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Farewell, the Gutenberg Galaxy; hello, the Zuckerberg Zoo

Farewell, the Gutenberg Galaxy; hello, the Zuckerberg Zoo

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Today the world has seen the end of two centuries of Anglo-Saxon dominance – a hundred years of Britain, from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 to the Battle of the Somme, and a hundred years of the United States, ending today, with the election as president of the US of a fascist ‘television personality’ married to a nude model.

‘Decadence’ is the term that we need, here – decadence on a scale not seen in the world since the fall of the Roman Empire – which fell in much the same way, for much the same reasons.

Chinese readers will recall the story of Zhou Enlai meeting Nikita Khrushchev; Khrushchev said to Zhou, “You are the son of an aristocrat, but I am the son of a peasant!”

“Yes”, replied Zhou, “And we both betrayed our class!”

We have now seen a hat trick of ‘democratic’ events in which men who come from the elite, and who have betrayed their class – Roderigo Duterte, in the Philippines, on May 9, was the straw in the wind, he was followed by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in the UK, on June 23, and today by Donald Trump in the US, and they have, with the use of the internet social media, most especially Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, successfully suckered the soggy mass of lazy, ill-educated, ill-read and ill-informed proles, and a good supply of  what V.I. Lenin called “useful idiots”, in three nations,  into putting them into power, by telling lies and by promising the proles what they want.

What the proles want is ‘good jobs’ but with the ability to buy the stuff they buy now at cheap prices, because it is made by under paid, hardworking, men and women in other countries who have ‘stolen their jobs’, and they want ‘no foreigners’.  They can’t have this, of course, but no matter, they don’t read, they just look at ‘memes’, and the damage is done.

The common factor is the ‘seeding’ of the ever-so friendly Facebook, full of pictures of kittens and food and grandchildren, with its oh-so clever algorithms to deliver onto your screen the very things that you want to see, be they things you might want to buy or people who think like you, with lies and deceit – really wicked, evil, lies and deceit – and the poisoning of minds against the ‘mainstream media’, who actually – can you believe this – who actually think that facts matter, and who really do employ people to check them, because they are out dated enough to think that their advertising revenues depend on their reputation and that their reputation depends on them telling the truth.

How very Gutenberg of them! How very ‘Broadcast!’ Zuckerberg has destroyed all that, and as recently as three days ago he was still protesting that his empire is “…a tech company, not a media company!”

So, what does the end of the Anglo-Saxon World Order mean for shipping?

First, obviously, world trade follows the USA, and indeed silly little England, into a man-made recession, next year. Maersk Line have already taken a hit, and if Maersk catches a cold, everyone else in this business gets pneumonia.

Next, the dollar becomes – and will the mighty Disney Corporation please understand that I allude here to their pre-WW2 merchandising – Mickey Mouse Money. The Fed won’t raise that interest rate – it will be printing dollars like they are going out of fashion, because, indeed, they will be going out of fashion.  We can’t use gold to pay freight with, and the Yen and the much abused Euro will benefit, but the big winner will be the Renminbi Yuan, the currency of the new global super power, the only nation wise enough to keep Zuckerberg and Co out.

Keep in mind that the adoption of the RMB Yuan as the default currency of world trade will automatically solve the problem of the Chinese debt spiral, just as it once solved, but will no longer solve, the problem of US debt. “The winner takes it all,” as a Swedish pop group sang, and the winner is the People’s Republic of China.

The upheavals consequent on this event will be enormous. As was said in 1790, when the wheel of fortune was turning the other way – and I have only changed a couple of Lord Macartney’s wise words…

“The United States of America is an old, crazy, first-rate Man of War, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers have contrived to keep afloat for these fifty years past, and to overawe their neighbours merely by her bulk and appearance. But whenever an insufficient man happens to have the command on deck, adieu to the discipline and safety of the ship. She may, perhaps, not sink outright; she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed to pieces on the shore; but she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom”

“The breaking-up of the power of the USA (no very improbable event) would occasion a complete subversion of the commerce, not only of Europe and North America, but a very sensible change in the other quarters of the world. The industry and the ingenuity of the Americans would be checked and enfeebled, but they would not be annihilated. Her ports would no longer be protected by her Navy; they would be attempted by all the adventurers of all trading nations, who would search every channel, creek, and cranny of Europe and America for a market, and for some time be the cause of much rivalry and disorder. Nevertheless, as China, from the weight of her riches and the genius and spirits of her people, is become the first political, marine, and commercial Power on the globe, it is reasonable to think that she would prove the greatest gainer by such a revolution as I have alluded to, and rise superior over every competitor.”

