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Donald Trump, Rascrucea vremurilor

Trump’s top trade adviser accuses Germany of currency exploitation
Berlin is using a ‘grossly undervalued’ euro to gain advantage over trading partners, says Navarro

Germany is using a “grossly undervalued” euro to “exploit” the US and its EU partners, Donald Trump’s top trade adviser has said in comments that are likely to trigger alarm in Europe’s largest economy.

Peter Navarro, the head of Mr Trump’s new National Trade Council, told the Financial Times the euro was like an “implicit Deutsche Mark” whose low valuation gave Germany an advantage over its main trading partners. His views suggest the new administration is focusing on currency as part of its hard-charging approach on trade ties.

In a departure from past US policy, Mr Navarro also called Germany one of the main hurdles to a US trade deal with the EU and declared talks with the bloc over a US-EU agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, dead.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, responded to Mr Navarro’s allegations, saying Germany could not influence the euro. At a press conference in Stockholm with Stefan Lofven, Sweden’s prime minister, Ms Merkel said Germany has always “supported an independent European Central Bank”.

The Trump administration has publicly declared it prefers bilateral trade deals rather than the broad multilateral accords pursued by Barack Obama, Mr Trump’s predecessor. Mr Trump last week also withdrew from a 12-country Pacific Rim deal negotiated by Mr Obama.

“A big obstacle to viewing TTIP as a bilateral deal is Germany, which continues to exploit other countries in the EU as well as the US with an ‘implicit Deutsche Mark’ that is grossly undervalued,” Mr Navarro said. “The German structural imbalance in trade with the rest of the EU and the US underscores the economic heterogeneity [diversity] within the EU — ergo, this is a multilateral deal in bilateral dress.”

Germany’s large trade surplus with the US and much of the eurozone has been a point of friction in Brussels and Washington for several years, with both capitals calling for Berlin to stimulate domestic demand to rebalance its economy.

Critics have argued Berlin has disproportionally benefited from weakness in the rest of the eurozone, which has held the euro lower than other regional currencies, like the Swiss Franc, making German exports cheaper in overseas markets like China and the US.

Despite those differences, most debate over German economic policy during the Obama administration was cloaked in diplomatic language; Mr Navarro’s comments highlight a growing willingness by the Trump administration to antagonise EU leaders and particularly the German chancellor.

Besides publicly supporting the British government in its negotiations with the EU over the terms of its exit, Mr Trump called the EU a vehicle for Germany, and Nato an obsolete alliance.

Mr Navarro’s intervention follows a visit to Washington last week by Theresa May, the British prime minister, in which she and Mr Trump discussed ways to launch negotiations for a US-UK trade deal. Mr Navarro said the Brexit vote marked the death knell of a US-EU deal; Britain had been one of the pact’s leading advocates.

“Brexit killed TTIP on both sides of the Atlantic even before the election of Donald Trump. I personally view TTIP as a multilateral deal with many countries under one ‘roof’,” Mr Navarro wrote in emailed responses to FT questions.

Although criticisms of German economic policy have been a staple of Group of 20 gathering since the height of the eurozone crisis, the view Berlin is intentionally advocating a weak euro to its own economic benefit is not widely shared.

The euro has weakened against the dollar over the past two years as the paths of the central banks of the two currency zones have split. The European Central Bank’s mass bond-buying programme has weakened the single currency, while rate hikes by the US Fed has strengthened the dollar.

But Berlin has been a leading critic of the ECB’s strategy. The Bundesbank has called for an end to bond buying, while lawmakers have pushed for higher rates — both measures which would strengthen the euro.

Mr Navarro said one of the administration’s trade priorities was unwinding and repatriating the international supply chains on which many US multinational companies rely, taking aim at one of the pillars of the modern global economy.

“It does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components,” he said. “We need to manufacture those components in a robust domestic supply chain that will spur job and wage growth.”

Mr Navarro, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, all but endorsed an import tax plan pushed by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives that has split the US business community. The proposal would eliminate companies’ ability to deduct import costs from their taxable revenues while making any export revenues tax-free. It drew attention last week when the White House pointed to it as one way in which it could pay for a wall on the Mexican border.

Exporters such as General Electric have hailed the switch to a “border adjustable” system as putting them on an equal footing with international competitors that are able to claim value added tax refunds on their exports. Retailers such as Walmart and other import-dependent businesses, however, say that what would amount to 20 per cent tax on imports would raise consumer prices and hurt their businesses.

“The unequal treatment of the US income tax system under biased WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules is a grossly unfair subsidy to foreigners exporting to the US and a backdoor tariff on American exports to the world that kills American jobs and drives American factories offshore,” Mr Navarro said. “President Trump promised during the campaign he would put an end to this unfair treatment of our income tax, and the House border adjustable proposal offers one possible option among several.”

Mr Navarro rejected the argument that US consumers would end up paying the cost of such a tax change. That was “an old and tired argument the globalist wing of the offshoring lobby has used for years to put Americans out of work and depress wages by shipping our jobs offshore”.

“We prefer paychecks to welfare checks for the American people and a robust middle class with rising wages,” he said.

Proponents argue that at least some of the impact on consumers would be absorbed by a one-time appreciation in the dollar. That in turn, they concede, could also impact on US export competitiveness and lead to a widening of the US trade deficit with the world, which the Trump administration has vowed to reduce.

Mr Navarro, however, said he was not concerned about the possibility of a stronger dollar and its impact on US exports.

“I worry about the actual impact America’s trade deficit in goods is having on our rates of economic growth and income growth.”


Negative carry
If anyone was confused about why the EU exists and the reasons its a good idea, then this Navarro person has just given it to you. Trump wants the EU to dissolve because he knows that he can negotiate a better deal against the parts rather than the whole. He is sending out his staff to attack and divide. Once you Brexit, you will be another state of the US in all but name. Your negotiation position and the deal you think you will have struck will be at the whim of an intellectual 8 year old.

If ever there was a time for security in numbers, this is it. " Dark times loom, bad people are coming...."

Tony Islington
The reason why Germany performs so well at trade is because it has world class companies making world class products supported by world class education.

When BMW hired American workers for their plant in South Carolina they had to train some of the recruits using pictures because their level of reading was so poor. The United States needs to sort this out before it lectures more successful countries.

Yes, Germany is beneficiary of the Euro - but the markets determine the value, and the European Central Bank is like the BoE, independent.

These are just more awful statements from the right of the hard right of the Republican Party - they do not like unity, and like their English cousins, look to sow division. They know that division means more superiority for their country. It is tried and tested.

To think the English led UK want to bestow the privilege of a State Visit to an administration that looks to create such a mess on our own continent, just shows what equally awful people are running the UK, at the most critical time.

Trump is an unmitigated idiot. He paints America as a victim of globalisation. America is not only the architect, having imposed the design to anybody else, but it is also the biggest winner: we are surrounded but US products, technology, financial and consulting services and culture. The issue is not that the US is a victim, it has on balance benefited massively from the trend. It is that the winners (among whom Trump and his billionaire, Goldman and private equity / hedge fund buddies) have taken all the spoils and left nothing to the losers. This is a domestic matter, and from what I see, this is continuing. For sure his buddies are doing well, I am not sure if anything will trickle down. But that does not sell well, so scare people, attack the immigrants, accuse Germany, China, Mexico, of all the evils, and swipe you sh... under the carpet.

Pathetic infrastructure, schools, mass education. Yes, look at Germany, with their apprenticeship systems have really managed to defend their industries and craftsmanship. Looks at the Scandinavian, they are investing in their people (and yes, they are taxing them as well). Anglo-Saxons of the world, you could learn from that instead of giving B.S. lessons to the world, instead of voting for Brexit or Trump.

