As the alt-right continues to set the orders of the day in global politics at a frightening pace, has the world reverted to a 20 th-century era of totalitarianism?

Compulsive liars shouldnt frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should frighten you. Disciples are the liars enablers. Their referendums give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.

How you see the disciples determines how you fight them and seek to protect liberal society from its adversaries. And I dont merely entail how you oppose that object of liberal desperation and conservative fictions, the alternately scorned and patronised white working class. Compulsive believers are not just rednecks. They include figures as elevated as the British prime minister and her cabinet. Before the EU referendum, a May administration would have responded to the hitherto unthinkable arrival of a US president who threatened Nato and indulged Putin by hugging Britains European friends close. But Brexit has thrown Britains European alliance into crisis. So English Conservative legislators must crush their doubts and believe with a desperate compulsion that the alleged pragmatism of Donald Trump will triumph over his undoubted extremism, a belief that to date has as much basis in fact as creationism.

Mainstream journalists are almost as credulous. After decades of mimicking Jeremy Paxman and confiscating on the trivial gaffes and small lies of largely harmless politicians, they are unable to cope with the fantastic lies of the new authoritarian movements. When confronted with all those people who lie so instinctively they believe their lies as they tell them, they can only insist on a fair hearing for the sake of balance. Their adoption signals to the audience the unbelievable is worthy of belief.