By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, philosopher Jacob Stanley reveals in How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them that the stuff of politics—charged by rhetoric and myth—can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascist politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals.
For this conversation Stanley is joined by Harvard associate professor of History Elizabeth Hinton.
Racism makes societies vulnerable to fascism
look I’m white but it’s in my
self-interest to fight against racism
because it opens my society to fascism
Are economics responsible for fascism?
for family issues back in Ohio and I
would go through rural Ohio but I see no
feline annex and I’d see poverty and
nobody Cambridge you about under and and
it wasn’t covered you know and so I
always say follow the money and there’s
no money in the rural areas and
globalism works in Boston and San
Francisco but it doesn’t seem to work in
rural America and so I always think that
globalism is doomed and democracy is
doomed if they can’t figure out a way to
put rural Americans into this economy
that doesn’t that that doesn’t seem to
have happened I was I was in southern
Ohio and a family gathering in Lebanon
Ohio and the fireman was talking to me
in there was part of the group and he
said he’s retiring early because he
can’t stand picking up opioid addicts in
a little talons Ohio with 10,000 people
he’s got a five six calls a day take
care of over those people and people
shooting out in cars
so yeah and this is little little
hometown you know Warren Ohio is dead so
you’re raising a couple different relate
related points but both very important
first of all we haven’t talked much
about political economy and I think it’s
very important to talk about political
economy as as a factor also in the
factor in the far-right movement like
what’s happening it’s all right now
fascism is not fascist politics not
being used to like buttress military
empire as much as its used to other one
other than Yemen and so it is but but it
it’s being used to like funnel money
into oligarchs hands and blah and sort
of like throw sand in the face of people
with genuine economic concerns but the
I mean it’s not just the rural Midwest
like my partner is a doctor physician in
New Haven New Haven Connecticut has a
horrific OPA opioid problem I mean the
pharmaceutical companies I mean they
delivered a whole bunch of opioids to a
lot of people and and it’s a problem
that is the dhih industrialized areas
I mean opiates horrific it’s like what
60,000 deaths last year 70,000 deaths so
so but and it’s it’s tricky figuring out
you know Carl Hart’s work would say it’s
it’s mainly an economic problem you
solve people’s economic issues and
they’re not gonna be opioid addicts but
but but you’re you’re I mean one thing
about the economic anxiety point is that
if you look at who was affected by the
Great Recession the group that was most
affected by the Great Recession I think
were people of color but they didn’t
flee into the arms of fascism you know they
didn’t start voting for or you know they
didn’t vote for Trump so I I don’t think
so it can’t I think that economic and
and then you look worldwide my book is
about the world and you look at Poland
like the Civic Platform in Poland
like the Civic Platform expanded the GDP
radically Poland was doing really well
economically and then law and justice
came in and did all these tactics and
one look at Bavaria one of the richest
areas in the world Bavaria is filled
with this you say oh say offer so the
economic anxiety does not match all the
areas it can explain it can explain why
some groups in some areas fall prey to
this politics but looking
internationally the politics gets a grip
and even looking nationally because it
gets a grip on some groups and not the
other others and if you look at if you
look at and my book is about why it gets
a grip when it’s so obviously a false
promise and so in the United States when
we talk about the poor working class we
– we – the white working class we forget
a chapter and Du Bois as black
reconstruction is a poor white you know
we have to talk about the psychological
wages of whiteness we have to talk about
and and the response is of course an
economic response is a labor movement a
labor movement you know when they smash
the labor movements in the Upper Midwest
suddenly people felt much more prey to
this kind of politics and so you know so
I think we do face this crisis we need a
labor movement that’s why they went
after the labor movement we’re in a
crisis after the Janice decision and and
so we have to rebuild the labor we
wouldn’t give people economic hope I’m
not sure it’s as globalization as much
as it’s the lack of a of a of a labor
movement in the United States
I mean German manufacturing is doing
fine and German labor is doing fine
history and making history no but I
guess how do you make it known
given that the I mean given what you’re
talking about you know the attack on
truth the discrediting of sources the
control of educational boards or
institutions by people who might not be
in their interest a place you know I
mean so what I don’t know if that’s I
mean if doing it’s having conversations
like this I mean I think it’s it’s it’s
really up to us and this is like in
terms of thinking about what is the role
of academics right now I mean people who
do research is – it’s one I think that
qualitative research in general is just
D legitimized and it’s it’s dismissed as
not being true despite the fact that you
know my I don’t use my data doesn’t come
from surveys it’s not in document since
the ways in which I’m interpreting those
documents just like it’s the ways in
which other people are interpreting
their quantitative data and so I think
that you know right now the other kind
of struggle going on in universities is
the growing attack in many ways on the
liberal on liberal arts in general which
is tied to the developments that Jason
described so eloquently in the book so I
think part of it is you know doing the
work of having discussions like this
it’s amazing that there’s so many people
here and we’re having this really engage
an important discussion that takes a lot
out of us but that’s I think part of our
responsibility as as researchers as
scholars as intellectuals to try to
write in accessible ways Jason was just
telling me that he’s been on the radio
for like ten hours this week that’s
doing the work that’s doing that
important work and I think part of the
difficulty is in many in in many
instances we we end up kind of preaching
to the choir you can only go on Berkeley
radio so many times I mean
– is also kind of moving into different
spaces where we might be less
comfortable when I get invited to speak
with libertarian or white ring groups
are I’m happy to go because knowing that
I might be walking into an abrasive
situation you know I tried to make my
book and my research as undeniable as
possible and I think the argument that
you’ve laid out in this book is also
undeniable and that’s how I think we can
begin to think about re-educating
correcting the false narratives and
erasing the untruths the mythic past
that’s been created in history is I
think really historical work is really
key to that we don’t know how we got
here unless we really really understand
the past yeah I just want I just want to
say you know that’s why do boys ends
ends black reconstruction at the
propaganda of history and that’s why
he’s so corny and capitalizes truth you
know that’s that’s that’s what gets me
upset when people attack for instance
african-american studies as as has been
happening a lot or Gender Studies
because they’re trying to tell the
actual truth of a story that’s not told
and you know and that that’s that’s why
dude you know Dubois is always so corny
about truth see like he’s like you know
when you know erasure and erasure is
never truth you know so and of course
the backlash is always like a little bit
of like at Yale what happened the I mean
I could have told my colleagues the
English department they added googy Wafi
Unga this this goes back to you they had
a GUI hua Theon go to one course and and
there were like 20 articles from
right-wing media about how they’re
eliminating Shakespeare at Yale and it
hit them so by surprise I was like my
colleagues in the English department
like what happened what happened we’re
gonna go as death threats I’m like yeah
you added an African writer to a
required course you know so that’s the
and we we have academic administrators
here they can tell you about this but
there’s there’s you know the very ID so
true like multiple perspective
which doesn’t mean multiple perspectives
doesn’t mean there’s many truths there’s
only one truth that’s why Dubois
capitalizes it but the truth involves
you know that the Nate what happened to
the indigenous populations as well as
what happened to Dale Carnegie
06:04and you also mentioned to me earlierthat anxiety is a big part of your lifeand one of the ways that you kind ofmitigate that is through the use ofroutines and sticking to things that youknow yestell me about how that is great and howthat is not so great I could talk abouthow like routines are great and howdoing the same thing is great or thetime to date like oh my oh my life Icould talk about it it’s great becausewhen you have a routine it’s thatfamiliarity so you kind of know what’scoming next you know what to expect andit kind of just makes my life happierbecause it’s not all the unexpectedstuff but in the same way because youlike routine and that kind of holds onto your anxiety as soon as one littlething changes that has such a depthtrend effect on my day to day lifeso say you have the same thing forbreakfast every day I have this I liketo have the same thing but then recentlywe stayed somewhere else came home andwe didn’t have any milk in the fridgelike I usually have the soya milk in thefridge we didn’t have any to then I waslike ah well now what do I do and myhusband who is an autistic he’d be likeodd just a toast but for me straightaway that’s like what else is gonna gowrong like what am I gonna do now Igotta think of what I’d do for this nowI gotta think about what my daughter’sgonna have now I’ve got to think aboutall these things so in a way for meroutine is like a key element of my lifeand it’s amazing and structure isamazing but at the same time then youhave this whole anxiety that thestructure is going to go wrong and theroutines gonna go wrong and then if itdoesn’t go right so the I guess the wayI feel about routine and things and andhow has your husband gone understandingthose things sowe’ve been together ten years now and soI’ve always been the way I’d been soI’ve always had problems with like food08:24and things and we wish there was anxiety08:25[Music]08:27so we thought that I was gonna suddenly08:30be cured by going to therapy and things08:32and then we find out I’m not gonna be08:34cured because it’s like I’m autistic08:36it’s gonna always be around so that’s08:38something we’ve had to kind of we’re08:40adapting to at the moment cuz it’s only08:42been going since kind of August so08:46trying to adapt to that and trying to do08:48it it’s difficult for him to and he08:52doesn’t understand everything I mean I08:55can’t say anything bad about him because08:57he’s been wonderful he looks up all of08:59the information and lots of people don’t09:01don’t want to do that but then I09:04sometimes my anxiety there’s then he’s09:06only doing that because you’ve got a09:07daughter who has it09:08so then I’m like ah you know he’s still09:10gonna leave me he’s still gonna do this09:12he’s still gonna do that why would I do09:15that when you’ve always been this way09:17so questions that it sounds like for a09:24big part of your life you thought a lot09:27of those artistic traits were due to09:29anxiety yeah which meant that you09:32thought maybe if I got therapy and got09:35less anxious then I wouldn’t do these09:37things as much yeah especially when it09:41comes to not socializing and not having09:44friends and things but then when I went09:48to therapy she said but you didn’t seem09:50like depressed and things and I said09:52what if I’m doing things that I want to09:54do I’m happy but everything I want to do09:57is on my own so I want to play like The10:00Sims I want to read I want to go to the10:03cinema by myself I want to do this and10:06I’m really happy when I’m doing that10:07then when I have to go out with other10:09people and do things that I don’t want10:11to do that’s when I’m worse and she was10:16like well that’s not depression and10:18she’s like how do was your anxiety10:20lasted and I’m like oh it’s always been10:22like this like I’ve always felt like10:24this it feels like oh and then she was10:27then Oh10:28after too10:29sessions with her she was actually after10:31the first 10 minutes of meeting you I10:33thought that you were autistic and she’s10:36like so now I’m kind of like referring10:38you full of this and to find out and10:40everything so and yeah I thought I was10:44just magic cure her but how did it feel10:48how did it feel to realize that you are10:51on the spectrum it was a relief because10:56I know like why I was feeling the way I10:59was for bite I life and why I had11:02difficulties with things in school and11:04stuff like I really struggled as well11:07like I didn’t like going to lessons I11:09didn’t like doing anything so it’s11:12really for that but at the same time11:13then I’m still kind of coming to terms11:16with it all because it’s kind of like11:18mourning for the fact that I’m never11:21gonna be the way I expected to be with11:25certain things because I thought all11:26once I’ve got this under control I can11:29do all of these things but I know I can11:32achieve some a bit but at the same time11:34there’s other things that are always11:35just gonna be the thing because it’s11:37just who I am and yeah if that make11:42sense yeah definitely so this definitely11:48gets kind of like know that there’s11:50reason for things and now I can11:52appreciate Who I am for who I am as11:56opposed to trying to change myself to11:58fit in how everybody else thinks that12:01you should be yeah definitely makes12:05sense and so finally what would you say12:12to other women out there who maybe12:15they’ve got a daughter on the spectrum12:16or maybe they are starting to get clues12:19that well people are suggesting you12:21might be on the spectrum this might be12:23explaining things for you what would you12:25say to them obviously I would say to do12:29their research autism and stuff is very12:32different with girls than it is boys a12:35lot of the research and things and12:38diagnosis has to do with boys and not go12:41so you’ve got to find yourself a really12:42good doctor as well here at12:44understands it within females and how12:46they find it look I found help in like12:51Facebook groups and that just reached12:53out to other people who are on the12:55spectrum I found people really helpful12:57they’re really open to talking about12:58their struggles and what they think but13:01yeah for me it’s just if you think is do13:05your research and look at different13:07things go on YouTube that’s it’s amazing13:10to find creatures who will actually talk13:12about subject and yeah I think that’s13:16the best advice I can give it it’s just13:18if you think you are you probably are13:20because if you’re thinking that you are13:22it’s not a normal thing to think that13:24you’re autistic apparently yeah I think13:29oh I think I might be autistic it’s not13:32something that you generally think so if13:34you’re thinking that you are then you13:37know it’s we’re actually looking more13:39into it because you’ll probably end up13:42finding out that you actually are13:44autistic and and for me personally what13:46made the biggest difference was13:48physically meeting in person other13:51autistic people so a support group even13:56before I knew I just said can I come13:58along lesson yes so yeah see where I am14:01to get the support you have to have like14:04the official diagnosis and the waiting14:07list of really long so at the moment14:09hard to see that but meeting other14:13people with autism and stuff especially14:15people your age I think is a really14:17important thing so that’s why I’m kind14:20of reaching out to other Creators and14:22start from towards and that’s why14:24eventually I’ll upload a video that’s a14:28good segue because you and your blog a14:31YouTube blog right yeah yeah we’d say I14:35have a blog but I talk about other14:37disabilities with and it’s just getting14:39the confidence up and getting past the14:41anxiety like whoa to actually talk about14:45it and be heard about it and stuff and14:48it’s something that I want to pursue14:50more of talking about it and actually14:51you know yeah14:57yes well it’s it’s great to have14:59different voices out there and I’m sure15:03lots of people will resonate strongly15:06with you and your story what’s the name15:09of your YouTube channel15:10it’s a mundane life and if you just15:14search that it will come up no one else15:18wants to be called a mundane life no15:20nobody else wants to be like ordinary15:22and warranty they but yeah I guess now15:25it’s quite an ironic name because autism15:28as well there’s anything but mundanes15:31none of what you described okay mundane15:36okay well thanks Sarah it’s been really15:39it’s been really great to talk to you oh15:41I’ll put a link to your channel in the15:44description below so I think everyone15:48watching has enjoyed today’s espy15:51interview and I’ll be endeavoring to do15:55some more in the future because I15:57believe that the best way to understand15:59autism and the diversity in the autism16:01spectrum is to meet others on the16:05spectrum so this is one way I’m trying16:07to elderly okay well thanks and thanks16:12for your time – Sarah right no problem16:14thank you Ray16:23you
In a departure from Iran’s usual tactics of hiding behind proxies, the country’s supreme leader wants any retaliation for the killing of a top military commander to be carried out openly by Iranian forces.
In the tense hours following the American killing of a top Iranian military commander, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a rare appearance at a meeting of the government’s National Security Council to lay down the parameters for any retaliation. It must be a direct and proportional attack on American interests, he said, openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves, three Iranians familiar with the meeting said Monday.
It was a startling departure for the Iranian leadership. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Tehran had almost always cloaked its attacks behind the actions of proxies it had cultivated around the region. But in the fury generated by the killing of the military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a close ally and personal friend of the supreme leader, the ayatollah was willing to cast aside those traditional cautions.