The worst are the naïve fools who voted from Trump not because they share his values (or lack thereof) but because they think he is a talented business man, a pragmatic, a man of success... you can always agree a deal with a business man, close a transaction. Or don't worry, he does not mean what he says.

No, he is a madman combining paranoia with narcissism. His policies are repulsive. He surrounds himself with dangerous well-to-do fascistic ideologues (they have enough cash in the bank not to worry about the consequence of their folly). He is slowly destroying decency and fairness. And America is powerful enough to do a lot of damage. Shame on you.

Dear Peter and Donald,

Germany is an export powerhouse because she makes great, fantastic, beautiful, amazing, and stupendous products that are smart, brilliant and innovative. Its nimble and highly efficient Mittelstand companies combined with a highly educated and disciplined workforce have made Germany into the great country that it is today - and a true engineering mecca.

In case you still don't get it, the kinds of products that Germany makes and sells are relatively price inelastic. Customers want engineering solutions that can work and are easy to work with no matter what the prices are! The trade surplus that Germany enjoys is therefore structural, not mercantilist. Just a little side note, Germany still did have a trade surplus even when 1 euro is worth 1.50 American dollars.

You could blame Germany, Mexico, China or the world for the decline of America's manufacturing/engineering industry but that will not help to improve American competitiveness, productivity, innovativeness, and quality of labor workforce. Shame that you have to resort to petty threat and malicious divide-and-rule strategy to bully other countries, including your own (ex) allies. What a sore loser.

Paul N. Goldschmidt
It is now clear why Donald Trump is pushing EU breakup: by attacking the "weak" € as a proxy for the DM it creates a wedge between Eurozone Members, the vast majority of which have benefitted from a weaker €. Surely, the right answer is deeper Eurozone integration and suitable measures to protect the single market. Only at the level of the single market with its 500 million consumers can we afford to treat the "external" value of the € with the same "benign neglect" as the USA do with their currency and 320 million domestic consumers. If we return to national currencies we will become totally dependent on the Dollar for international trade and will put the burden of adjustments on the Europeans by resorting to competitive devaluations. No wonder Trump backs EU breakup

peromaneste: Navarro este unul din consilierii electorali ai lui Trump, acum responsabil cu politica americana comerciala. Din ce a scris/spus pana acum, ne dam seama ca este un avocat al Pivotului catre Asia--ceea ce inseamna ca Europa romaneasca isi va relua cursul agreat de Bush I & Gorbi. 

Dati click aici pentru o discutie din 2015 despre o recenta carte a sa (Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World)

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book on China's growth and its military ambitions, January 4, 2016

A must read book for policy makers, politicians and anyone concerned about World order with China emerging as a super power intent on dominating Asia and its neighbors. By enabling China economically through free trade, US opened door for China to invest heavily into defense and get on par with US. A real conflict may be the horizon unless US reevaluates its military strength and make strong alliances in Asia and keep an active engagement. China is already pushing boundaries on what it considers its national waters by artificially building up islands and its own forward bases. With distractions in Middle East, US is unable focus on its strategy to Pivot to Asia. With not so strong economy, costly wars, and declining military spend, US may have no choice and pull back from Asia. If that ever happens, it will be a disaster for China's neighbor countries like Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and India. If US were to slow down China's military growth, it needs to revisit trade policies and balance its trade, improve domestic manufacturing, diversify trade with other countries like India with military alliances.

1.0 out of 5 stars Crouching hawk, November 29, 2015
By Hande Z

I agree with the previous reviewer who gave this a one star. It is difficult to be impartial about this book. It is a four star or a one star. The book is supposedly based on interviews with more than thirty experts but it is not known what the experts say but from the snippets of quotations from some of these experts, it is evident that they are all anti-China 'experts'. The questions posed at the top of each chapter are not only loaded but many are hypocritical. For example the ones in chapter 39 in which Navarro asks: 'Which of these statements most accurately characterizes China's perspective on transparency, negotiations, and the rule of law: 1. China likes to build direct communication links to minimize tensions and avoid miscalculations; 2. China favours transparency when it comes to revealing its military capabilities; 3. China prefers to operate in a multilateral, rather than bilateral, negotiating framework and does not seek to gain leverage over smaller nations; 4. China plays strictly within the rules of international organizations such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization; 5. China has a strong track record in abiding by the agreements that it negotiates. The answers are virtually 'None of the above'. The same can be said if one were to substitute 'America' for 'China' - only America may appear an even bigger version of the depicted China.

The author has a photograph of Chinese soldiers sitting in front of computer screens and the caption was: 'A platoon of China's more than one hundred thousand cyber warriors. From digital sweatshops like these China infiltrates the computers of the Pentagon and American industry with computer viruses, Trojans, and worms.' The books also refer to American environmentalists and human rights activists as 'those pesky' environmental and human rights activists'. This is not just another 'China bashing' book. It reads like a voice-over of Donald Trump. It is a disservice to both China and America.



Big Brother got a new middle name, facebook

Written by Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory? Two reporters from Zurich-based Das Magazin (where an earlier version of this story appeared in December in German) went data-gathering.

On November 9 at around 8.30 AM., Michal Kosinski woke up in the Hotel Sunnehus in Zurich. The 34-year-old researcher had come to give a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) about the dangers of Big Data and the digital revolution. Kosinski gives regular lectures on this topic all over the world. He is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. When he turned on the TV that morning, he saw that the bombshell had exploded: contrary to forecasts by all leading statisticians, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States.

For a long time, Kosinski watched the Trump victory celebrations and the results coming in from each state. He had a hunch that the outcome of the election might have something to do with his research. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned off the TV.

On the same day, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: "We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump's extraordinary win," Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in tailor-made suits and designer glasses, with his wavy blonde hair combed back from his forehead. His company wasn't just integral to Trump's online campaign, but to the UK's Brexit campaign as well.

Of these three players—reflective Kosinski, carefully groomed Nix and grinning Trump—one of them enabled the digital revolution, one of them executed it and one of them benefited from it.

How dangerous is big data?

Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every "like" is stored. Especially every "like." For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have—except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we've Googled "reduce blood pressure."

On November 9, it became clear that maybe much more is possible. The company behind Trump's online campaign—the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its "Brexit" campaign—was a Big Data company: Cambridge Analytica.

To understand the outcome of the election—and how political communication might work in the future—we need to begin with a strange incident at Cambridge University in 2014, at Kosinski's Psychometrics Center.

Psychometrics, sometimes also called psychographics, focuses on measuring psychological traits, such as personality. In the 1980s, two teams of psychologists developed a model that sought to assess human beings based on five personality traits, known as the "Big Five." These are: openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are you easily upset?). Based on these dimensions—they are also known as OCEAN, an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism—we can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person in front of us. This includes their needs and fears, and how they are likely to behave. The "Big Five" has become the standard technique of psychometrics. But for a long time, the problem with this approach was data collection, because it involved filling out a complicated, highly personal questionnaire. Then came the Internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski.

Michal Kosinski was a student in Warsaw when his life took a new direction in 2008. He was accepted by Cambridge University to do his PhD at the Psychometrics Centre, one of the oldest institutions of this kind worldwide. Kosinski joined fellow student David Stillwell (now a lecturer at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge) about a year after Stillwell had launched a little Facebook application in the days when the platform had not yet become the behemoth it is today. Their MyPersonality app enabled users to fill out different psychometric questionnaires, including a handful of psychological questions from the Big Five personality questionnaire ("I panic easily," "I contradict others"). Based on the evaluation, users received a "personality profile"—individual Big Five values—and could opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with the researchers.

Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts.

