It has been a good year for journalists. I have never known better. There has been an endless march of upsets, twists, turns, worries, cheers, jeers, doom, gloom and unadulterated surprised joy.
Half the world is sunk into a slough of despond deeper than the Marianas Trench and the other half is waving their anti-globalist flags from the top of Everest.
The Western world is the most divided it has been since World War Two. Divided within countries and divided between countries.
The authoritarian East is a different story. They are watching the democratic West self-destruct and going about their business and rattling their sabres to let the rest of the world know that they are prepared to move into the yawning political vacuum.
Russia is well-placed to pick up the pieces from America’s failed Middle East policy. The victory in Aleppo has established the military supremacy of Vladimir Putin’s buddy Bashar al-Assad—the dictator everyone loves to hate. They hate him almost as much as they do Russia and Syria’s other regional ally—theocratic Iran.
But Putin is not trying to win a popularity contest. He wants power and is prepared to go to any length—including manipulating US presidential elections—to obtain it.
China’s President Xi Jinping is no model of restraint. His growing military bases in the South China Sea are a testament to that.
Another fascinating Eastern potentate is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is busily burning the bridge that has been the traditional Turkish role between East and West.
The Brexit campaign started the ball rolling and introduced the word-post-truth into the political lexicon. The word became so popular that the Oxford English Dictionary named it word of the year. Politicians have never been known for their veracity, but they outdid themselves in 2016 as the Brexiteers discovered that if you shout loud enough and long enough—no matter how outrageous the lie—you will be believed if it is a lie that the neglected voters want to believe.
Of course, the Brexiteers did not act alone. They had a significant boost from the opposing Remain campaign. To start with, there was the decision of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to put party before country and call the referendum in the first place. Then there was the lacklustre performance of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn which has left a continuing question mark hanging over his actual position on the Brexit issue.
‘Surreal’ is another good word describe it. And, funnily enough, that is the word of the year for the American dictionary publishers Merriam-Webster. That and ‘post-truth‘ are both excellent descriptions of the culmination of the political year: The election of billionaire property developer Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.
His campaign was one long xenophobic, misogynistic, narcissistic rant. It included the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate; an attack on menstruating journalists; locker room banter; an attack on the parents of a American war hero; a proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, the branding of Mexican immigrants as rapists and finally, he exposed himself as friendless by declaring: “I am the smartest man I know.”
But half of the American voters—actually less than half—believed him, because like their British cousins they feel disenfranchised by years of political neglect, and the lies were the ones they wanted to believe.
As has been the case for centuries, the Anglo-Saxons are leading the world. Gaps between pro and anti-Europeans, pro and anti-immigration, pro and anti-globalisation are breaking out in France, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Italy—all across what used to be called the Western Alliance.
It has been a good year for me—I am a journalist– and with the world still terribly divided, 2017 looks even better. For the rest of you, well….
Tom Arms is a broadcaster and columnist focused on world affairs. You can hear his weekly world affairs podcast at www.lookaheadnews.com and follow him on twitter @LookAheadTV. Tom is available for public speaking engagements.
LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 26 December: