Labour Party. Most commonly, it has used "The 1970s" to represent a time of chaos, inefficiency and mass unemployment, so that any attempt by Labour to make economic or social reforms is seen as taking the country "back to the 1970s".
The convenience here is that anyone over the age of, say forty-five, has no real memory of what the 1970s were like; so for all intents and purposes, the Conservatives may as well be correct in their assessment. The younger generation have no real way of knowing, while even the older generation's memories have probably also fogged over time. Conservative strategists are well aware of this, and this "mythologizing" is an essential part of the repeated message: things are better now; things were worse before.
(That being said, when appropriate, the reverse can also be true: regarding the EU, in order for the "Brexit narrative" to make sense, it must be seen that Britain was a success before it entered the then-EEC, regardless of the reality i.e. that Britain entered the EEC precisely because Britain was weak. In this narrative, it was the EEC - and its successor the EU - that made Britain weaker and more inefficient, and so on. This "false narrative" about Britain and Europe was one of the many reasons people voted for Brexit)

But in the UK, this use of "false narrative" has become even more brazen in recent years. The financial crisis is a very recent event, which happened less than ten years ago. In the same way that Margaret Thatcher blamed Labour for the problems that occurred in the 1970s (when she was actually part of the Conservative government during that very time), David Cameron was blaming Labour for the financial crisis of 2008. This is a little like Stanley Baldwin blaming Ramsey McDonald, the then British Prime Minister, for the Wall Street Crash. It's a nonsensical position.

Labour did not "cause" the financial crisis through massive government overspending, as the Conservatives' "false narrative" claims; if anything, it was guilty of loosening regulations on the banks to the point where banks took ridiculous risks, like in 1929. The Conservatives at the time were, in fact, saying there were too many regulations on banks prior to the financial crisis. They were also matching Labour's spending plans. But the "false narrative" put all that right.
But as we have seen, people's memories quickly fog over, making people want to believe what they're being told; after all, if it's a simple message, it's easier to remember. You can then forget what you "thought" you remembered.


"Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same"

The above quote describes the organising system of the all-powerful "Party" in Orwell's dystopian novel, "Nineteen Eighty-four".
In the UK, the term used for "who wields power" is often referred to as "the establishment". This term can be applied to any person or institution that supports the ruling status quo. In this way, "the establishment" is not reliant on one person, or even on a small group of people, but is supported more as a system of beliefs and traditions, like a self-contained "culture". In order for this culture to survive in Britain as long as it has, it cannot remain too exclusive or inflexible: it must remain as a marker of prestige for those who wish to obtain power, but the conditions for entry must be seen to be transparent. For this reason, while entry into "the establishment" is often about family and connections, in theory entry can also be attained through the correct educational background. This element of amorphousness is what has kept "the establishment" in its inviolate position as the pinnacle of Britain's social hierarchy.
It is true that in recent years various scandals have tarnished its image, but the all-encompassing nature of its influence has meant that these can be brushed under the carpet or ultimately dismissed as the actions of "a few bad apples" rather than a symptom of the nature of its organisation. In any case, large parts of the media are ran by people who also buy into its "culture".

The Conservative Party is the accepted political wing of "the establishment": anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. Progression through the ranks of the party should thus be considered in the same way as that as entry into the "establishment": having the right connections and education is essential.
The Conservative Party thus exists as the enabling arm of the "establishment's" interests; the "public face", if you like. The establishment surrendered the democratic franchise in nineteenth century, mainly as a way to prevent the threat of revolution from the masses. From the period after the Second World War to the end of 1970s (i.e. a period of about thirty-five years), the establishment surrendered large areas of the economy to government control, again mainly as a way to go with the prevailing orthodoxy at the time; it had already done so under wartime conditions, and the then-popularity of "Social Democracy" meant it was politically expedient to do so. As we have already mentioned, the 1970s were then used as an opportunity to "re-align" the political orthodoxy away from "Social Democracy" and back towards what might be called "establishment control", which existed in greater purity before the onset of the Second World War.

Since then, as we have seen, a "false narrative" has been created propagating the myths already described. What hasn't been mentioned yet is the necessity for inequality for the hierarchy to remain powerful: this was something that Orwell was well aware of, as he discussed in "Nineteen Eighty-four".
By the end of the 1970s, the level of inequality in the UK was the lowest ever recorded (another fact that has been conveniently "forgotten"). This sent some in "the establishment" into paroxysms of fury, as it came at their expense, and indirectly threatened their status. What was needed was a movement that was both pro-inequality and yet also seen as pro-worker...


