So it went. Trump’s electoral victory was naturally the most horrifying shock of all, but that of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines brought an even more outlandish character to the presidency. On the debit side of the political ledger, François Hollande, president of France, found himself so unpopular that he gave up any hope of re-election. The prime minister of Iceland resigned in disgrace after the hack of the Panama Papers. The elected leaders of Greece, Spain, and Venezuela, at the end of 2016, clung to power by their fingernails.
Random forces and local context determined the specific shape of these events: but I believe they all shared something in common. Democratic institutions, as currently structured, require a semi-monopoly over political information. To organize the application of power, democratic governments, parties, and politicians must retain some control over the story told about them by the public. The elite fixation with “fake news,” like the demand that Trump drop out of Twitter, are both a function of the fact that institutional politics live and die by gatekeeping.
It’s too late in the day for that. Trump will continue tweeting, so long as he finds it useful. The public, rather than government or media, will decide the legitimacy of the news. The institutions have lost control of information, and are engaged in a catastrophic process of dis-organization.
Everywhere in the wild storm of 2016, information meant negation, and negation – the public’s fury and disgust – swamped established systems of power.