Kosinski had expected a few dozen college friends to fill in the questionnaire, but before long, hundreds, thousands, then millions of people had revealed their innermost convictions. Suddenly, the two doctoral candidates owned the largest dataset combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected.

The approach that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the next few years was actually quite simple. First, they provided test subjects with a questionnaire in the form of an online quiz. From their responses, the psychologists calculated the personal Big Five values of respondents. Kosinski's team then compared the results with all sorts of other online data from the subjects: what they "liked," shared or posted on Facebook, or what gender, age, place of residence they specified, for example. This enabled the researchers to connect the dots and make correlations.

Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who "liked" the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was "liking" Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.

Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook "likes" by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether deduce whether someone's parents were divorced.

The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject's answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook "likes." Seventy "likes" were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 "likes" what their partner knew. More "likes" could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves. On the day that Kosinski published these findings, he received two phone calls. The threat of a lawsuit and a job offer. Both from Facebook.

Michal Kosinski. Courtesy of Kosinski

Only weeks later Facebook "likes" became private by default. Before that, the default setting was that anyone on the internet could see your "likes." But this was no obstacle to data collectors: while Kosinski always asked for the consent of Facebook users, many apps and online quizzes today require access to private data as a precondition for taking personality tests. (Anybody who wants to evaluate themselves based on their Facebook "likes" can do so on Kosinski's website, and then compare their results to those of a classic Ocean questionnaire, like that of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center.)

Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

But it was not just about "likes" or even Facebook: Kosinski and his team could now ascribe Big Five values based purely on how many profile pictures a person has on Facebook, or how many contacts they have (a good indicator of extraversion). But we also reveal something about ourselves even when we're not online. For example, the motion sensor on our phone reveals how quickly we move and how far we travel (this correlates with emotional instability). Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

Above all, however—and this is key—it also works in reverse: not only can psychological profiles be created from your data, but your data can also be used the other way round to search for specific profiles: all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats? Essentially, what Kosinski had invented was sort of a people search engine. He started to recognize the potential—but also the inherent danger—of his work.

To him, the internet had always seemed like a gift from heaven. What he really wanted was to give something back, to share. Data can be copied, so why shouldn't everyone benefit from it? It was the spirit of a whole generation, the beginning of a new era that transcended the limitations of the physical world. But what would happen, wondered Kosinski, if someone abused his people search engine to manipulate people? He began to add warnings to most of his scientific work. His approach, he warned, "could pose a threat to an individual's well-being, freedom, or even life." But no one seemed to grasp what he meant.

Around this time, in early 2014, Kosinski was approached by a young assistant professor in the psychology department called Aleksandr Kogan. He said he was inquiring on behalf of a company that was interested in Kosinski's method, and wanted to access the MyPersonality database. Kogan wasn't at liberty to reveal for what purpose; he was bound to secrecy.

At first, Kosinski and his team considered this offer, as it would mean a great deal of money for the institute, but then he hesitated. Finally, Kosinski remembers, Kogan revealed the name of the company: SCL, or Strategic Communication Laboratories. Kosinski Googled the company: "[We are] the premier election management agency," says the company's website. SCL provides marketing based on psychological modeling. One of its core focuses: Influencing elections. Influencing elections? Perturbed, Kosinski clicked through the pages. What kind of company was this? And what were these people planning?

What Kosinski did not know at the time: SCL is the parent of a group of companies. Who exactly owns SCL and its diverse branches is unclear, thanks to a convoluted corporate structure, the type seen in the UK Companies House, the Panama Papers, and the Delaware company registry. Some of the SCL offshoots have been involved in elections from Ukraine to Nigeria, helped the Nepalese monarch against the rebels, whereas others have developed methods to influence Eastern European and Afghan citizens for NATO. And, in 2013, SCL spun off a new company to participate in US elections: Cambridge Analytica.

Kosinski knew nothing about all this, but he had a bad feeling. "The whole thing started to stink," he recalls. On further investigation, he discovered that Aleksandr Kogan had secretly registered a company doing business with SCL. According to a December 2015 report in The Guardian and to internal company documents given to Das Magazin, it emerges that SCL learned about Kosinski's method from Kogan.

Kosinski came to suspect that Kogan's company might have reproduced the Facebook "Likes"-based Big Five measurement tool in order to sell it to this election-influencing firm. He immediately broke off contact with Kogan and informed the director of the institute, sparking a complicated conflict within the university. The institute was worried about its reputation. Aleksandr Kogan then moved to Singapore, married, and changed his name to Dr. Spectre. Michal Kosinski finished his PhD, got a job offer from Stanford and moved to the US.

Mr. Brexit

All was quiet for about a year. Then, in November 2015, the more radical of the two Brexit campaigns, "Leave.EU," supported by Nigel Farage, announced that it had commissioned a Big Data company to support its online campaign: Cambridge Analytica. The company's core strength: innovative political marketing—microtargeting—by measuring people's personality from their digital footprints, based on the OCEAN model.

After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done.

Now Kosinski received emails asking what he had to do with it—the words Cambridge, personality, and analytics immediately made many people think of Kosinski. It was the first time he had heard of the company, which borrowed its name, it said, from its first employees, researchers from the university. Horrified, he looked at the website. Was his methodology being used on a grand scale for political purposes?

After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done. Everywhere he went, Kosinski had to explain that he had nothing to do with this company. (It remains unclear how deeply Cambridge Analytica was involved in the Brexit campaign. Cambridge Analytica would not discuss such questions.)

For a few months, things are relatively quiet. Then, on September 19, 2016, just over a month before the US elections, the guitar riffs of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" fill the dark-blue hall of New York's Grand Hyatt hotel. The Concordia Summit is a kind of World Economic Forum in miniature. Decision-makers from all over the world have been invited, among them Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Please welcome to the stage Alexander Nix, chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica," a smooth female voice announces. A slim man in a dark suit walks onto the stage. A hush falls. Many in attendance know that this is Trump's new digital strategy man. (A video of the presentation was posted on YouTube.)

A few weeks earlier, Trump had tweeted, somewhat cryptically, "Soon you'll be calling me Mr. Brexit." Political observers had indeed noticed some striking similarities between Trump's agenda and that of the right-wing Brexit movement. But few had noticed the connection with Trump's recent hiring of a marketing company named Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix. Image: Cambridge Analytica

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," says Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix

Up to this point, Trump's digital campaign had consisted of more or less one person: Brad Parscale, a marketing entrepreneur and failed start-up founder who created a rudimentary website for Trump for $1,500. The 70-year-old Trump is not digitally savvy—there isn't even a computer on his office desk. Trump doesn't do emails, his personal assistant once revealed. She herself talked him into having a smartphone, from which he now tweets incessantly.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, relied heavily on the legacy of the first "social-media president," Barack Obama. She had the address lists of the Democratic Party, worked with cutting-edge big data analysts from BlueLabs and received support from Google and DreamWorks. When it was announced in June 2016 that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, the establishment in Washington just turned up their noses. Foreign dudes in tailor-made suits who don't understand the country and its people? Seriously?

"It is my privilege to speak to you today about the power of Big Data and psychographics in the electoral process." The logo of Cambridge Analytica— a brain composed of network nodes, like a map, appears behind Alexander Nix. "Only 18 months ago, Senator Cruz was one of the less popular candidates," explains the blonde man in a cut-glass British accent, which puts Americans on edge the same way that a standard German accent can unsettle Swiss people. "Less than 40 percent of the population had heard of him," another slide says. Cambridge Analytica had become involved in the US election campaign almost two years earlier, initially as a consultant for Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Cruz—and later Trump—was funded primarily by the secretive US software billionaire Robert Mercer who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is reported to be the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica.