The nation’s anger over the commander’s death was on vivid display Monday, as hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran for a funeral procession and Mr. Khamenei wept openly over the coffin.
After weeks of furious protests across the country against corruption and misrule, both those who had criticized and supported the government marched together, united in outrage. Subway trains and stations were packed with mourners hours before dawn, and families brought children carrying photographs of General Suleimani.
A reformist politician, Sadegh Kharazi, said he had not seen crowds this size since the 1989 funeral of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“We are ready to take a fierce revenge against America,” Gen. Hamid Sarkheili of the Revolutionary Guard, declared to the throng. “American troops in the Persian Gulf and in Iraq and Syria are within our reach.”
“No negotiations or deal, only war with America,” students chanted in an online video from a university campus.
A renowned eulogist and member of the Revolutionary Guard, Sadegh Ahangaran, exhorted the funeral crowds to raise their voices so “damned America can hear you” and to “wave the flags in preparation for war.”
The increasingly public vows of direct action on Monday constituted Iran’s latest act of defiance to President Trump. Over the weekend the president had repeatedly threatened to retaliate for any attacks against American interests by ordering airstrikes against as many as 52 potential targets, one for each of the American hostages held after the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979.
In response, Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, on Monday responded with his own numerology. “Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290,” he said on Twitter, a reference to the 290 people killed in 1988 in the accidental downing of an Iranian airliner by an American warship. “Never threaten the Iranian nation,” Mr. Rouhani added.
Where, when and even if Iran may choose to retaliate remains a matter of speculation. As Iranian leaders weighed just what form it might take, analysts said the targets included American troops in neighboring Syria and Iraq, American bases in the Persian Gulf or American embassies or diplomats almost anywhere.
When previous attempts at direct strikes or assassinations have proved unsuccessful, some noted, Iranian-backed militants have turned to the simpler tactic of killing civilians with terrorist bombs.
This was the sequence in 2012 with the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. After failing in attempts to attack Israeli targets or kill Israeli officials in revenge for the killing of one of the group’s leaders, the militants eventually settled on the easier job of bombing a bus load of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, said Afshon Ostovar, a scholar of Iran at the Naval Postgraduate School.
“We are in uncharted territory, and the truth of the matter is nobody knows how Iran is going to respond. I don’t think even Iran knows,” Mr. Ostovar said. “But I think there is a blood lust right now in the Revolutionary Guards.”
In Iraq, where the Parliament had earlier called for the immediate expulsion of the 5,000 American troops stationed there, Prime Minister Mahdi on Monday listed steps to curtail the troops’ movements.
While plans were being made for departure of the Americans, he said, they will now be limited to “training and advising” Iraqi forces, required to remain within the bases and barred from Iraqi air space.
Mr. Mahdi met with Matthew Tueller, the American ambassador to Iraq, on Monday, and “stressed the need for joint action to implement the withdrawal,” according to a statement and photo released by Mr. Mahdi’s office. He also emphasized Iraq’s efforts to prevent the current tensions between Iran and the United States from sliding into “open war.”
The United States military stirred a media flurry by accidentally releasing a draft letter that seemed to describe imminent plans to withdraw from Iraq. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III, the commander of the United States forces in Iraq, wrote to the Iraqi government that the American troops would be relocated “to prepare for onward movement.”
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” he wrote.
But Defense Department officials played down the significance of the letter. “Here’s the bottom line, this was a mistake,” General Mark A. Milley, President Trump’s top military commander, told reporters at the Pentagon during a hastily called press briefing. “It’s a draft unsigned letter because we are moving forces around.”
“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, told reporters. “There’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”
Although the Trump administration has said that the United States killed General Suleimani because he was planning imminent attacks against American interests, there were indications Monday that he may have been leading an effort to calm tensions with Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said that he was supposed to meet with General Suleimani on the morning he was killed, and that he expected him to bring messages from the Iranians that might help to “reach agreements and breakthroughs important for the situation in Iraq and the region.”
In Washington, two top Senate Democrats urged President Trump early Monday to declassify the administration’s formal notification to Congress giving notice of the airstrike that killed General Suleimani.
Such notification of Congress is required by law, and to classify the entirety of such a notification is highly unusual.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a joint statement that it was “critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner.”
And Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, urged Mr. Trump’s critics not to jump to conclusions. “Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts,” he said.
For its part, Iran simultaneously continued a months-long push against the Trump administration over its demands that Tehran submit to a more restrictive renegotiation of a 2015 accord with the Western powers over its nuclear research. The Trump administration has sought to pressure Iran by devastating its economy with sweeping economic sanctions, which Iranian officials have denounced as economic warfare.
The sanctions set off the cycle of attacks and counterattacks that culminated last week in the killing of General Suleimani. Iran has also responded with carefully calibrated steps away from the deal’s limits on its nuclear program. On Sunday, Iranian officials said that they had now abandoned all restrictions on the enrichment of uranium, though they said they would continue to admit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Amid the emotion of the funeral, some called for vengeance that would remake the region. “Even if we attack all of U.S. bases and even if we kill Trump himself it’s not enough revenge,” Brig. Gen Amir Ali HajiZadeh said at the funeral. “We must totally eliminate all U.S. troops from the region.”
