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Jan Melissen in Trouw on world leaders who are increasingly insulting each other.

Jan Melissen, senior fellow international relations and diplomacy, discussing the habit of world leaders insulting one another and whether it is a new phenomenon.

The rise of leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro and others has changed the traditional view on diplomacy: no more civilized conversations about disagreements but rude use of language and less respect towards each other. According to Melissen, this rude behavior is usually saved for Twitter. ‘During physical meetings, at international conventions, the etiquette is usually still respected. Even Trump will try to be a true gentlemen behind the lectern.’

Melissen notices that this behavior is not new and goes back in time. “We know the images of Soviet-leader Nikita Chroesjtsjov, who slammed its shoe on the table during the United Nations Security Council and insulted its challengers. This is something we also saw in China during the Cultural Revolution: the rejection of civilized manners, that were seen as bourgeois. We are currently also seeing this behavior in the western world: more emotions, ruder use of language, and less respect for good manners.”


Melissen says this behavior stems from populist leaders. He calls is post truth, a mix of emotionality and populism. ‘The idea that opinion leaders and the elite are not speaking the truth and that people should gather the real facts on their own, online.’

Still, Melissen trusts the fact that diplomacy will remain important in the international field. ‘No, I do not believe that the behavior of the populists is the new way, that it will become normal.’

Read the full story on Trouw (in Dutch) 

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