"So how did he do this?" Up to now, explains Nix, election campaigns have been organized based on demographic concepts. "A really ridiculous idea. The idea that all women should receive the same message because of their gender—or all African Americans because of their race." What Nix meant is that while other campaigners so far have relied on demographics, Cambridge Analytica was using psychometrics.

Though this might be true, Cambridge Analytica's role within Cruz's campaign isn't undisputed. In December 2015 the Cruz team credited their rising success to psychological use of data and analytics. In Advertising Age, a political client said the embedded Cambridge staff was "like an extra wheel," but found their core product, Cambridge's voter data modeling, still "excellent." The campaign would pay the company at least $5.8 million to help identify voters in the Iowa caucuses, which Cruz won, before dropping out of the race in May.

Nix clicks to the next slide: five different faces, each face corresponding to a personality profile. It is the Big Five or OCEAN Model. "At Cambridge," he said, "we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America." The hall is captivated. According to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica's marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.

Nix candidly explains how his company does this. First, Cambridge Analytica buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend. Nix displays the logos of globally active data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included. Now Cambridge Analytica aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses.

The methodology looks quite similar to the one that Michal Kosinski once developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses, Nix told us, "surveys on social media" and Facebook data. And the company does exactly what Kosinski warned of: "We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people," Nix boasts.

He opens the screenshot. "This is a data dashboard that we prepared for the Cruz campaign." A digital control center appears. On the left are diagrams; on the right, a map of Iowa, where Cruz won a surprisingly large number of votes in the primary. And on the map, there are hundreds of thousands of small red and blue dots. Nix narrows down the criteria: "Republicans"—the blue dots disappear; "not yet convinced"—more dots disappear; "male", and so on. Finally, only one name remains, including age, address, interests, personality and political inclination. How does Cambridge Analytica now target this person with an appropriate political message?

Alexander Nix at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York. Image: Concordia Summit

Nix shows how psychographically categorized voters can be differently addressed, based on the example of gun rights, the 2nd Amendment: "For a highly neurotic and conscientious audience the threat of a burglary—and the insurance policy of a gun." An image on the left shows the hand of an intruder smashing a window. The right side shows a man and a child standing in a field at sunset, both holding guns, clearly shooting ducks: "Conversely, for a closed and agreeable audience. People who care about tradition, and habits, and family."

How to keep Clinton voters away from the ballot box

Trump's striking inconsistencies, his much-criticized fickleness, and the resulting array of contradictory messages, suddenly turned out to be his great asset: a different message for every voter. The notion that Trump acted like a perfectly opportunistic algorithm following audience reactions is something the mathematician Cathy O'Neil observed in August 2016.

These "dark posts"—sponsored Facebook posts that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," Alexander Nix remembers. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump's team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us. "We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals."

In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump's campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton. This was one of the goals: to keep potential Clinton voters (which include wavering left-wingers, African-Americans, and young women) away from the ballot box, to "suppress" their vote, as one senior campaign official told Bloomberg in the weeks before the election. These "dark posts"—sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

Nix finishes his lecture at the Concordia Summit by stating that traditional blanket advertising is dead. "My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication." And before leaving the stage, he announced that since Cruz had left the race, the company was helping one of the remaining presidential candidates.

Just how precisely the American population was being targeted by Trump's digital troops at that moment was not visible, because they attacked less on mainstream TV and more with personalized messages on social media or digital TV. And while the Clinton team thought it was in the lead, based on demographic projections, Bloomberg journalist Sasha Issenberg was surprised to note on a visit to San Antonio—where Trump's digital campaign was based—that a "second headquarters" was being created. The embedded Cambridge Analytica team, apparently only a dozen people, received $100,000 from Trump in July, $250,000 in August, and $5 million in September. According to Nix, the company earned over $15 million overall. (The company is incorporated in the US, where laws regarding the release of personal data are more lax than in European Union countries. Whereas European privacy laws require a person to "opt in" to a release of data, those in the US permit data to be released unless a user "opts out.")

Groundgame, an app for election canvassing that integrates voter data with "geospatial visualization technology," was used by campaigners for Trump and Brexit. Image: L2

The measures were radical: From July 2016, Trump's canvassers were provided with an app with which they could identify the political views and personality types of the inhabitants of a house. It was the same app provider used by Brexit campaigners. Trump's people only rang at the doors of houses that the app rated as receptive to his messages. The canvassers came prepared with guidelines for conversations tailored to the personality type of the resident. In turn, the canvassers fed the reactions into the app, and the new data flowed back to the dashboards of the Trump campaign.

Again, this is nothing new. The Democrats did similar things, but there is no evidence that they relied on psychometric profiling. Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the US population into 32 personality types, and focused on just 17 states. And just as Kosinski had established that men who like MAC cosmetics are slightly more likely to be gay, the company discovered that a preference for cars made in the US was a great indication of a potential Trump voter. Among other things, these findings now showed Trump which messages worked best and where. The decision to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign was made on the basis of data analysis. The candidate became the instrument for implementing a big data model.

What's Next?

But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? When asked, Cambridge Analytica was unwilling to provide any proof of the effectiveness of its campaign. And it is quite possible that the question is impossible to answer.

And yet there are clues: There is the fact of the surprising rise of Ted Cruz during the primaries. Also there was an increased number of voters in rural areas. There was the decline in the number of African-American early votes. The fact that Trump spent so little money may also be explained by the effectiveness of personality-based advertising. As does the fact that he invested far more in digital than TV campaigning compared to Hillary Clinton. Facebook proved to be the ultimate weapon and the best election campaigner, as Nix explained, and as comments by several core Trump campaigners demonstrate.

Cambridge Analytica counts among its clients the U.S. State Department, and has been reported to have communicated with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured here with Secretary of State John Kerry on July 19, 2016. Image: U.S. Dept. of State

Many voices have claimed that the statisticians lost the election because their predictions were so off the mark. But what if statisticians in fact helped win the election—but only those who were using the new method? It is an irony of history that Trump, who often grumbled about scientific research, used a highly scientific approach in his campaign.

Another big winner is Cambridge Analytica. Its board member Steve Bannon, former executive chair of the right-wing online newspaper Breitbart News, has been appointed as Donald Trump's senior counselor and chief strategist. Whilst Cambridge Analytica is not willing to comment on alleged ongoing talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Alexander Nix claims that he is building up his client base worldwide, and that he has received inquiries from Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. His company is currently touring European conferences showcasing their success in the United States. This year three core countries of the EU are facing elections with resurgent populist parties: France, Holland and Germany. The electoral successes come at an opportune time, as the company is readying for a push into commercial advertising.

Kosinski has observed all of this from his office at Stanford. Following the US election, the university is in turmoil. Kosinski is responding to developments with the sharpest weapon available to a researcher: a scientific analysis. Together with his research colleague Sandra Matz, he has conducted a series of tests, which will soon be published. The initial results are alarming: The study shows the effectiveness of personality targeting by showing that marketers can attract up to 63 percent more clicks and up to 1,400 more conversions in real-life advertising campaigns on Facebook when matching products and marketing messages to consumers' personality characteristics. They further demonstrate the scalability of personality targeting by showing that the majority of Facebook Pages promoting products or brands are affected by personality and that large numbers of consumers can be accurately targeted based on a single Facebook Page.

In a statement after the German publication of this article, a Cambridge Analytica spokesperson said, "Cambridge Analytica does not use data from Facebook. It has had no dealings with Dr. Michal Kosinski. It does not subcontract research. It does not use the same methodology. Psychographics was hardly used at all. Cambridge Analytica did not engage in efforts to discourage any Americans from casting their vote in the presidential election. Its efforts were solely directed towards increasing the number of voters in the election."

