Mathieu von Rohr

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I’d have readily voted for Bernie Sanders, noted Caucasian whisperer, had he been Donald Trump’s chief competitor in the 2016 General Election, though I could say the same of a bag of rats or a fistful of polio germs. Three main problems with Bernie:

  1. His numbers (economic, inmate reduction, etc.) were bullshit.
  2. His TV ads were whiter than Trump’s.
  3. Populism is stupid regardless of who’s selling it.

Not that he wouldn’t have accomplished some good things, but I think the Vermonter would have disappointed in many ways.

In a Spiegel interview conducted by Mathieu von Rohr, Bernie speaks about the madness of King Trump, asserting that impeachment, should it come, needs to be brought about slowly and bilaterally. An excerpt:

Is Trump in his eyes an autocrat, or does he simply fail to understand the constitutional limits of the presidency? “The answer is both,” Sanders replies. “I think he has authoritarian tendencies. The fact that he feels comfortable with authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and others around the world, suggests to me that he is an authoritarian-type personality.” Trump, says Sanders, is also working “hand in glove” with the “billionaire class to move this country in a very oligarchic direction.”

Instead of looking at his interlocutor when answering questions, Sanders gazes at the wall with an expression of deep concentration. When he gets worked up, he waves both arms in the air. This man, who inspired so many people last year, isn’t exactly a cheerful person. He seems like a maverick who, despite his age, has a youthful smile. He speaks clearly and directly, and while he may come across as a little bit stiff in the process, it is what makes him authentic to his fans.

Impeachment is Premature

Are America’s institutions strong enough to resist Donald Trump? “Good question!” Sanders snarls, looking pleased. “We certainly hope so, but he is trying to attack those institutions.” When Trump attacks the press and tries to intimidate it, he wonders, “will the media remain strong and be willing to take him on? I think at this point, they have. Will the judiciary remain independent? I certainly hope that they will.”

He says he is now working to drive “right-wing Republicans” out of Congress in next year’s midterm elections and Trump’s unpopularity is already putting pressure on Republican candidates throughout the country. By-elections are scheduled in some traditionally Republican districts in the coming weeks, and suddenly the Democrats have a higher chance of winning some of them.

Many Trump opponents, however, don’t want to wait until 2018. They want the president removed from office because of his attempt to stop the FBI’s investigation into his campaign team. But Sanders is reserved when it comes to impeachment. “You have to allow the facts to go where they go,” he says. “If we are premature on that, if we are so-called ‘jumping the gun,’ making conclusions that are not yet based enough on facts, I think that could be counterproductive. The goal is to bring the American people as a whole along in a bipartisan way.”

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The messenger is supposed to bring the truth, not his or her wishes. It was more than 50 years ago when Marshall McLuhan predicted a Global Village, and those who believed the theorist was happy about this development were listening, at best, with one ear. The prospect frightened him

McLuhan feared the whole world being connected, thought it an invitation for mayhem, rightly believing local skirmishes would be played out on a gigantic stage. Believing a flatter world will be a more peaceful one assumes that everyone is driven by money, not ideology, not madness. 

Everything seems to arrive with more speed and regularity now, social justice and sorties alike. The whole world is in you pocket now, and it’s exploding.

Excerpts from 1)  Mathieu von Rohr’s Spiegel essay “Apocalypse Now,” and 2) Nicholas Carr’s Rough Type post “The Global Village of Violence.”

From von Rohr:

We are living in an age of shocks and crises that could well be traumatizing in their rapid succession and concentration, since it’s not yet clear whether they’re only a temporary jolt or the beginning of a trend with no end in sight. Of course, the sheer number of conflicts has remained constant in recent years. But there is much indication that we find ourselves in a new era of global instability. The biggest geopolitical stories of our time are the destabilization in the Middle East, the European security order and the European Union. In addition, there has been a societal shift in many Western countries: Many citizens are angry at the elites, because they see themselves as victims of globalization, free trade and migration. This anger has enabled the rise of political movements from the fringe to the mainstream in only a few years: Donald Trump, the Brexit movement, Front National and the Alternative for Germany, or AfD. The classic political camps are dissolving as the battle between the political left and the right is replaced by one between Isolationists and Internationalists.

Every now and then, there are phases in international politics during which more happens in the span of a few weeks than would otherwise happen in decades. Do 2014 and 2016 fall into that category? They’re not comparable to the most dramatic phases of the past century, when both World Wars broke out; nor are they anything like 1989, when the Cold War ended and the world order was rearranged. It’s also unclear whether this year will end with the same chaotic violence it started with.

But it is rather likely that global insecurity will become the new status quo.•

From Carr:

We assume that communication and harmony go hand in hand, like a pair of flower children on a garden path. If only we all could share our thoughts and feelings with everyone else all the time, we’d overcome our distrust and fear and live together peaceably. We’d see that we are all one. Facebook and other social media disabuse us of this notion. To be “all one” is to be dissolved — and for many people that is a threat that requires a reaction.

Eamonn Fitzgerald points to a recently uploaded video of a Canadian TV interview with Marshall McLuhan that aired in 1977. By the mid-seventies, a decade after his allotted minutes of fame, McLuhan had come to be dismissed as a mumbo-jumbo-spewing charlatan by the intelligentsia. What the intelligentsia found particularly irritating was that the mumbo jumbo McLuhan spewed fit no piety and often hit uncomfortably close to the mark.

Early on in the clip, the interviewer notes that McLuhan had long ago predicted that electronic communication systems would turn the world into a global village. Most of McLuhan’s early readers had taken this as a utopian prophecy. “But it seems,” the interviewer says, with surprise, “that this tribal world is not very friendly.”•

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If you were living in extreme poverty, in a place rotten with disease, who would you rather see, someone with a laissez–faire attitude who was proud of himself for not causing any unintended consequences as he stood on the sidelines, or someone like Jeffrey Sachs or Bill and Melinda Gates, who, sure, can’t make the world perfect, but who might give you some of the tools you need to survive, maybe even thrive a little? It’s awfully easy to dismiss philanthropists for their failings as they learn the best ways to succeed, but if I were in great need I would always gravitate to people who might give me something real even if it wasn’t ideal. From Samiha Shafy and Mathieu von Rohr’s Spiegel interview with Melinda Gates:


In your speech at the WHO, you said that you and your husband despise inequity. But isn’t it strange when you return from your trips to your luxurious mansion on Lake Washington outside of Seattle? A property for which you have to pay more than a million dollars a year in taxes.

Melinda Gates:

I think it is the same for you if you go to the developing world and then come home and get into your car with seat heaters. Or you come home, turn on your shower and you have hot water. I don’t care whether you live in a small apartment or in a giant house, there are inequities. Quite frankly, neither Bill nor I would build that house again if we had it to do all over again. But it’s a matter of what are you doing to battle those inequities and for Bill and me, we have now oriented our life around that. We’re spending not only our money, but also our time.


Are you doing so partly out of a sense of guilt?

Melinda Gates:

No, I wouldn’t say guilt. We feel like we have a responsibility. Any of us that is lucky enough to grow up in a country like Germany or Great Britain or Japan or the US ought to do something for the rest of the world.


The French economist Thomas Piketty recently triggered a debate with his book in which he argues that iniquities are also growing in the industrialized world. His recipe is that of raising taxes for the very rich. Do you agree with him?

Melinda Gates:

Bill and I are both in favor of an estate tax and we’ve actually been quite outspoken about that. But it hasn’t gotten very far in the US. If you’re in the upper quartile of income in any of these wealthy economies, you ought to give back more than other people. Bill, Warren Buffett and I are quite involved in trying to get people of substantial wealth to commit to giving half back, either in their lifetime or at their death.”

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Sometimes an extremist fringe in a country can actually be a good sign. Because it’s being routed by progress and good sense, such a faction makes noise that can be misheard as a rallying cry when it’s really a death rattle. But if such a group moves from the margins to the center, that’s cause for concern. Marine Le Pen, daughter of racist cuckoo clock Jean-Marie Le Pen and leader of France’s Far Right Front National Party, which enjoyed surprising success in the country’s recent elections, just sat for an interview with Mathieu von Rohr of Spiegel. The opening:


Ms. Le Pen, having won 25 percent of the French vote, your Front National party stands as one of the primary beneficiaries of the May 25 European Parliament election. How could such a thing come to pass?

Marine Le Pen:

The French want to regain control of their own country. They want to determine the course of their own economy and their immigration policies. They want their own laws to take precedence over those of the European Union. The French have understood that the EU does not live up to the utopia they were sold. It has distanced itself significantly from a democratic mode of operation.


Yet, prior to the election, it was said that the establishment of lead candidates for the two biggest groups — Jean-Claude Juncker for the center-right and Martin Schulz for the center-left — would strengthen democracy in the EU.

Marine Le Pen:

That is totally bogus. Everybody knew that the parliament wouldn’t be making the final decision on the next president of the European Commission.


Do you want to destroy Europe?

Marine Le Pen:

I want to destroy the EU, not Europe! I believe in a Europe of nation-states. I believe in Airbus and Ariane, in a Europe based on cooperation. But I don’t want this European Soviet Union.


The EU is a vast project for peace. It has helped ensure 70 years without war on the Continent.

Marine Le Pen:

No. Europe is war. Economic war. It is the increase of hostilities between the countries. Germans are denigrated as being cruel, the Greeks as fraudsters, the French as lazy. Ms. Merkel can’t travel to any European country without being protected by hundreds of police. That is not brotherhood.”

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