For now, Iranian officials seem to be in no rush to strike back against the United States, possibly enjoying their ability to spread anxiety throughout the West. They seem content to
- bask in the nationalist surge in their popularity,
- growing international sympathy and the push to
- expel the American troops from Iraq.
“I don’t think they want to shift the conversation yet,” said Sanam Vakil, a scholar of Iran at Chatham House, a research center in London.
But for the hard-liners who dominate the Iranian National Security Council, she said, some vigorous retaliation would be the only rational response. “A non-response would appear weak and invite further pressure, creating problems in domestic politics and internationally,” she said.
Rough Translation:so what deeper truths our gnosis isshowing us narcissus enter our livespretending to be the answer to what weneed to heal within us that we may noteven be aware of yet and then seize thefoe support and start to smash theseexact parts making the pain so horrificthat the unconscious parts become fullyconscious the narcissus first appearedto be the savior of our wounds and thenbecame the messenger of them insteadso let me grant you my own example Iused to suffer greatly from fears ofabandonment and not being valid and seenor being good enough to be loved thiswas deeply unconscious because it wasall I’d ever known as myself and myreality like many people who are nowstatistically abused I was overfunctioning and over compensating for myinner unconscious traumas and I wasreally practically capable I seemedstrong and other people would have swornthat I had it together he had on theinside I was battling anxiety anddepression which I had to keep very busyand achieving goals to overcomenaturally because this is how this stuffgoesI wasn’t gentle tender or supportivewith these inner parts rather I wasconstantly self abandoning my inner painnot making my feelings important at alland being incredibly self-critical anddemanding and myself and again this wasmy version of normal being only way thatI’d ever known to be with myself and itwas exactly what people in my life hadalways modeled to me as well it wasn’tuntil narcissistic abuse it these partsthat I’ve been surviving and coveringover came screaming to the forefront sointeresting because the narcissus in mylife initially appeared validating andapproving of me as well as claiming afull commitment to me so they seemedlike they would never abandon me howeverthings switched and my fears and gapswere over time attack with full ferocityI was rapidly and cruelly abandoned andinvalidated and accused of being ahorrible person regularly my story isyour story because in this way ourstories are all pretty much identical wesee the narcissist as the answer to ourwounds often unconsciously we’re noteven realizing it hence the powerfulunexplainable unexplainable logicallybond to them yet their message to us isto find and heal these wounds withinourselves when we awaken and we get veryself honest this is how we know thereare parts of ourselves which areunhealed we’re still sticking around andfrantically trying to make thenarcissist think and do it differentlywe’re clinging on to that person tryingto force them to provide us with therelief of these traumas get the only wayout of the nightmare is to let go ofthese people and attend to those partsthat are screaming out for us deeplywithin ourselves if we were a whole andhealed source to ourselves it becomes aclear-cut thing we say I don’t agreewith your workwarped version and me you’re skeweredversion of me and I have no need to tryto change you to have a great version ofmyself goodbye see you laterand we are thrilled to discover whenthat’s really true for us on the insideand we actualize it we’re thrilled todiscover that we have zero urge for thenarcissus to provide us with ourselvesanymore and the longing desperation andthe missing ends as does the narcissuspower to hook you and hurt you if youget the any healing job done well enoughand the narcissus becomes totallyirrelevant and whilst you’re becoming aforce of fearless calm power narcissuslet go and they move on with their lifeboth selves cannot exist in healed andwhole environments no more than germscat in a healthy clean environmentthere’s nothing for them to feed off andyou may think that this is glib andunrealistic I promise you it’s notabsolutely there can be complicationswith narcissus that need to be unpickedand sorted such as custody with childrenproperty businesses and all sorts of airmeasurements yet no matter how difficultthese challenges are I really want youto understand that the greatest or mostdeadly binds with narcissus are the oneswe’re suffering emotionally through ourwounds when we heal from these all elsecan follow myself and thousands ofothers have granted the overwhelming
“Only 2 rooms left? They don’t expect me to believe that do they? You see that everywhere.”
I leave with a wry smile. The client won’t be happy, but at least the project findings are becoming clear. Companies in certain sectors use the same behavioral interventions repeatedly. Hotel booking websites are one example. Their sustained, repetitive use of scarcity (e.g., “Only two rooms left!”) and social proof (“16 other people viewed this room”) messaging is apparent even to a casual browser.
For Chris the implication was clear: this “scarcity” was just a sales ploy, not to be taken seriously.
My colleagues and I at Trinity McQueen, an insight consultancy, wondered, was Chris’s reaction exceptional, or would the general public spot a pattern in the way that marketers are using behavioral interventions to influence their behavior? Are scarcity and social proof messages so overused in travel websites that the average person does not believe them? Do they undermine brand trust?
The broader question, one essential to both academics and practitioners, is how a world saturated with behavioral interventions might no longer resemble the one in which those interventions were first studied. Are we aiming at a moving target?
