Gene Kerrigan: It's been a hard right turn for the worse
We accepted a culture of lying, and from the EU to the USA the bigger, better liars are on the march, writes Gene Kerrigan
We're told we're now in a "post-truth society", where facts don't matter. You promote your politics through bluster and lies, and when you're caught lying you deny you lied and immediately repeat the lie.
And your supporters cheer, because they hate your opponents far more than they respect the truth.
As a result, things have taken a very serious political turn over the past year. Dangerous figures have long stopped being a joke; many among us long for a return to normality.
However, let's be careful with the notion that up to recently we lived in a world that was broadly truthful and fact-based.
This isn't an academic matter, an argument over which is the right political label to apply to these freaky new people who seem to be deciding the future. This is about knowing where we are and where we might be going, and what we might do about it.
The serious turn that western politics has taken is obvious: in the USA, an authoritarian with fascist instincts has been elected president. He intends to wreak global economic havoc, to achieve the juvenile goal of "making America great again".
Across Europe, right-wing parties with what is now politely called "a fascist aesthetic" may or may not take power.
In this country, two right-wing parties hold secret meetings in which they decide what will be allowed into law and what must not be done. They then appear separately in parliament, as Government and Opposition, and pretend to operate an open democracy.
The media breathlessly cover the pre-arranged disagreements between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which have all the authenticity of professional wrestling matches.
The result includes a collapsing public health service and increasing numbers of homeless people.
This is called "the new politics" and the media is cool with that.
Any development that suggests the current charade is less than damn fine is pulled apart systematically in a search for ill-intent, hypocrisy or subversive agendas.
The Oireachtas is largely used for rubber stamp purposes, and when the Government has issues too sensitive or too tiresome to debate, they're hived off to a "Citizens' Assembly", convened by a marketing company.
The UK may yet be ripped apart by the Brexit crisis; a painfully inadequate British prime minister waffles her threats at the EU, so patently lame that Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi don't take the slightest offence.
It appears increasingly obvious that Brexit may devastate key parts of the UK economy. But refusing to implement it would make politicians and parliament even more alienated from their people.
The consequences may include crippling economic damage to the UK, with further economic ructions on this island - not to mention an unpicking of the stitches carefully inserted to strengthen the Northern political fabric.
Let's not even mention the Middle East and various atrocities arising therefrom.
These days I open my newspaper and for light relief scan the pages in search of a bird flu epidemic.
The alleged "post-truth society" is not, of course, a result of a fall from a state of truth and light into one of deceit - it has mutated from a set-up already marinated in duplicity.
We're still churning out reports that examine the layers of lies on which this State, and its dominant religious authorities, rested comfortably for decades. Lies about abuse, sexual and otherwise, about tax fraud and political corruption.
We've given up on tribunals - they're too expensive and the dominant political parties ensure that whatever the findings there will be no consequences.
An economic lurch into damaging austerity was enabled under covering fire from professional liars, spraying us with tosh about fiscal gaps and empty ATMs, while tame economists told us gifting tens of billions to bondholders wasn't economically significant.
Politicians eased their lips away from Mario Draghi's buttocks, hurriedly attaching them to the hind quarters of Apple CEO Tim Cook. They assured us that to do otherwise would be unpatriotic.
Everyone has long agreed that the EU has a "democratic deficit". But the EU isn't just undemocratic, it's anti-democratic. As its powerful unelected officer class eased us towards a superstate (complete with army), politicians and media here went along with the plan. They brushed away any suggestion that a mandate would be nice.
If we voted the wrong way, as on the Nice and Lisbon treaties, they simply held the vote again and made it clear they wouldn't accept dissent.
When Greeks protested at what the European Central Bank was doing to them they were crushed. Irish politicians openly taunted the Greeks.
None of this went unnoticed in the UK, where dislike of foreigners has always simmered. As part of a plan to advance their own careers within the Tory party, a cabal of liars exploited EU bullying and homegrown xenophobia, and promised to "take back control" from the EU, and we know how that went.
Blatant lies were told in the 2011 and 2016 elections.
Liars begot bigger and better liars.
For years, the word "fascist" was an insult hurled at anyone from an over-zealous garda to a grumpy CIE ticket inspector. Through that time, handfuls of fascist wannabes strutted in front of their bedroom mirrors. Occasionally they'd beat up an emigrant.
Generations who knew the reality of fascism are dying off, and the growth of a new lineage of little Hitlers is well under way. Today, they're accepted from Washington to Amsterdam.
They promise to make us great again, using whatever measure of greatness they think will impress us. They point at those insufficiently similar to us in culture, language, religion, dress or sexual inclination - and they tell us that's where the threat comes from, that's the enemy we must eliminate.
They promise to deliver us from "political correctness", which means we won't have to be careful when we insult foreigners, black people or women. They wink and give us new insulting names for those they used to call "faggots".
Where this goes is anybody's guess. But it's very real.
Perhaps the fascist tide will ebb, perhaps mainstream politics will win out - and we'll settle for a lower grade of liar.
But many believe that the 2008 collapse was not the system crashing, that it was merely the precursor of a crash yet to happen.
If that's true, we may yet be tested in ways we never thought possible.
There was embarrassment recently when the Irish Times published an article that promised to tell us all we needed to know about the "alt-right".
There is in journalism a fear of being seen to be part of group-think. Rather than be seen as a complacent liberal hive, the paper opened its pages to a very poor piece of journalism.
The piece didn't tell us all we needed to know, it waffled a bit and then listed some of the lingo of the "fascist aesthetic", with selected insults used to troll liberals. It didn't inform, it sneered.
What's eye-opening is the fact that the Irish Times clearly hadn't an idea what's been going on.
The untrustworthiness of the political parties helped get us to where we are. A complacent media didn't notice the world changing around it. It was fixated on whether Leo or Simon was ahead in the battle to replace Enda.