In the course of the “rivalry and disorder”, there will be fortunes to be made, amidst the general collapse. And our industry is very good at finding those. The really good news is that there will be such a shortage of investment capital that shipping returns will rise as investment becomes scarcer.

Good luck!

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Andrew Craig-Bennett

Andrew Craig-Bennett works for a well known Asian shipowner. Previous employers include Wallem, China Navigation, Charles Taylor Consulting and Swire Pacific Offshore. Andrew was also a columnist for Lloyd's List for a decade.

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19 Comments

  1. Mike Cunningham
    November 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    So, Mr. Craig-Bennett,

    Not a Trump fan, we can gather? The embittered class-driven drivel spouted in your commentary indicates only that you, as well as many, many others, forgot to read the ‘runes’ correctly. You forgot that Mr. Trump might just have a point when he spoke of protectionist policies which benefit America. You forgot that the Clinton Crime Crew have been well and truly outed for what they were and are; a bunch of elitist thieves, and the best thing that happened in the whole campaign was when the FBI revisited the foetid swamp known as ‘ServerGate’. If she hadn’t deleted 30,000 emails after the subpoena was issued, she might have gotten away with it, but her luck just ran out.

    You have our permission to sneak away into the undergrowth, and spend the next four years sniping at success; I wish you well!

  2. Richard C
    November 9, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    A fair assessment overall, though I must object to your description of ” the ‘mainstream media’, who actually – can you believe this – who actually think that facts matter, and who really do employ people to check them”. The Mainstream Media are responsible for much of the fear and hatred which has been whipped in recent years in the US & UK, and more than a few have been caught out telling complete porkies. Yes, there are indeed responsible operators out there, but I would hesitate to say they are in a majority.

    I am of the opinion that kids today, growing up with the “New Media” will have a much more highly-developed ability to sift the facts from the fables, but for the next few decades most adults can be found wanting in this skill.

    The decline of the US though, and by extension the West in general, has been imminent for some time, though perhaps today is the point on the bell curve where we can say for sure that it is heading downwards.

    Recalling the apocryphal curse, these are indeed “interesting times”

    1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
      November 11, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Very fair point, Ian! The “MSM” have been discredited in the eyes of many by the jolly japes of the likes of the Murdoch Empire, but rather than turn to “more serious” and harder-to-read, to watch and to listen to papers, television and radio whether on the Internet or elsewhere, many people have just decided that “they all lie” and have chosen to live in their own fantasy world, in which the Republican Rust Belt dreams that Mr Trump will “make America great again” and the Brexiteers fantasise that Britain can somehow re-acquire the manufacturing industry which it lost (mainly by selling overpriced rubbish!) some decades ago!

  3. Andrew Craig-Bennett
    November 9, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Actually, Mike, I did read the runes correctly. I predicted this when Roderigo Duterte started using the same people and techniques as Donald Trump, before he was elected President of the Philippines.

    Friends in the Philippines have been looking into how it has been done for a while now. Its easy – you pay team leaders in call centers to offer some extra cash to their staff to do some work on Facebook using their employers’ time and bandwidth. You don’t even need that many people, as the people who run Duterte’s FB “presence” have observed – you just have to get the ball rolling, and then keep up the momentum with supplies of memes and replies.

    There was even a magic moment, last year, when most of Trump’s support appeared to be coming from the Philippines, but those concerned very soon spotted the error and disguised their IP addresses.

    Remind me how successful you are feeling in a couple of years time, but I don’t see any success for merchant shipping, here…

  4. George
    November 9, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Andrew, i think the longer the time of your absence, the stronger your narratives become.

    1. In full agreement on the side effects of the “facebook distortion”pretty much evident in all facets of life.

    2. In full agreement that Trump will faithfully continue the work of Obama and complete the destruction of the US-superpower structure.Thousands of pages of regulations will not solve any problem, just break it in pieces. One thing for sure, he will borrow his way out of reality, yet this is not a piece of cake strategy if China does not play its share in the global recycling mechanism [aka buy more US debt].
    3.China could export the yuan as a global reserve/trade currency if recycling could happen at yesteryear’s magnitudes yet, isn’t currency dominance the reason of many wars in the past?Let alone that the Chinese cannot issue petroYuans. It is much more complicated than you suggest [you may recall what became of Iran’s plans to deliver an oil trading platform on euros]
    4.It is funny how election mechanics actually work: the “elites” tell you don’t vote for this or the other guy, or you get “independent” narratives of the sort “this guy will not be allowed to win” and you get opposite results: people vote out of resentment and not out of choice. Same in GR with Tsipras, PT with the socialists, UK with Brexit and now US with Trump. As if the elites know perfectly how to game their own contradictions. Two steps ahead and pro-elitist candidates emerge even stronger.
    5. Yes it is high time for some shift of wealth [also in shipping] yet i think the weight will definitely shift to Asia [take a look on ship financing for example]. They dominate building, demolitions and lately finance so why not ownership in the near future?

    sorry to be lengthy

    1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
      November 11, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      George, thank you for your kind words! I think that by weight of numbers merchant shipowning is already dominated by Asia. Twenty years ago the figure was 40% Asian owned; it will be more now.

