You stink: how authoritarians make us all shitty

In both US and UK politics, there is currently a massive divide over ideas and policies. Strangely, the divide seems stronger and ruder now that then split is much more equal. There was roughly a 50:50 split on both Trump and Brexit.

The change seems to be in a rising idea that victory (however tight) is a one off event and any argument after it is wrong. This is a very authoritarian idea.

I just want to clarify 2 things that authoritarian politics does that is different to normal politics.

Let’s agree to disagree

In the old day of Left/Right politics, there was always the straight purity of argument at either extreme. People who knew they were right and knew others were wrong.

Generally, they just lobbed ideas at the opposition from a distance.

The middle ground, the battleground, was alway a mess of ideals and compromises. The too and fro of what is imaginable and what is do’able.

Politics could be argued about as it was a messy and direct process.

Being sick on the carpet

Authoritarianism, and its twin Popularism, is like a cat being sick on the living room carpet rug.

It stinks and it makes reasonable debate hard.

The whole point of authoritarianism is to make extremists of us all. The two things authoritarians do are:

  • Trash the middle ground
  • Claim popularity (with no proof)

They can then argue whatever they like (the randomness is the pattern) and make strong enemies of Left and Right.

Yet the strong anger of Left and Right now and the vicious language is due to the stench created by authoritarians not by the Left or Right.

The removal of a centre space for debate and discussion creates these extremes. The distance from each other makes compromise seem hard. The cry of Popularism makes joining together and opposing bad ideas seem difficult.

It’s not you and it’s not them

The loss of reasonable debate in US and UK is because we have lost the middle ground of foggy compromise.

Authoritarians trashed that space.

The Left and Right aren’t to blame for all the problems really, your neighbours aren’t that much worse than before really. The extremes are exaggerated, the fears are exaggerated. The debates are minimised, the compromises are minimised.

The stench that they created is what pollutes our debates. We are too polite to point at them and say that they smell.

Authoritarians have polluted the democratic system.

We need to clean up their mess, put it in the trash and close the door on them.

I wrote this post because of another article about Brexit saying that we are all Brexiters now. This is an authoritarian demand and a populist lie.

We definitely need to stop anyone saying that a vote has happened and so debate must stop.

That idea is one big pile of cat sick.



Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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Alastair Somerville

Alastair Somerville


Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX