Tony Blair Warns "Fragile" Western Democracies Are In "Peril"

A few days ago we wrote an article asking how stable the world's democracies really were and noted the opinion of at least one Harvard historian who saw extreme risk related to the global wave of anti-establishment sentiment (see "How Stable Are The World's Democracies? - 'Warning Signs Are Flashing Red'").  Apparently Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, agrees that the political upheaval from Brexit to Trump to the collapse of the Italian government on Sunday signal the most dangerous time for Western democracies in decades.

Per the USA Today, in speaking to a group of business leaders at the No Labels conference, Blair noted being startled by the number of people "longing" for an authoritarian leader saying "it's amazing how many people you will find who will reference a style of leadership of (Russian) President Putin in a positive way."

"It does feel perilous, actually, because I think there are decisions that are being taken of vast moment in circumstances where systems are fragile," he told Capital Download on Monday. "And that is troubling."

 

Of particular concern to him is a "longing" for an authoritarian leader.

 

"It's amazing how many people you will find who will reference a style of leadership of (Russian) President Putin in a positive way," he told USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series. "I think people want their country moving and they think that if the present system is not moving it, and not making the changes that they want to see, then maybe someone who just says, 'I don't care what anyone thinks; I'm just going to go for it, and this is what I'm going to do' — that has a certain attraction.

 

"If the center isn't a place of strength and vitality, and it looks kind of flabby and just managing the status quo, then you're at risk of someone coming along and doing that."

Tony Blair

 

Blair also noted an "immense amount of anger at the established ways of doing things," something he attributed, at least in part, to social media and the rise of "fake news."  Blair went on to warn that the new wave of media "locks people into conversations with people who just agree with them, and who then have a general conspiracy-theory view of the rest of the world."  Yes, we suspect that the new wave of media would be frightening to established politicians who are used to exercising complete control over the media narrative. 

"There is immense amount of anger at established ways of doing things," Blair said. "There is, I think, a whole group of people who feel ignored by those in power, that is for sure true. There is more anger around in politics than for a long time." While issues such as immigration aren't new, there is "much greater skepticism towards globalization and the benefits of it."

 

What's more, "social media is a revolutionary phenomenon," he went on. "It changes the way politics works. It changes the way the media works. If we're not careful, it locks people into conversations with people who just agree with them, and who then have a general conspiracy-theory view of the rest of the world."

In the end, Blair expressed greater concern for European democracies many of which, he said, are at a "point of fragility that troubles me."

"I'm less worried about America than I am about Europe; I'll be very frank with you," he said. "America is such a strong country and you've got so many checks-and-balances and you've got such resilience in your economy and so on; you guys will do fine, I'm sure. In Europe, we have systems that are at a point of fragility that troubles me."

In summary, people around the world are pissed off and it's loosely attributable to "fake news" and Russia.

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