Of States, Narco-Outfits and the Economist

Length Estimate: Long (words > 1000)

In its August 27th, 2016 issue, the Economist magazine ran articles on two prominent extralegal organizations that relied on the trade in narcotics for funding their organization. The organizations in question are Camorra, the Italian mafia outfit and subject of Robert Saviano’s book Gomorrah, and the FARC, a Colombian left-wing guerrilla army. The magazine’s treatment of these topics is a glaring example of the inconsistencies of its liberal, free market ideology.

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Hanjin There

Length Estimate: Medium (500 < words <  1000 )

Recently, the seventh largest shipping company in the world – Hanjin of South Korea – collapsed. The sources from which I get my news called it a Lehmann-esque event, referring to the collapse of American investment bank Lehmann Brothers in 2008 that prefaced the Great Recession. However, the issue has largely subsided after a brief spike of interest; if you hadn’t been keeping up with the news last week you would have missed that it happened altogether. There is, after all, a farce presidential campaign going on and anything not immediately relevant to it is relegated to second-class citizen status.

This state of events raises questions about the people who determine what we get to consume as news, but this is not relevant to this post. The internet has allowed for an explosion of information and we naturally tend towards easy to digest, curated sources from dubiously objective and somewhat reliable “news” organizations. But it has also lead to an abundance of independent blogs that cover material often considered news-unworthy by these organizations. So, there is at least the opportunity to self-select yourself into knowledge that is more relevant than the latest report on how this-or-that important person holds this-or-that shocking belief.

Anyway, I digress. The collapse of Hanjin is not only not a one-off event, but it is indicative of a larger global situation that has received little coverage in the mainstream news outside of a few heterodox opinion columns.

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The Abyss Stares Back

Length Estimate: Medium (500 < words < 1000)

2016 has demonstrated that right-wing populism is no longer a reactionary force that rears its head precisely when people are at their most vulnerable – in the aftermath of political and economic crises.

In 2016, it has become a creative force. And a titanic one at that. Donald Trump and Brexit are two of its very real, and very potent, products. And that is just counting two of the obvious (and apparently only newsworthy) ones. Right-wing populism is no longer just a spike of vented racism and bigotry that emerges in the brief interval between a crisis and return to things-as-usual. It is now an organized and anticipatory force that can not be dismissed either as frustrated racism or opportunistic politicization of legitimate public concerns.

The rise and persistence of this phenomenon has confounded many observers; the traditional forces of centrist rationalism are scrambling to respond.

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