.. We started by asking participants to consider a hypothetical scenario: using a hotel booking website to find a room to stay in the following week. We then showed a series of nine real-world scarcity and social proof claims made by an unnamed hotel booking website.
Two thirds of the British public (65 percent) interpreted examples of scarcity and social proof claims used by hotel booking websites as sales pressure. Half said they were likely to distrust the company as a result of seeing them (49 percent). Just one in six (16 percent) said they believed the claims.
The results surprised us. We had expected there to be cynicism among a subgroup—perhaps people who booked hotels regularly, for example. The verbatim commentary from participants showed people see scarcity and social proof claims frequently online, most commonly in the travel, retail, and fashion sectors. They questioned truth of these ads, but were resigned to their use:
“It’s what I’ve seen often on hotel websites—it’s what they do to tempt you.”
“Have seen many websites do this kind of thing so don’t really feel differently when I do see it.”
In a follow up question, a third (34 percent) expressed a negative emotional reaction to these messages, choosing words like contempt and disgust from a precoded list. Crucially, this was because they ascribed bad intentions to the website. The messages were, in their view, designed to induce anxiety:
“… almost certainly fake to try and panic you into buying without thinking.”
“I think this type of thing is to pressure you into booking for fear of losing out and not necessarily true.”
For these people, not only are these behavioral interventions not working but they’re having the reverse effect. We hypothesize psychological reactance is at play: people kick back when they feel they are being coerced. Several measures in our study support this. A large minority (40 percent) of the British public agreed that that“when someone forces me to do something, I feel like doing the opposite.” This is even more pronounced in the commercial domain: seven in ten agreed that “when I see a big company dominating a market I want to use a competitor.” Perhaps we Brits are a cynical bunch, but any behavioral intervention can backfire if people think it is a cynical ploy.
Heuristics are dynamic, not static
Stepping back from hotel booking websites, this is a reminder that heuristics are not fixed, unchanging. The context for any behavioral intervention is dynamic, operating in “a coadapting loop between mind and world.” Repeated exposure to any tactic over time educates you about its likely veracity in that context. Certain tactics (e.g., scarcity claims) in certain situations (e.g., in hotel booking websites) have been overused. Our evidence suggests their power is now diminished in these contexts.
Two questions for the future
In our study, we focused on a narrow commercial domain. It would be unwise to make blanket generalizations about the efficacy of all behavioral interventions based on this evidence alone. And yet nagging doubts remain.
#1: Like antibiotic resistance, could overuse in one domain undermine the effectiveness of interventions for everyone?
If so, the toolkit of interventions could conceivably shrink over time as commercial practitioners overuse interventions to meet their short-term goals. Most would agree that interventions used to boost prosocial behavior in sectors such as healthcare have much more consequential outcomes. In time, prosocial practitioners may be less able to rely on the most heavily used tactics from the commercial domains such as social proof and scarcity messaging.
#2 : How will the growing backlash against big tech and “surveillance capitalism” affect behavioral science?
Much of the feedback from the public relates to behavioral interventions they have seen online, not offline. Many of the strategies for which big tech companies are critiqued center on the undermining of a user’s self-determination. The public may conflate the activities of these seemingly ubiquitous companies (gathering customer data in order to predict and control behavior) with those of the behavioral science community. If so, practitioners might find themselves under much greater scrutiny.
Feedback loops matter
There probably was never an era when simple behavioral interventions gave easy rewards. Human behavior—context-dependent, and driven by a multitude of interacting influences—will remain gloriously unpredictable.
Marketers should design nudges with more than the transaction in mind, not only because it is ethical or because they will be more effective over time but also because they bear responsibility toward the practitioner community as a whole.
The lesson I take from our study? Feedback loops affect the efficacy of behavioral interventions more than we realize. Just because an intervention was successful five years ago does not mean it will be successful today. Practitioners should pay as much attention to the ecosystem their interventions operate in as their customers do. There’s no better place to start than spending time with them—talking, observing, and empathizing.
We should also consider our responsibilities as we use behavioral interventions. Marketers should design nudges with more than the transaction in mind, not only because it is ethical or because they will be more effective over time but also because they bear responsibility toward the practitioner community as a whole. We owe an allegiance to the public, but also to each other.
BERLIN—To win voters lost to an anti-globalization backlash, Europe’s mainstream parties are going back to the 1970s.
In Germany, the U.K, Denmark, France and Spain, these parties are aiming to reverse decades of pro-market policy and promising greater state control of business and the economy, more welfare benefits, bigger pensions and higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Some have discussed nationalizations and expropriations.
It could add up to the biggest shift in economic policy on the continent in decades.
In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, the government has increased social spending in a bid to stop the exodus of voters to antiestablishment, populist and special-interest parties. Reacting to pressure on both ends of the political spectrum, it passed the largest-ever budget last year.
“The zeitgeist of globalization and liberalization is over,” said Ralf Stegner, vice chairman of the 130-year-old Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government coalition. “The state needs to become much more involved in key areas such as work, pensions and health care.”
The policies mark the end of an era in Europe that started four decades ago, with the ascent of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her U.S. ally, President Ronald Reagan.