"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and believing both of them"

Called "Doublethink", this is in evidence everywhere. Another word for it might be a "logical contradiction": such as using seemingly illogical arguments to justify a belief.
One example of this is so-called "trickle-down" theory, used by Neo-Liberals in the Conservative Party since the 1970s: this is the idea that by making conditions for the wealthy easier (such as reducing their taxes) this somehow also makes things better for the poor i.e. that the extra wealth available to the rich "trickles down" to the poor through the rich using their extra wealth to invest more and thus create more jobs. The problem is, it's just a theory: there's no actual evidence it's true.
It's not even clear that those in the hierarchy of "the establishment" truly believe it either, but it certainly provides them with a seemingly "altruistic" explanation they can give to the masses for their self-interested actions.
Another example of this is how George Osborne grabbed for the Conservatives the mantle of "the party of the workers"; rhetoric that has been continued by Theresa May. Using the same logic as that of "trickle-down theory", the Conservative Party - the party of "the establishment" - claim to represent the interests of workers because they are interested in a strong economy that "lifts all boats". But the reality is that the kind of economy the Conservatives advocate is one where seemingly high employment is achieved through a highly-insecure, low-paid workforce living on the bread line.

As said by Orwell, it is "a vast system of mental cheating". Those in the higher echelons of this hierarchy have no illusions about what they are doing: they are defending their own interests in the best way they can, by making black seem as white.
While those higher up are under no illusions, those lower down have to be able to convincingly spread this "Doublethink". In "Nineteen Eighty-four", Orwell described how many "Lower Party" members had a kind of "saving stupidity" that enabled them to believe two mutually incompatible beliefs without any difficulty. You can sometimes witness this with some of the less intelligent (but no less dumbly-loyal) members of the Conservative Party: from the "nice-but-dim" activist types, to even members of the government, who get can intensely flustered and confused when their nonsensical contradictions are pointed out by more astute opponents. Those that are able to repeat these contradictions convincingly when challenged, or even better, make their more astute opponents seem like idiots for not understanding nonsensical party policy, are the most valuable to the cause.


"The prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity"

Continuing from the theme of "Doublethink", this strategy has also been applied to the opposition, in particular the Labour Party, where they are derided as a joke, but also deeply feared as a mortal threat.
This was a theme that Orwell again touched on in "Nineteen Eighty-four", in his portrayal of the arch-enemy of "The Party", Emmanuel Goldstein: seen as both a figure of ridicule and a figure of fear, he was the ever-present threat that nobody had seen; likewise, "The Brotherhood", the mysterious and anonymous ranks of Goldstein's followers that were blamed for every internal setback encountered.
If the Conservative Party were to imagine an opposition of their dreams, they would probably not go far wrong with Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to epitomize everything they hate in the "old" Labour Party; likewise, Corbyn's movement from within the Labour Party, "Momentum", seems like an organisation designed for ridicule, while holding a vice-like grip on the Labour Party itself: engineered, it would seem, to perpetuate the eternal, hopeless leadership of Corbyn and his successors.

In the same vein, parliament is seen as blocking the people's will, and judges are "enemies of the people": in other words, Brexit was initiated to restore the sovereignty of parliament and the rule of law, so the government could take it away.

"Brexit" was a power-grab dressed up as the opposite; giving "power to the people", so they could give it to those who knew what to do with it. An "anti-establishment" vote was hijacked by the establishment before anyone knew what was going on.



"When war becomes continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous"

Or put another way, when a "war" has no feasible end in sight, it also becomes meaningless. Whatever the "war" is, it becomes an end in itself. This may be a "war" from without, such as against an exterior "enemy", or it may be a war from within, such as against forms of internal opposition. Ideally, it must have elements of both aspects. The "war" can never be truly won, for that would defeat part of the main benefit of having the "war". But the main reason for the "war", was the depletion of resources without raising the standard of living.

That was how Orwell saw things in "Nineteen Eighty-four". While once government was engaged in a "war on poverty", these days it would be more accurate to describe an undeclared "war on the poor": "austerity" and all its associated policies, such as welfare reform, and side-effects, such as food banks and homelessness, could be described as nothing less. Because "the poor" tend to vote Labour they are seen as "the enemy" first of all, and secondly, a segment of society that it is easy to stigmatize. This was one reason, privately of course, that George Osborne gave for being against building more council housing - it would only help Labour voters.
Apart from the benefits of making the Conservatives seem keen to get the economy on the right track, "austerity" works on various levels. First, it acts as a form of divide and rule among the masses, pitting the so-called "strivers" against the "skivers". Second, it allows the government to cut back on "non-essential spending" on services and allow the voracious and amoral private sector to fill in the gaps. Third, reduced spending on the criminal justice system means that increased levels of crime will increase dysfunction and chaos at the lower end of the social spectrum, feeding into a self-perpetuating loop of social deprivation, and creating further scapegoats for the government to blame. The constraining circumstances of "Brexit" over the coming years are likely to make this "war on the poor" seem endless.

