Without doubts or questions

Mária Schmidt: Takeaways from the Athens Democracy Forum

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Mária Schmidt

Bernard-Henri Lévy thinks democracies are not motivated by truth. (Democracies are not run by truth. observer.com 2005.01.15.) But what if the liberal mainstream isn’t either? What are their motivations? And what do they want power for?

Schmidt came away from a conference co-hosted by the Athens Democracy Forum and the New York Times with these thoughts, in her own words.

The conference was unusual in the sense that two people who think a little differently than the rest were also invited. The two were Steve Bannon and myself. The highlight of the conference was BHL’s debate with Bannon under the mild moderation of Roger Cohen.

Bannon debated, cited data and facts while BHL simply attacked. He delivered a monologue and didn’t pay any attention to what his fellow debater said. He called Bannon out for the war against the Kurds as if Bannon was the one who initiated it in the first place. What’s more, he called him out on account of the US not standing up for the right cause all around the world. Meaning, why doesn’t it wage more war in more places. In fact, he said that as a pro-American European intellectual he’d mark out the targets for the US to bomb and it would be obligatory for the US to engage. I wasn’t surprised by this at all as I first came across Lévy’s name at the time he reportedly convinced French President Sarkozy along with the Brits to overthrow Gaddafi’s rule and demolish Libya. We all know what has become of Libya since.

Bannon, to Lévy’s surprise, responded by stating that the United States isn’t an empire, it has never been and has no intention of becoming one. The US is a revolutionary country. It was born in a revolution and wants to return to its traditional roots. It has different priorities that should be put in focus. China, for example. The US doesn’t think that we should dismiss Russia because Russia doesn’t equal Putin, and we’ll need them as an ally against China.

I jostled with Bulgarian Ivan Krastev on the topic of liberal-illiberal democracies, moderated by the NYT’s Brussels correspondent, Steven Erlanger.


But our thoughts — Bannon’s and mine — found no currency with the audience, as if we were coming from an alien land, speaking of ancient history they aren’t even aware of. They knew nothing of WWI, the British-French division of the Middle East or the changes in Eastern Europe after 1989.

Americans forced American type of democracy upon nation states wherever they could. A majoritarian democracy based on general, secret and equal voting rights. And now, their elite corps declares that citizens are not to be trusted with the election because they are not informed enough? Could it be the case that they’ll shift towards the type of democracy that’s led by the liberal elite? Will they soon come forward with the idea of a census. The audience had neither doubts nor questions. And no particular worries either, except for the future of democracy, threatened by institutions such as referendums, as illustrated by Brexit.

Spending some time among them, I realized what the problem was: the liberal elite is only familiar with those who see the world the same way as they do. They live in a world of their own, reading each other, speaking with one another, chatting and tweeting away in an opaque bubble. They aren’t aware of reality, they don’t know the people. And what’s even more worrisome: they don’t really care, either.

Title image: Athens Democracy Forum (source: latoszogblog.hu)


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