In yet another painful example of the chasm between the elite and a public demanding common sense, the European Union demands that reporters not publish the fact that a given terrorist is a Muslim.
If you want to understand both the Brexit and the Donald Trump vote, you need go no further than the recent demand by the European Union for Britain to censor reporting on Muslim terrorist attacks by eliminating any reference to the terrorist’s Muslim background.
This represents yet another painful example of the chasm that separates an elite concerned with political correctness from a public that cannot fathom the latest laceration of common sense. Across world news, we see innocent people murdered in the most brutal and sadistic fashion in the name of radical Islam. Yet we are told to believe neither our eyes nor ears but to trust members of the elite to tell us what we should have seen and heard.
Usurping our senses this way does not engender any greater tolerance of Muslims but makes us believe that the truth is what we are not being told. The truth is too threatening for the elites to let us access it, and when they cannot stop us from witnessing what is before our eyes, they must reinterpret it for us.
The unintended message of this lofty hubris is that if elites cannot trust us with the truth, we cannot trust them to protect us. The chasm between elites and the people grows, and with it the very political legitimacy that a society needs to remain stable.
Lying to People Makes Them Distrust You
The road to Brexit was not paved by those who stood in the street with signs and called for its passage but by mindless bureaucrats in Brussels who spurned national interests as they became a law unto themselves, issuing ukases like nineteenth-century Russian czars. Most offensive of these was the idea that Brussels and not Parliament would determine the number of immigrants and refugees Britain would have to accept.
In the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, revolutions are not made by those running through streets seeking to cause them but inadvertently by people who sit in positions of power and least want a revolution to occur.
Similarly, the Trump phenomenon is less a consequence of Trump’s campaign than of a growing alienation by vast segments of the population who have similarly been told that the violence of radical Islam is not what they see before their eyes but something else. For six years, the Fort Hood massacre was officially designated workplace violence, even as we assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki, the man who mobilized the shooter.
How About We Start Minding Our Own Business
The Obama administration works assiduously at redacting the words “Islam” and “terrorism” from government manuals, appearing, like the elites in Brussels, more concerned with salving the sensibilities of the Muslim community than protecting the lives of the innocent. Similarly, the administration asks what is in the interests of foreign migrants and refugees rather than what immigration policies serve the interests of our nation.
Perhaps the sharpest contrast between how common people see things and how elites would have them see things became evident with the recent New York bombings in Chelsea. Mayor Bill de Blasio bent over backwards not to utter the word “terrorism” to describe the obvious, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo was willing to say “terrorism,” while denying that it was international terrorism. To the average New Yorker, these semantic hair splits reveal an elite that doesn’t trust the public with the truth even when it’s staring the citizenry in the face.
How does a mass public react to such experiences? In Britain, it was to sever the ties to Brussels. In America, it’s to support an outlier whose voice does not conform to the normal rules of politics but whose narrative resonates with that mass of Americans who feel that their elites have deserted them.
Brexit and the rise of the Trump candidacy are two sides of the same coin. Whether Trump wins or loses, an alienated mass exists in America that is ripe for mobilization, and future power-seekers will not ignore that opportunity.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center