The President of the United States, during a “campaign rally”, refers to a terror incident in Sweden which never took place. He bases his reference, and subsequently his policy approach, on a FoxNews interview with a fringe documentary filmmaker. The story of the Trump-fib hits the news cycle and goes around the world. Finally, CNN lambasts Donald Trump for “lying to the American people”.

What exactly is going on?

The irony is that the mainstream news media now have their perfect viewer – a powerful, loudmouthed populist who relies on anecdote and hearsay to form his worldview. The cycle is complete: hyped news media informs a hyped politician, who further hypes his followers, feeding the insatiable yet unproductive monster of public drama in the West.

Is all this media hysteria in Trump-land the real story of the year?

Here some “alternative” facts to consider:

– Dictators in the Middle-East and North Africa were propped up by global powers for decades to protect their regional interests, such as oil, military dominance and control of contrarian Muslim majorities.
– These client-dictators occasionally broke ranks, such as Saddam, who was ousted through a devastating ground war in Iraq, which spilled over into Afghanistan.
– In the last decade, these dictatorships have one-by-one been overthrown by internal protest movements who reject the status quo. Of the few remaining, the Assad regime remains in place at a horrendous cost to human life and regional stability.
– In the wake of this structural collapse of a post-WWII order in the region, was born the largest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, and the virulent global terrorist insurgency in the form of ISIS.
– These geopolitical shifts happened to coincide with the wake of the 2008/9 global financial crisis which brought down thirty years of the greedy financialization of the global economy, along with the accelerated exporting of production from the developed nations to emerging economies in the east, have stagnant real incomes as a result.

The real story here is not Donald Trump’s “war on the media”. The real story is the way in which power has been used, military, economic and political power, to drive the global system to the brink of unprecedented change. The real story is the way in which some have benefited from this abuse of power while others have paid a price. The real story is that some of the geopolitical chickens of the last half century are coming home to roost and the followers of Trump in the US, Wilders in the Netherlands, and Le Pen in France long for a world which was always fundamentally un-sustainable. The Germans, with their Marshall Plan for Africa seem to have a rational handle on the reason the global system has arrived at this point.

Interventionism, consumerism and unequal power relations – that’s the story at the heart of the populist phenomena that provides Trump with a platform, CNN with an angle and the rest of us with fake versions of the “Real News”.

I wonder what the response of the “public” would be if the stories of those on the receiving end of fifty years of Western dominance were to be told?


  • Marius Oosthuizen is a faculty member and researcher at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. He teaches leadership, strategy and ethics, and heads up the Future of Business in SA Project. He is passionate about ethical and strategic leadership and writes about political-economy and current affairs. Marius completed the Oxford Scenarios Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK. He holds a masters in strategic foresight from Regent University, Virginia Beach, US an honours bachelor in systematic theology from the University of South Africa and is pursuing a masters in applied social and political ethics. His expertise is in the field of stakeholder dialogue, scenario planning, strategic foresight and systems thinking. He is a member of the advisory council of the Association of Professional Futurists and recent participant in the London-based School of International Futures’ Scenario Retreat on European Union Foreign Policy.


Marius Oosthuizen

Marius Oosthuizen is a faculty member and researcher at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. He teaches leadership, strategy and ethics, and heads up the Future of Business in SA Project. He is passionate...

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