The world has been turned upside down. Great Britain is leaving the EU, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. And in Stanford, Kosinski, who wanted to warn against the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is once again receiving accusatory emails. "No," says Kosinski, quietly and shaking his head. "This is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I only showed that it exists."

Additional research for this report was provided by Paul-Olivier Dehaye.

Rost… de Dan Puric

DAn Puric

Când te desparți din vina ta, încerci o vreme să te lupți cu ireversibilul, îți dai seama că n-are sens, te lamentezi de formă și renunți. Când te desparți din vina celuilalt, ai nevoie de o perioadă de timp ca să înțelegi ce s-a întâmplat. Iei povestea de la capăt, pas cu pas, și te chinui să pricepi ce n-a fost bine și unde ar fi trebuit ca lucrurile să apuce pe alt drum.   La fel se întâmplă și atunci când te desparți de țara ta. Dezamăgit, înșelat, mânios, îndurerat. Nu ți-e usor s-o lași. Țara și mama nu ți le alegi. Te așezi pe celălalt mal al lumii și cauți răspunsul: ce s-a întâmplat cu țara mea de-am fost nevoit s-o părăsesc.
României i-a dispărut rostul. E o țară fără rost, în orice sens vreți voi. O țară cu oameni fără rost, cu orașe fără rost, cu drumuri fără rost, cu bani, muzică, mașini și țoale fără rost, cu relații și discuții fără rost, cu minciuni și înșelătorii care nu duc nicăieri. Există trei mari surse de rost pe lumea asta mare: familia, pământul și credința.
Bătrânii. România îi batjocorește cu sadism de 20 de ani. Îi ține în foame și în frig. Sunt umiliți, bruscați de funcționari, uitați de copii, călcați de mașini pe trecerea de pietoni. Sunt scoși la vot, ca vitele, momiți cu un kil de ulei sau de mălai de care, dinadins, au fost privați prin pensii de rahat. Vite slabe, flămânde și bătute, asta au ajuns bătrânii noștri. Câini ținuți afară iarna, fără măcar o mână de paie sub ciolane.   Dar, ce e cel mai grav, sunt nefolosiți. O fonotecă vie de experiență și înțelepciune a unei generații care a trăit atâtea grozăvii e ștearsă de pe bandă, ca să tragem manele peste. Fără bătrâni nu există familie. Fără bătrâni nu există viitor.
Pământul. Care pământ? Cine mai e legat de pământ în țara aia? Cine-l mai are și cine mai poate rodi ceva din el? Majestatea Sa Regele Thailandei susține un program care se intitulează "Sufficiency Economy", prin care oamenii sunt încurajați să crească pe lângă case tot ce le trebuie: un fruct, o legumă, o găină, un purcel. Foarte inteligent. Dacă se întâmplă vreo criză globală de alimente, thailandezii vor supraviețui fără ajutoare de la țările "prietene". La noi chestia asta se numește "agricultură de subzistență" și lui tanti Europa nu-i place. Tanti Europa vrea ca țăranii să-și cumpere roșiile și șoriciul de la hypermarketuri franțuzești și germane, că d-aia avem UE. Cântatul cocoșilor dimineața, lătratul vesel al lui Grivei, grohăitul lui Ghiță până de Ignat, corcodușele furate de la vecini și iazul cu sălcii și broaște sunt imagini pe care castrații de la Bruxelles nu le-au trăit, nu le pot înțelege și, prin urmare, le califică drept niște arhaisme barbare. Să dispară!   Din bețivii, leneșii și nebunii satului se trag ăștia care ne conduc acum. Neam de neamul lor n-a avut pământ, că nu erau în stare să-l muncească. Nu știu ce înseamnă pământul, câtă liniște și câtă putere îți dă, ce povești îți spune și cât sens aduce fiecărei dimineți și fiecărei seri. I-au urât întotdeauna pe cei care se trezeau la 5 dimineața și plecau la câmp cu ciorba în sufertaș. Pe toți gângavii și pe toți puturoșii ăștia i-au făcut comuniștii primari, secretari de partid, șefi de pușcării sau de cămine culturale. Pe toți ăștia, care au neamul îngropat la marginea cimitirului, de milă, de silă, creștinește.
Credinta. O mai poartă doar bătrânii și țăranii, câți mai sunt, cât mai sunt. Un strai vechi, cusut cu fir de aur, un strai vechi, greu de îmbrăcat, greu de dat jos, care trebuie împăturit într-un fel anume și pus la loc în lada de zestre împreună cu busuioc, smirnă și flori de câmp. Pus bine, că poate îl va mai purta cineva. Când or sa moară oamenii ăștia, o să-l ia cu ei la cer pe Dumnezeu.   Avem, în schimb, o variantă modernă de credință, cu fermoar și arici, prin care ți se văd și țâțele și portofelul burdușit. Se poartă la nunți, botezuri și înmormântări, la alegeri, la inundații, la sfințiri de sedii și aghesmuiri de mașini luxoase, la pomenirea eroilor Revoluției. Se accesorizează cu cruci făcute în grabă și cu un "Tatăl nostru" spus pe jumătate, că trebuie să răspunzi la mobil. Scuze, domnu' părinte, e urgent.   Fugim de ceva ca să ajungem nicăieri. Ne vindem pământul să facă ăștia depozite și vile de neam prost pe el. Ne sunăm bunicii doar de ziua lor, dacă au mai prins-o. Bisericile se înmulțesc, credincioșii se împuținează, sfinții de pe pereți se gândesc serios să aplice pentru viză de Canada .
Fetele noastre se prostituează până găsesc un italian bătrân și cu bani, cu care se mărită. Băieții noștri fură bancomate, joacă la pokere și beau de sting pentru că știu de la televizor că fetele noastre vor bani, altfel se prostituează până găsesc un italian bătrân cu care se mărită. Părinții noștri pleacă să culeagă căpșuni și să-i spele la cur pe vestici. Iar noi facem infarct și cancer pentru multinaționalele lor, conduse de securiștii nostri.
Sună-ți bunicii, pune o sămânță într-un ghiveci și aprinde o lumânare pentru vii și pentru morți.


Will France Sound the Death Knell for Social Democracy?