  5. Merasmus
    November 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Look at the smug, whiny elitism in here!

    Trump won because a large number of voters have been negatively impacted by decades of destructive economic policies. His base is fundamentally the same type of disillusioned person, mired in debt, who supported Sanders. In the absence of the nice economic populist, they opted for the asshole economic populist. They’re wrong about him being their savior, but effectively his election is a rejection and denouncement of the technocratic elite you yourself epitomize. It, as well as things like Brexit and the ochi vote in Greece, are referendums on the ruling class itself.

    And the stupid, petulant, anti-democratic screeds you and many others like you have quickly launched into serve only to thourghly demonstrate how richly deserved this outcome is. Your ideas suck, and the public rejected them.

    1. Andrew
      November 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      it’s a myth that Trump has been voted for by the “left behind”.
      Hillary got a greater proportion of the vote amongst those earning under $50,000 pa than Trump did.
      Meantime, as in Brexit, the economy is more of a ‘red herring’, in that it’s a debate among values rather than any objective economic factors.

      To that end, the best predictor of a Brexit voter is not rich or poor, north or south, urban or rural as the lines have often been portrayed in the post-referendum media coverage.
      Instead, the best predictor of a Brexiter is their views on the death penalty.
      Similarly, in order to ascertain whether an American individual voted for Clinton or Trump, again the division is not about rich or poor, urban/rural etc as much as the answer to the following question: “whether you think children should be ‘well-mannered’ or ‘considerate'”. This proxy question is again concerning values as opposed to raw economic circumstances, and illustrates why talking about the “economically left behind” as the key driver for a Trump victory does not tell the full story.
      (ref: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/trump-and-brexit-why-its-again-not-the-economy-stupid/)

      1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
        November 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm

        Thank you for that exceptionally useful insight, Andrew!

        “Left behind” can have more than one meaning of course. Those who were “left behind” culturally, rather than financially, are the ones who favour authoritarians as their rulers, because they will “re-impose” the culture and conduct of the “culturally left behind” on others.

  6. par4
    November 10, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Oink Oink. I got your Anglo-Saxon decadence right there. Oh and don’t forget your security services covering up pedophiles for that c**t Thatcher.

  7. P Balasubramanian
    November 10, 2016 at 2:34 am

    I totally agree with George. The trouble with many of us is we prefer to live under a dream world of ‘either 100 or 0 – nothing in between’. We know but we refuse to acknowledge and consider that there are 99 other numbers/possibilities in between. The ‘principle’ behind Hillary capitalism of free trade, free global labour mobility, virtue of private wealth, etc. are not questioned. In that name, it is absolutely known to everyone that they ‘extend’ those free trade principles to Wall street greed, nexus, nepotism …. thinking it is being done subtly. They do ride their dame luck initially but then unfortunately, they only create Dutertes, Boris Johnsons, Nigel Farages, Donald Trumps and so on. It is not a bad idea to look into the mirror once in a while and leave out the temptation to ‘milk a free trade and open market system’ but to just ‘enjoy the fair fruits and living’ such a system brings.

    1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
      November 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Yes..,

      The checks and balances were omitted in the rush to “globalised neo-Liberalism” because they were cultural, and not set out in law. One could trace the present state of affairs to Thatcher’s “Big Bang” in the City of London, perhaps?

  8. Kaleberg
    November 10, 2016 at 2:34 am

    The US has been losing power and influence for decades. It peaked after WWII, but it’s been on a long slow downhill slide.

    Still, I wouldn’t bet on China.

    China has huge problems ahead in maintaining growth and employment. Companies like Foxconn have been automating and laying off hundreds of thousands. China has an immense rust belt, and modernizing it would mean eliminating more jobs. The Chinese leadership values stability which means increasing repression. That means more capital outflow, and that outflow is going to wind up in non-Chinese currency. Worse, repression works against the development of an internal market.

    Personally, I wish the Chinese luck. If they come up with a solution, good on them. Maybe we can copy it in the west.

  9. Evan Jones
    November 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Andrew Craig-Bennett wrote that:
    > the big winner will be the Renminbi Yuan, the currency of the new global super power..
    Good point. Support of currencies is based on confidence and people tend to trust the currencies of stronger more productive nations.