After Thatcher abolished capital controls in 1979 and began selling off state companies in the 1980s, other European governments followed suit, embracing supply-side policies, deregulation, market liberalization and tax cuts. Revenues from privatization among European Union member states rose from $13 billion in 1990 to $87 billion in 2005, according to Privatization Barometer, a database run by consultancy KPMG Advisory S.p.A.
Today, concerns about growing inequality, stagnating wages, immigration, the debt crisis and China’s rising power have fueled the recent political shift. European businesses and governments also worry about potential changes in U.S. policy, amid looming threats of trade sanctions.Smaller State Governments across Europe retreated from many economic sectors and sold state companies starting inthe 1980s.Privatization proceeds in EU countriesSource: Privatization Barometer reports00.billion1980’85’90’952000’05’10’150102030405060708090$100
This erosion of the old technocratic consensus about how to run an economy, even in countries where populists aren’t getting any closer to power, could be one the most lasting consequences of the recent antiestablishment surge.
Even in countries where populist parties are already in government, such as Poland, those parties have shifted their focus from nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric to championing generous welfare policies and state aid.Bigger BenefitsGermany’s government has increased socialspending in a bid to win over voters. Germany’s government spendingSource: Germany’s Federal Ministry of FinanceNotes: Data through 2017 are actual; 2018 and 2019are targets. €1=$1.14.billionSocial and welfare benefitsOther spending2012’13’14’15’16’17’18’19050100150200250300350€400
Germany’s SPD has embraced additional welfare spending, paid for by tax revenues, to combat a retreat of voters so rapid it threatens to turn the once-dominant force in German politics into a niche player. The party is now pushing for policies such as unconditional pension for people who have worked for a certain period but didn’t make sufficient contributions into the pension pot.
In the U.K., Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labor Party, has proposed renationalizing railways, public utilities, the postal service and the Royal Bank of Scotland ,the country’s second-biggest lender. It’s effectively a reversal of the privatization spree initiated by Ms. Thatcher. The party is also toying with policies such as universal basic income for all and a four-day working week for public-sector employees.
Labor has been polling ahead of the ruling Conservatives in opinion surveys for most of the past two years.
The re-nationalization plan would cost around $210 billion, according to an estimate by New York-based consulting firm S&P Global. Labor has said it would issue treasury bonds to finance nationalizations. Thames Water, the U.K.’s largest water company, added a clause to its bond to make sure holders are repaid immediately should it be nationalized.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron reacted to weeks of violent street protests by abolishing plans to increase fuel prices and announcing measures to boost the incomes of low earners. The estimated cost of the spending is more than €10 billion ($11 billion). In a symbolic concession to the antiestablishment yellow-vest movement, Mr. Macron declared he would shut down the university École Nationale d’Administration, his own alma mater, because it instigated elitism.
Mr. Macron reversed a decision to eliminate 200,000 civil-service jobs and announced a tax increase for companies that overly rely on short-term contracts, which his government blames for creating an underclass of workers. In addition, monthly pensions of less than €2,000 have been pegged to the rate of inflation.
He also embraced the idea of holding referendums on certain policy issues, a key demand of populist leaders. The first major referendum will decide whether the sale of the state’s majority stake in the company that runs Paris’s airports should go ahead as planned.
Denmark’s Social Democrats, who had been out of government since 2015, won a general election on June 5 following a policy makeover that included going further left on economic policy, while sharply turning right on immigration. They pledged to increase public spending and taxes for companies and the wealthy, and to enable early retirement by rolling back some recent pension changes. Their far-right rivals the People’s Party suffered a major loss in the election.
The reaction from European economists is decidedly mixed.
Some have greeted the shift as a welcome correction to years of pro-business and free-trade policies they think have dug deep rifts in Western societies.
“The lesson from Germany is: Strong growth and a generous social welfare system alone are insufficient to satisfy voters. Globalization and technological change are putting pressure on many people,” said Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research, a Berlin-based think tank. “Europe’s social welfare state needs a fundamental overhaul as it has to focus on empowering people and on stopping the market abuse of firms and lobby groups.”
Others are concerned Europe is deviating from proven economic recipes just as growth is wobbling, or that the policies are outdated.
“We are indeed seeing a kind of return to the pre-Thatcherite approach, but it is doubtful that policies from the era of closed markets and capital controls could work in a globalized world. A vision of the past can’t be implemented in the present,” said Branko Milanovic, a New York-based Serbian-American economist who studies income distribution and inequality.
In Germany, despite a decade of robust economic growth and near full employment, almost four million working people receive welfare benefits to supplement their income. Around one-quarter of all employees work in the low-wage sector, according to government statistics and research by Mr. Fratzscher’s group.Low Wages Increased competition put downward pressure on wages, while shrinking unemployment benefits increased incentives for Germans to take lower paying jobs. Share of German workers who are low paid*Source: German Institute for Economic Research*Those who make less than two-thirds of the country’s median earnings%1996’982000’02’04’06’08’10’12’14’1614161820222426
Subsidies to Germany’s mandatory pay-as-you-go pension scheme almost reached the €100 billion mark for the first time in 2018. Earlier this year, Ms. Merkel’s government adopted a new industrial strategy that centers on protecting German companies from foreign competition, including by enabling the government to buy stakes in businesses to shield them from foreign acquisition.