James Angelos
The defunct paper mill Sailliot worked at is in a small town called Wizernes, a worn-looking cluster of red-roofed homes surrounded by marshy parkland and intersected by the Aa River, which runs through the mill and other factories along its serpentine course to the North Sea. One morning, I found Sailliot and his colleagues sitting inside a prefabricated shed outside the mill, a base of resistance marked by a red C.G.T. flag planted in a rusty barrel. Sailliot and other union members had maintained a round-the-clock vigil since the mill’s closing, to draw national attention to their plight and also, they said, to ensure that the company did not secretly send trucks to disassemble the mill. The idea was to keep it ready for production in the event that another buyer came along. (Sequana, the company that owns the mill, said it would take it apart this year.) A pile of tires lay next to the shed, ready to be ignited if a blockade was deemed necessary. One of the men pointed out the scorched asphalt where he had set tires alight — ostensibly to prevent suspicious trucks from entering, but surely good theater too — and, with a devilish smile, expressed hope that he would soon get a chance to do it again. Inside the shed, posters covered the walls. One, with an image of a worker’s hand holding a hammer, called for a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Another, picturing Hollande, was captioned “the gravedigger of the left.”
I struck up a conversation with Bruno Evrard, a 49-year-old whose father had worked at the mill, as had his grandfather. Evrard worked at the plant for three decades and hoped to spend his working life there. Instead, he was now employed at a nearby cardboard factory on a week-to-week basis. Given the growth in online shopping, Evrard said, cardboard was a relatively good business to be in. Still, he didn’t want to get his hopes up. “They use temporary people like Kleenex,” he said.
Evrard asked me how American workers protected their jobs. “Eat or be eaten,” I said, trying to draw a laugh. But this seemed only to confirm the unionists’ view of America’s grim reality. “Are there a lot of ‘insecure’ jobs?” Evrard asked, meaning jobs with no protections from layoffs. Pretty much all private-sector jobs in America are insecure, I said, explaining that it was common for people to change employers many times over the course of a lifetime.
“That’s what they’re trying to do in France,” Evrard snapped. “The same kind of stupidity.”
“That’s the labor law,” Sailliot chimed in.
“It’s American,” Evrard said in perturbed agreement. “It’s American.”
Evrard told me that his opinion of the French Socialist Party, which brought this American idea to France, was “zero.” I asked him if that meant he would consider voting for the National Front. He came from a staunchly communist family and maintained his allegiance to the left, he told me. But it was an increasingly lonely position. All Evrard ever heard from his new co-workers was how the government took care of foreigners, not French workers. “I’m never on the right side of the conversation,” he said. The National Front has become “too big of a phenomenon.”
A paper mill in Wizernes, France. Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
Sailliot then gave me a tour of the expansive grounds, walking me past the brick chateau next to an apple orchard that was built, he said, by the wealthy family that once owned the place, and then over to the mill itself, where he pointed out the virtues of the giant machines. Afterward, we walked over to a nearby restaurant for lunch. At our table, not far from a television that blared out the progress of a horse race, we were joined by Jérôme Lecoustre, a reticent man with a bulldog tattoo on his neck. Lecoustre works with Sailliot’s wife at a nearby glass factory that, he said, had shed thousands of employees since he started working there two decades ago. His own wife worked at a school cafeteria, part time and on a short-term contract. They had two children, 11 and 14. I asked him if he was worried about losing his job. Lecoustre hesitated to answer, taking a gulp from a glass of red wine.
“No,” he said finally.
Sailliot shot him a look of disbelief. “Come on, you know you’re afraid of the future.”
Lecoustre paused, then gave his explanation: Workers with more menial jobs were at greater risk of losing them. But he worked on a machine, and this gave him more security.
Sailliot didn’t press the issue. The two men remained friendly, despite glaring political differences. Lecoustre was a supporter of the National Front. I asked him why.
“People are fed up,” he said. “So maybe we can try to change something.”
“Fed up about what?” I asked.
“A bit of everything,” he said.
Lecoustre brought up the thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees that had set up a sprawling camp, widely referred to as the Jungle, in Calais, a French port city near the Channel Tunnel. Their attempts to stow away on ferries, trains and trucks bound for Britain had become a nuisance to drivers and travelers. The solution, according to Lecoustre, was to take greater control of the national borders.
The National Front has, in recent years, become more popular in many rural areas and small towns like Wizernes, places that are often relatively homogeneous and have few immigrants. Many people, of course, wish to keep it that way and therefore happily embrace the National Front’s nativist message. Yet immigration is also intertwined with broader anxieties that fuel support for the party — fear of terrorism, fear of economic collapse — and so the issue becomes an easy, tangible target, even if it remains an abstraction.
I asked Lecoustre if immigration had changed his life in any direct way. He thought for a moment. “No,” he said.
Sailliot interjected. This was the absurdity of it all, he said. There were hardly any migrants in the area, and yet somehow, immigration was everybody’s biggest problem. How could that be? Sailliot went on: Politics ought to be about putting all people first, ahead of global markets, ahead of the bottom line, not about getting some people out of the country. Lecoustre listened, but he did not appear convinced.
The suspicion that immigrants are taking something they don’t deserve, the conviction that native citizens are being supplanted by foreigners, the growing sense that mainstream political parties serve the interests of privileged global elites rather than working people — all of this will be perfectly familiar to Americans who just lived through the last election. President Donald J. Trump’s campaign in many ways embodied the nativist, anti-establishment rebellion sweeping much of the West. In doing so, it replicated aspects of an older French model, in which the far right adopted the rhetoric of the far left to surprising success.
In the mid-1990s, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front’s founder, began to push the party’s economic platform away from its original free-market ideology and toward protecting the working class. (Observers coined the term gaucho-lepénisme to describe his growing appeal to traditional leftists.) In 2002, he stunned France by coming in second in the first round of the French presidential election, ahead of the weak Socialist candidate. In France, the winner must obtain an absolute majority of votes, so the top two finishers compete in a second round. In that runoff, Le Pen lost overwhelmingly to the center-right candidate, Jacques Chirac, as many leftists joined center-right voters to form a “republican front,” uniting forces to thwart the National Front.
When Jean-Marie’s youngest daughter, Marine, took over the party in 2011, she redoubled the leftist economic message and shunned her father’s blatantly anti-Semitic statements — a so-called dédiabolisation of the party intended to make it more palatable to the mainstream. Her economic rhetoric is now often indistinguishable from that of far-left European leaders. In 2015, Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany jointly addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Le Pen, a member of that Parliament, stood to make a reproach to Merkel. The terms on which she did so — German economic domination of Europe, the “vassalization” of European nations and the imposition of austerity policies that led to mass unemployment — could just as well have come from Greece’s former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Le Pen’s ideological opposite in every other way.
Le Pen has adopted an old-left economic message at a time when the center-left has largely abandoned it. Across much of Europe, in fact, far-right parties are increasingly presenting themselves as guardians of workers and of the welfare state for native citizens, promising to preserve it from the threat of foreign newcomers. The consequences are proving particularly drastic for the European Union. Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. was propelled by an unusual alliance of conservatives and working-class voters who have traditionally supported the Labour Party — many of them in England’s industrial north. Le Pen promises that if she wins the presidential election, she, too, will call for a referendum on whether France should remain in the E.U., and she hopes a similar alliance of voters will yield the same result. France is a founding member of the E.U. and is far more economically and politically entwined with the bloc than Britain, which was never a fully committed member. While Brexit was a blow to the E.U., France’s departure could signify its end. An eventual French exit, though unlikely, is not unimaginable. French voters rejected a European Constitution in a 2005 referendum, and French attitudes toward the European Union since then have only grown more skeptical. A pre-Brexit Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of the French held an unfavorable view of the E.U.; the same survey found that 48 percent of Britons did.
Presidential-election polls in France, as of this writing, show Le Pen likely to make it to the runoff, to be held in May. The pressing question in France now is: Will the “republican front” once again hold? Given the unpopularity of the Socialists, Le Pen’s chief opponents are now François Fillon — a center-right, market-oriented social conservative who has promised to cut public-sector jobs and was recently depicted on the front page of the left-wing newspaper Libération with a Margaret Thatcher hairdo — and Emmanuel Macron, a young former investment banker who served as the economy minister under Hollande but has now split to form his own neither-of-the-left-nor-of-the-right political movement. This, bewilderingly, makes the far-right Le Pen the only leading candidate with a traditionally leftist economic message, and it leaves many leftists who remain opposed to her hard-pressed to vote for her opponents.
Sailliot told me that he would support the Left Front candidate in the first round, but that if he was forced to choose between Le Pen and one of the other probable candidates in the second round, he would not vote at all. Some of his leftist colleagues, many of whom voted for Chirac in 2002 in order to foil Jean-Marie Le Pen, told me the same thing. Ultimately, Marine Le Pen isn’t expected to win; enough left-leaning voters, it is believed, will join center-right voters to defeat her. But this is an era in which political prediction may seem like a fool’s game. The day after Trump’s election, Le Pen was clearly heartened by his unexpected victory. “What happened last night wasn’t the end of the world,” Le Pen said. “It’s the end of a world.”
One morning, I visited Grégory Glorian, the 41-year-old head of the C.G.T.’s Pas-de-Calais office in the city of Lens, a former coal town in the heart of the region’s mining basin, where coal extraction began in the 18th century. Glorian, a thin, hospitable man, told me that his grandfather had worked in a mine just down the road; he still remembered how his grandfather’s blue eyes peered out at him from a coal-blackened face at the end of a shift. That mine shut down when Glorian was 11; in 1990, the last mine in the area closed. While the government supported programs to place miners in other industries, some of those suffered, too.
The mining life, despite its hardships, had provided security. Miners lived in rowhouses built by the mining company. Their children went to schools built by the company. Coal, electricity and health care were all provided by the company. Now all that remains of the industry in the basin is a collection of mining pits, slag heaps and workers’ estates so archaic that Unesco, in 2012, added the region to its World Heritage List of unique global treasures. The site “illustrates a significant period in the history of industrial Europe,” Unesco noted. “It documents the living conditions of workers and the solidarity to which it gave rise.”
Glorian’s working life is emblematic of the new uncertainty. For a time, he worked at Metaleurop-Nord, a smelter that produced zinc and lead, then at a textile factory that produced carpet thread. Each of those factories closed. The shuttering of the smelter in 2003 was a particularly hard blow to the region, leaving several hundred workers without jobs. The National Front sensed electoral opportunity. Marine Le Pen has run repeatedly for the French Parliament in the area around Lens, narrowly missing a seat in 2012. At the same time, National Front candidates have steadily chipped away at the left’s power, making significant gains in local elections.
Laurent Dassonville Christopher Anderson/Magnum, for The New York Times
Glorian acknowledged that the National Front was attracting some C.G.T. members in Pas-de-Calais; in one case, he said, a prominent C.G.T. delegate from a nearby tire shop ran for office on a National Front ticket. The delegate, Glorian added, was kicked out of the union. When C.G.T. members openly expressed sympathy for the National Front, Glorian told me, union leaders tried to “educate” them about the errors in their thinking. If that didn’t work, they kicked them out, because the union doesn’t tolerate overt racism and nationalism. Glorian said he was afraid that some of his peers hid their favorable feelings about the National Front from him, knowing they wouldn’t go over well. “The left is to blame,” he told me of the party’s success. “They didn’t do their job.”
The C.G.T. delegate turned National Front politician, I soon found out, was not an isolated case. A number of National Front politicians in the area claim to come from unions and other traditionally leftist organizations. The party, it appears, often seeks out members with such credentials as part of its strategy to supplant the left. In Méricourt, a town a few miles from Lens that is overshadowed by a volcanic-looking slag heap, the Communist mayor is holding together an alliance of leftists who are battling a rising challenge from National Front politicians like these.
On the morning of my visit to Méricourt, an outdoor market was set up on the main street, with stalls selling cheap clothes, cleaning supplies, sandwiches. In a bar, I met a foreman named Laurent Dassonville who described himself as a former Communist. Now he is the president of the town’s chapter of the National Front. Dassonville and I moved toward the pool table, where his 12-year-old son sat next to him, playing Pokémon Go. Dassonville told me that his father had been a Communist, and so had his grandfather. Years ago, he switched allegiance because, he said, the National Front is the only party that still defends workers. Dassonville ran for local office in 2015 on a National Front ticket. He virtually tied his leftist opponents in the first round of voting but came up short in the second round. After his loss, Dassonville published an angry letter in a local magazine, accusing his leftist opponents of siding with “the big bosses” in order to prevail over the National Front. “You followed the instructions of the haves and the powerful,” he wrote. A National Front politician was denouncing the area’s hard leftists as if they were neoliberal capitalists.
Dassonville sipped his coffee and lit a Marlboro. He called over a man he introduced as a National Front activist, a retiree who presented a new party membership slip to Dassonville. New members were signing up all the time, Dassonville told me. “Look, this one’s a truck driver,” he said. “Someone from the working world.”
I couldn’t help wondering if this interaction was being staged for my benefit. “They say we are an extreme-right party,” Dassonville said. “But when you look closely at the words of Marine Le Pen and at the program we are now building, there’s a big part of the left in it. The left forgot its tradition. It’s up to us to appropriate it.”
I asked Dassonville if he would call the National Front an extreme-right party or an extreme-left party. Like many in the National Front, he objected to the designation “extreme.” “It’s a normal political party,” he said. “Why would you say extreme? What does the word ‘extreme’ even mean?”
Dassonville thought the whole left-right spectrum was finished anyway. “For me,” he said, “it has no value.”

