ASPI suggests
18 Nov 2016| and

Image courtesy of Flickr user zeevveez.

The US election postmortem continued this week, and no doubt will for many weeks to come. Through front pages and Twitter feeds, readers have been pummelled by a veritable avalanche of analysis, which we won’t seek to reproduce here. Instead, let’s focus on two sideshow stories, compelling and concerning for their own reasons. First on the fake-news saga embroiling Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. Check in here for a column on echo chambers and misinformation which points the finger, and Facebook’s own research, directly back at Zuckerberg; here for a good piece on the imperceptible impact algorithms are having on our digital experience and democracy; and here for some stunning stats showing fake news’ massive traction in the final months of the campaign. Second, Donald Trump’s election comes at a critical time in the fight against human-induced climate change, and early signs haven’t been good. Let’s hope the President-elect reads Thomas Friedman. The kids, or the Chinese, might be our final hope.

Not unsurprisingly, populism has received a huge boost in attention from the media this week. To get a leg up on this massive political trend, be sure to check out this piece from The New Yorker which argues that the angry populist drivers behind Trump’s election and Brexit aren’t a purely western phenomenon:

‘But to see the West as subject to special forces is to accept the nationalists’ ways of thinking. That the same illiberalism is rising in Xi’s China, in Erdoğan’s Turkey, in Sisi’s Egypt, in Duterte’s Philippines makes you suspect that these are not surface currents but deeper forces, not so specific to the West.’

An op-ed  from Carnegie unpacks patterns in populism’s history and the risks of misusing the term, while a short read from The Economist looks at the frightening appeal of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party, as France’s own presidential election looms just six months down the track.

After all that, is Planet earth getting a bit much for you? It seems the thought’s been on the mind of Professor Stephen Hawking, who has now given us a deadline to find and colonize another planet—we’ve got T minus 1,000 years.

Here are three Asia-focused long-reads for when you’ve got some time on your hands. The first is an outstanding and unnerving profile on Rodrigo Duterte, courtesy of The New Yorker. The second is this month’s cover story in The Atlantic, which catalogues China’s recent ‘great leap backwards’. James Fallows surveys broad regression across a number of areas, including civil society, the military, the media and internet freedom, among others, before considering what it all means for China and for Sino–US relations. And the third, from The Wall Street Journal, takes an in-depth look at one of the sad side-effects of China’s desire to take a leading role on the world stage: the first combat casualties the major power has suffered in decades.

Another long but worthwhile read is James Verini’s New York Times report from the vantage point of travelling with a Kurdish pesh merga unit in Iraq. They will have to die now is a fine piece of war reporting.

If you’re looking to add a bit of intel wonkery to your weekend reading, definitely check out this longer piece from Wired which looks into the life and career of US spook-in-chief, James Clapper. Clapper, who recently tendered his resignation as the director of national intelligence, discusses the ethics behind spying, the Snowden leaks, drones and governing cyberspace. A special report from The Economist sticks with the spy theme, too—it holds a magnifying glass to the ‘twin shocks’ of terrorism and technology and how they’ve shaken, not stirred, the world’s intelligence community.

Finally, likely lost amongst the personalities, pundits and pollsters reacting to the election of Donald Trump was this contribution from none other than Yoko Ono. #primalscream


Since last September, one-time Obama advisor David Axelrod has churned out a fantastic podcast, the Axe Files, sometimes delivering a few episodes each week. Axelrod is serious, whip-smart and occasionally witty—qualities he employs to great effect as he coaxes each guest into revealing their personal story. Recent guests include Michael Morrell, John Kerry, Maureen Dowd, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Caroline Kennedy and EJ Dionne; his first guest was Bernie Sanders. Hot tip: subscribe now.

What implications will Trump’s presidency have for the Paris Agreement and the future of combatting climate change? After Australia’s ratification of the global deal last week, now’s as good a time as any to listen to the latest Global Dispatches podcast (32 mins), which includes a couple of interviews conducted during the Marrakech Climate Change Conference—in the immediate aftermath of the 8 November madness.


The Asia Society’s NYC operation was quick off the mark to analyse the impact that Donald Trump and his policy program could have on America’s engagement in Asia. Carnegie’s Ashley Tellis, Stimson’s Yun Sun and Harvard’s Nicholas Burns were all on hand to dive right into Washington’s role and relations in Asia, including their pitches that the President-elect preserve and push forward strategic and trade ties to the region. The full video is here (72 mins) and a write-up is over at the Asia Society site. (BONUS LINK: The folks over at Lawfare have some thoughts and an exceedingly-helpful reading list on Trump and China.)

From being told not to ‘wrinkle their foreheads with politics’ by Thomas Jefferson, to the handful of firsts for women elected to office last week, the quest for a female occupant of the Oval Office continues. A great watch from Vox (15 mins) details the long and twisted path of American women’s roles in politics, taking a particularly close look at the 70s, 80s and 90s—when women’s challenge was to teach ‘the country that they could be equally effective and competent leaders as men’.


Canberra: Throughout November, ANU has hosted a great seminar series on political resistance. The fourth and final event in the series will take place on 22 November, analysing the mindset of those who voted ‘Leave’ in the Brexit referendum. Register here.