Peter Altmaier, economics minister and author of the industry strategy, said it was designed in part to address the anxieties of Germans who have been drawn to far-left and far-right parties in recent years.
Germany’s SPD, the junior partner in Germany’s government coalition, is now debating whether large real-estate investors should be expropriated as a way to stabilize rents. In Berlin, where they preside over the local government, the SPD announced a freeze on rent prices. The head of its youth wing recently called for car maker BMW to be nationalized, earning grass-roots plaudits and some support from SPD ministers and mayors.
The SPD scored its worst result ever at last month’s European Union election. Polling around 12% to 14%, it is a shadow of its 1998 self, when it gathered 41% of the vote.
The environment-focused, center-left Greens more than doubled their votes between the country’s last general election in September 2017 and the EU election. It is now polling at around 26%. At least two polls since early June showed the Greens had become Germany’s most popular party for the first time since its creation in the 1980s—ahead of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
Twenty years ago, the German Greens co-wrote with the SPD the country’s last big tax cuts and a deeply unpopular overhaul of labor-market legislation. Today, the party is toying with an unconditional universal income and seizing real estate from commercial landlords as a way to stop rent increases.
The far-right Alternative for Germany, known as AfD, lost ground in last month’s EU election, and is now polling around 13%.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How can Europe’s mainstream political parties win back voters? Join the conversation below.
The AfD has campaigned on immigration in recent elections. Party leaders recently consulted with Steven K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist and now an adviser to nationalist and populist parties in Europe. In a meeting in Berlin on May 13, he advised the leaders to tone down their anti-Islam fervor, purge radical members, and refocus their message from identity politics to economics.
“The real message is the economy,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview. “Populists need to talk to the workers.”
Jörg Meuthen, the AfD co-chair who met Mr. Bannon, said he agreed, but questioned the timing of the message. He said Germany’s economy—with record low unemployment and slowing but still positive growth—remained too healthy for an immediate policy shift.
“When the recession kicks in and people start worrying about their jobs, then we can roll out economic campaigns and show our competence. Populists must look at what is affecting people emotionally, and at the moment that is migration and the climate,” Mr. Meuthen said.Globalization BacklashProtest parties focused on denouncing the economic, cultural and security impact of globalization have drawn more attention across Europe.Populist party poll performance in selected countries Source: NomuraNote: Weighted averages of national polls.%GermanyFranceSpainU.K.2015’16’17’18’19051015202530
In Spain, Pedro Sanchez, acting premier and leader of the Socialist Party, won the national and the EU elections this year after sharply raising the minimum wage and announcing a boost in social benefits and corporate taxes.
Mr. Sanchez’s bet on wooing working-class voters lost to protest parties paid off, said Daniel Diaz Fuentes, professor of economics at the Spanish university of Cantabria. Mr. Fuentes said that the rise of populism could trigger a re-nationalization wave.
“I think that the state will become a much more active entrepreneurial actor via venture capital and involvement in investment via the banking system,” Mr. Fuentes said.Two TrajectoriesThe income of low earners has decreased since 1980, while that of top earners has grown.Income shares of the top 10% in European regions*%NorthernWesternSouthernEastern1980’902000’102022242628303234Income shares of the bottom 50% in European regions*Source: Thomas Blanchet, Lucas Chancel and Amory Gethin, World Inequality Database*Population-weighted country averages%NorthernWesternSouthernEastern1980’902000’102022242628303234
Wolfgang Schmidt, deputy German finance minister and one of the strategists behind the SPD’s new approach, said the success of socialists in Spain, Britain and Denmark, in elections and opinion polls, shows that voters have turned against economic orthodoxy.
“As a society, we need to stop looking down on people. Anxiety about the future of work is driving voters to populists. People read about automation and self-driving cars and they ask themselves what will happen to their jobs in the near future,” he said.
Many European politicians and economists say the swing away from markets and back to the state misses the point of many voters’ anxiety, which is rooted in politics or culture. An annual poll about the fears of Germans conducted by the R+V Versicherung AG insurance group found that nine of respondents’ top 10 fears focused on politics, security and health. Economic concerns dominated between 2004 and 2015.
Paul Ziemiak, the second most senior official in Ms. Merkel’s conservative party, opposes what he says is an SPD-driven spending spree. “These policies have never made any country successful. Countries that have [tried them] have ultimately failed—politically, but also economically,” he said.
Protectionism would destroy a German economy built on exports and cross-border supply chains, said Clemens Fuest, an economist and adviser to the German government. Ambitious redistribution programs such as pension increases, early retirement or a universal income would collapse as soon as tax revenues fall in the slowdown. Companies were privatized 30 years ago because the state is generally bad at managing businesses, he said.
“Established parties are taking over the populists’ agenda to show voters that they have heard their message,” Mr. Fuest said. “But they are making big promises that cannot be kept.”
–Bobby Azarian, cognitive neuroscientist and blogger for Psychology Today, joins David to discuss how Donald trump continues to hold on to his base’s support