Saty13 New York, NY January 24, 2017
As a Democrat, I would like to see Democrats get past their simplistic view of immigration, which (whether intended or not) comes across as "If you don't support unrestricted immigration you are against Mexicans and Muslims. You are racist and an 'Islamaphobe.'"

Can't we acknowledge that we need smarter immigration policies? Can't we acknowledge that when immigration is handled badly it can indeed be linked to negative economic outcomes, not just for the American working class but also the middle class. It can also be linked to bad outcomes for our domestic security.

It's not politically correct to say all this, which is why it's hard for the progressive left to acknowledge. Unfortunately, It's much easier to shout "racist!" at the right wing and draw the battle lines.

bronx refugee austin tx January 24, 2017
Let me translate European "right wing populism" for you: A person who wants a job that can support a family; A person who feels like their national culture and identity are disappearing, sacrificed to the Gods of liberal globalism; A person who does not necessarily want "refugees" whose culture has wrecked their own countries so badly, that they are now have to sleep in their neighbor's bedrooms: A person who if they are just a hair right of failed socialism, they are labeled as some kind of extremist - in other words, not right wing at all, but mostly just regular folks. Trump supporters can instantly recognize these citizens.

Niall Firinne London January 24, 2017
The problem is that the elites in government, media, entertainment and academia don't get it. LIfe for them is good, very good and don't realiseor accept that the policies they have pushed for and put in place are anything but good.Those policies are certainly good for and to them. However is the left wing/ liberal / social democracy policies cost working class industrial workers jobs, healthcare, housing and education. Be in Jonestown Pennsylvania, Sunderland or Lyon people are saying enough already of Washington's, London's and Paris' social experiments, they are killing them. Also the hypocrisy of the elite left is incredible and shocking. The "celebs" sit in there mansions, jet setting to their villas in an endless life of luxury and have the nerve to lecture middle class and working class people on morality and politics. Perhaps Madonna or DiCaprio or Cumberbatch should be taxed out of jobs. When you look closely at them and many celebs they make Trump, Farage and LePen look like paradigms of virtue.

d. lawton Florida January 24, 2017
LePen is NOT a "right wing" party if compared to US political parties. NYT, Huffington Post, Washington Post use that pejorative term in order to further a globalist agenda. French people LIKE their social and economic benefits, and do not want them eliminated. They also are proud of their own society and culture, which they see threatened by open borders and globalism. At this point in history, sovereign nations still exist and there is still such a thing as national citizenship. It seems NYT wants to do away with that.

Lee Atlanta January 24, 2017
The French love their social benefits (rightly) - they know that on the current trajectory these benefits are unsustainable.

The EU globalists put Europe in this predicament by implementing immigration policies that are frankly extreme. Imagine accepting 1M immigrants in a country of 80M in roughly a year like Germany did. Is everyone who feels uncomfortable about that really a bigot? There needs to be political space for people who to express these opinions without being labeled as bigots. It doesn't exist and so Le Pen is the natural consequence.