At a day-to-day level, people are more worried about staying safe and having enough money for the bills and food on the table to worry about why it's happening and who's really to blame.

"From the "proles", nothing is to be feared"

This contemptuous language comes directly from the pages of "Nineteen Eighty-four", but can also found amongst the inner circle of the Conservative Party, which explains why many of the policies are designed the way they are: the last point made in the previous paragraph sums up why this is. The "proles" are seen as a sub-class to be jeered at, despised, and attacked for even daring to enjoy themselves through their own devices. The "culture war" against what was once called the "working class" has made them despise their own kind. The poor - the "proles" - are most dangerous when they are happy through their own devices, so therefore their happiness must be treated with deep distrust.
Instead, their happiness should be manipulated and manufactured: jingoistic nationalism is the "default" setting to distract them from their woes. Having the population united against a common exterior enemy acts as an "opium of the masses", conveniently distracting them from any uncomfortable reality at home - in the case of the UK, the government's ongoing "austerity" programme.
The oncoming situation of "Brexit" therefore acts as a prime opportunity for this to be put into practice, as we can already see from some of the regular headlines in the media.  The masses are deemed to conform to the idea that unquestioning patriotism and simplistic jingoism is their "default setting": conversely, as mentioned, the threat of "war" from without is another instrument at the government's disposal. Not an actual, fighting war: more of a "cultural war" with Europe; therefore, any Europeans living in the UK should be seen with instant suspicion, and any British citizen that espouses any residual pro-European sentiment (i.e. "Remainers") should be seen as being latent traitors to the country. This feeling has been seen in the British press for years, which was part of the background campaign that led to the rise of UKIP (more of an extremist wing of the Conservative Party) and the eventual Brexit vote.

"Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful"

Some fun has been had at Theresa May's expense recently: from her troubles in eating chips with her fingers, to her fear of meeting the public. The strategy the Tories are taking is nothing new - making politics about personality is as old as the hills. What's different about how they are doing it today is that they are making the election much more about voting for "Theresa May" than about voting Conservative than has been seen by parties and the leaders in any election in living memory. In some places, campaign literature is all about Theresa May with barely a mention of her party.

This is no doubt down to Lynton Crosby, architect of the Tories' last election victory. One-on-one, in the public's perception, May wins hands-down any contest with Jeremy Corbyn about leadership.
But there is more to it than that. Partly it is a conscious act of distraction (one of Crosby's "dead cat on the table" tactics): because with a fair segment of the population still bearing doubts about the Conservatives' sincerity (who'd have thought it!), it's better to make it a vote about the person rather than the party. Furthermore, and as mentioned by the author in a previous article, there is a fair amount of "Groupthink" in the air following the referendum: people psychologically want to "get on with it", and therefore want to get behind the leader; regardless of their previous doubts, they will vote for May. Following from that, there is a tendency to therefore see in Theresa May a person that embodies "the spirit of Brexit" i.e. an aspect of "mythologizing" of the national leader in difficult times. Her previous faults are now seen as strengths. With Europe now seen as "the enemy" (again), it's not difficult to imagine some in the Conservative Party wanting to engender an almost Churchillian-like cult of personality around her.

To an extent, therefore, the strategy of minimizing May's real contact with the electorate (rather than meetings with party activists) is not only because the strategists have seen how deeply unnatural she is with people (Thatcher had the same issues, though that is hardly an endorsement). The same tactic was done with Cameron in the last election, but he was more naturally gregarious and seemed to enjoy campaigning; Theresa May seems to enjoy campaigning not a jot, shows strong signs of control freakery. No, the other reason may be to add to the "mythologizing": the less people see of her, the more people will project on to her want they want to see in a national leader. In other words, Theresa May, for the Conservatives, is presented as less of a leader than more of a symbol, almost in the same semi-divine status that some reserve for the Queen. Whether this is truly intentional or merely unconscious is hard to know at this point; strategy-wise, it may well be the first masquerading as the second.

In this way, the seeds have been sown; we will soon know what kind of harvest they bring, and who for.