    >[China] the only nation wise enough to keep Zuckerberg and Co out.
    Yes, in his book The Governance of China, President Zi Jinping doesn’t mention any need for Zuckerberg’s odius products.

    >First, obviously, world trade follows the USA, and indeed silly little England, into a man-made recession, next year.
    Keep an eye on the economic impact of Jingping’s ambitious world spanning One Belt One Road program. It has the potential to lead the world out of recession, into a new, less Anglo-American future.

  10. Andrew
    November 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    An emotionally charged but well-written article.
    Perhaps there are some elements of doom-mongering but it would be reckless not to at least consider the worst in such instances.
    There are many examples of demagogues who have risen based on campaigns of deceit and lies and then proceeded to subvert the system from the inside.

    One thing I do take issue with is the comment on “traditional” vs “social” media.
    “‘mainstream media’, who actually – can you believe this – who actually think that facts matter, and who really do employ people to check them”

    In my experience, the traditional newspapers have been just as complicit in all the cacophony of (dis)information. For instance, the Telegraph during the Brexit campaign was essentially the Daily Mail with slightly more complex language.
    Similarly, the BBC shied away from exposing the ‘truth’ or ‘fact-checking’, in favour of “balance” i.e. the remain campaign says this about one issue, while the leave campaign says that. This was ostensibly to avoid any allegations of bias.
    However, what it contributed to was a cheapening of the debate which was reduced in the most part to mud-slinging, while the framing of the various issues did not aid individuals’ understanding at all.

    Now, regarding social media – this is a point I have looked at as regards the “Arab Spring”. My social media experience I have tailored to my own preferences, hence I feel I come across interesting debates. To that end, apart from the comments section under a particular article, I rarely come across trolls.
    But this is one of the biggest problems of social media – not that everyone has become a troll, but only that one sees the world through the lens of their own twitter feed. It has become an echo chamber, and my twitter feed is clearly not an accurate representation of the nation, rather, my own beliefs.

    In a similar way, someone who may follow all sorts of right-wing pages and accounts will feel that a disproportionate level of the population conform to his/her views; in this way sometimes socially unacceptable points of view now are seen as more acceptable to be aired in public.

    But I wouldn’t ascribe the blame on social media more a combination of socio-political (rather than purely economic factors).

  11. Captain Chris Allport, FNI
    November 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    As an “old fart” non Facebook or Twitter or other internet nonsense user I didn’t feel qualified to comment on your assessment, although I agree on some conclusions.

    So I forwarded the article to my younger son, an IT & Business Professional who commented as follows by return:-

    QUOTE: The moment the DNC committed voter fraud to put Hillary in place instead of the surging Sanders, they were doomed. So obvious Trump was going to win — almost exactly the same as Brexit. The Democratic vote was split as many Sanders voters hate Hillary as she’s basically toxic old establishment. I think lots of them voted for Trump as a protest.

    I mean, 11,000 cretins voted for HARAMBE the gorilla that was killed earlier in the year. Says it all really. A dead gorilla more worthy than Clinton! ENDQUOTE

    So where are you going with this? Can we expect a second part.

  12. peter
    November 10, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    so you obviously agreed with Clinton’s description of Trump voters as deplorable ? such an elitist, blinkered, arrogant and patronising view with a complete failure to see beyond your own narrow world. Result: Brexit and Trump with so-called elites being punished for neglecting a wide band of the populace. And how amusing is it when they cannot understand how or why it happened. However, it is not so amusing to read a polemic such as yours on a shipping website. May I suggest you keep your prejudices to yourself. If you cannot help yourself, would you not please confine your views to the Guardian where they are more appropriate, and possibly more welcome.

  13. AL PACA
    November 11, 2016 at 2:31 am

    To quote Ayaan Hirsi Ali “Avoiding offense means that we don’t accept each other as equals.” And this article certainly seems to have rattled some cages. Interestingly each response articulates the various writers’ own prejudices. There is nothing sacrosanct about the shipping industry, which is particularly uncomfortable with transparency. You may find this to be of interest: https://youtu.be/-fny99f8amM .
    It may be that we are controlled by algorithms. I am off to Patagonia.

    1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
      November 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Our industry is extremely conservative in its working practices, and I wonder how much of this due to our emphasis on “sitting next to Nelly” as the means of learning our trades within the shipping sector, rather than formal tuition?

      “We always do it this way!” Asking “But why do we do it this way?” is discouraged.

      Algorithms intended and used for directing Lord Leverhulme’s advertising budget (Half of my advertising budget is wasted! But I don’t know which half! !”) more effectively are harmless enough, but when they affect political behaviour, we have to think again. There is abundant evidence that the “tech industry” does not take ist responsibilities seriously enough.