Brian PA January 24, 2017
When I read comments that referred to the "postindustrial world ", I wonder here the commentors think all that stuff comes from . I'm referring to the cars, the toaster ovens , the televisions, and all the rest of the material goods we use every day. These are made in factories. The factories are staffed by workers. Why do many people seem to believe that Americans, and Europeans, R incapable of manufacturing these items? Once again, we need to remember that these jobs no longer exist because they have been outsourced to slave labor an Asian countries with no environmental regulations. Once again, we need to ask why we should continue to accept this.

Frank Boston January 24, 2017
The leadership of both social democrat and center-left parties have more in common culturally with rich fund managers, rich media company managers, economically protected professors and senior bureaucrats, and well-off doctors and lawyers than they do with construction workers, garbage collectors, energy workers, factory workers, small business owners, and nurses.

This new economic / professional / media / government elite in truth forms a New Aristocracy. They have retained old cultural habits, like marriage, and raising children in 2-parent households, while telling the bottom 80% that it is good to engage in self-destructive, anti-family behaviors. They protect each other's jobs, arrange for government subsidies for each other's sectors, network their children into the best schools and their spouses into the few remaining good paying jobs, and wall off their residential areas. They use free trade to ship manufacturing to low-wage countries, regulation that hits small business opportunities and the energy and manufacturing sectors, "public education" campaigns to leave the lower classes stuck in 3rd rate schools in separate ZIP codes, and open borders to encourage low-paid competition for what domestic jobs remain.

The New Aristocracy profits from growth in Emerging Markets while buying off the votes of the bottom 30% with modest transfer payments, and isolating and impoverishing the middle 50%. The New Aristocracy subscribes to the NYT and WaPo and vice versa.

mobocracy minneapolis January 24, 2017
The left everywhere seems to have shifted priorities. Where it once focused on worker economic welfare, it seemed to have deprioritized that in favor of social issues, such as diversity, cultural inclusion and so forth.

I think support for the latter issues was something of an enabler for aligning with globalist economic agendas, along with the fact that any mature political movement would ultimately be somewhat co-opted into the broader economic system. This apparent alignment with globalist economics has significantly damaged the left's credibility.

While I'm sure there were smart political and moral reasons for the left to prioritize social issues over traditional labor economics, I think it has left a large population of forgotten workers feeling alienated and willing to align with other political movements seen as directly addressing their complaints.

The left wants to label these alternative movements as "far right" and in many policies they are, but the populist right has always managed to assemble an ideology (coherent or not) which has elements socialism. The official party name for the Nazis was the National German Socialist Worker's Party (NSDAP in German), for example. This allows them to capture disaffected workers on an economic basis while promoting other policies which would never align with a traditional Marxist-derived socialism.

Saty13 New York, NY January 24, 2017

Perhaps our politics has grown beyond the simple Right vs. Left divide. France's National Front party is indeed "leftist" in its support for workers, but it is "right wing" in its bigotry. The question we should be asking is, why has bigotry gone hand in hand with populism?

Populism, which I view favorably, is the legitimate rising up of the voices of the working class who always seem to end up with the short end of the economic stick whenever the rich grab too much of the wealth and power. The working class includes minorities and women, not just white men.

It seems that white working class men in particular, instead of placing the blame where it belongs (on mostly white rich men) have decided to blame minorities and immigrants. That's a problem.

On the other side of the coin, the problem of Democrats and other ruling elite parties, is that they are so caught up in advocating for those who face bigotry, that they forget that everyone who is "anti-immigration" is not necessarily a racist. They might just be genuinely concerned about too few job opportunities and concerned about growing domestic terrorist attacks.

We need to decouple populism and racism. The Democratic party needs to go back to its roots and start supporting economic populism while at the same time acknowledging that our immigration policy has to be fixed so that it doesn't hurt workers and it doesn't usher in more domestic terrorism. Why let a Trump own this discussion?

Truth777 ./ January 24, 2017
I'll never forget in college being told by a business management professor that outsourcing was a good thing and had only benefits for us. He said those behind replaced would get new, better paying jobs as a result. I didn't believe it then and now I suppose he probably doesn't preach that lie anymore.

Girish Kotwal Louisville, KY January 24, 2017
Why is there a death knell for social democracy sweeping across the world from India to USA and almost every democracy in between? The answer is very simple, it has not worked for the working class of several democracies. Whether in India where the Nehru dynasty ruled for most of the years since its independence or USA where the Bush and Clinton dynasties ruled for 20 of the past 28 years, the benefits to the masses from the ruling class that simply enriched itself did not trickle down in a significant measure. I always believed that democracies should reform or die and the death knell for social democracy was inevitable. Socialism was supposed to bring about an equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities, which did not happen in the western democracies. Sure some countries like France has a universal health care and a lot of benefits but if the masses do not feel that they are beneficiary of the wealth of the nation but instead are left behind that will have an influence on the ballot box. Social democracy has been breeding discontent all across the globe and the chickens have come home to roost. Partly it is the fault of the way democracies work. For a desire to serve the country you have to run elections and to run elections you have to campaign and to run campaigns you need money and where does the money come from, it comes from those who have it and lots of it and those who have it want their pound of flesh in the form of special access and tweaking of laws.

abo is a trusted commenter Paris January 24, 2017
It's very frustrating to read this kind of article in the NYT. One clue as to why is "a pre-Brexit Pew Research Center survey found ..." Brexit was six months ago. There have been several post-Brexit surveys which show the opposite. Either the writer does not know - I guess "based in Berlin" he doesn't really follow French news - or does not care - honest as Trump, I guess.

And to say that Social Democracy has lost support in Germany is just stupid, and is to confuse the party of that name with the principles of social democracy. It's like saying Americans don't support Democracy when they vote against Democrats. The centre-right in Germany, and pretty much everywhere in Europe, *is*, by any meaningful sense of the word, social democrat. That's actually the problem for the left.

I don't understand it. Americans are giving far more press to the National Front, even though the Front has regressed, not progressed, in France recently. Le Pen was a shoo-in to make the second round a year ago; now she might make it, but if she does, it will only because the left is divided three-way. It's as if, to cover their shame about Trump, the Americans wish the same misfortune on the rest of the world.

Joshua Brooklyn, NY January 24, 2017
"European social democrats have witnessed an extraordinary drop in support" because their policies aren't working. That simple. They are bad at what they do. They, like the modern Democratic Party, cater to career bureaucrats and well-connected professionals. For those people, free trade and financial liberalization is great because it primarily means lower prices on goods they consume but not make. Meanwhile working class people take on the negative consequences of these policies in terms of higher unemployment, asset bubbles, and less stability. They can even take on the veneer of liberalism by championing social policies that benefit them and their friends without any pesky economic downsides. This also allows them to present themselves as "good people" while decrying their opponents as all the "isms" and "phobes" they can come up with.

It's not working anymore. For heaven's sake, Hollande is the leader of France. If he was doing a great job then nobody would be talking about the National Front. The fact that the NF may be ascendant is as much a sign of the Socialists' failed governance as anything else. Obviously, for the Socialists and other "center-left" groups, the idea that their governing model and worldview may be fatally flawed is not something to be entertained.

Talesofgenji NY January 24, 2017

A more accurate headline might be

What went wrong with globalization ?

France is being de-industrialized at a rate incompatible with the pace of generational change. Praised by economists, notably Krugman, globalization is tearing social fabrics apart.

In 1985 France had 55 million inhabitants and fabricated 4 million cars a year. In 2016 it 65 million and made 2 million.

And it's de-industrialization is continuing. Today's announcement in Le Figaro is that Whirlpool will close it's factory in Amiens next year and move production to Poland.

That tearing of the social fabric is what proponents of globalization overlooked and what is finally appearing in politics


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