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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The world is angry. Millions have taken to the streets not only in countries like Egypt and Iraq, which are beset by poverty or ravaged by war, but also in places like Chile and Hong Kong, previously known mostly for their boring prosperity.

Driving the news: Protests reminiscent of the Arab Spring have toppled the billionaire prime minister of Lebanon and forced the billionaire president of Chile to cancel the upcoming APEC and UN climate summits.

  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, now mired in recession, might not last past March, and Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation on Thursday.
  • Argentina's peaceful and democratic transition of power is orderly only by comparison. The mass renunciation of incumbent President Mauricio Macri, which will probably be accompanied by yet another sovereign debt default, reflects just as much anger as can be seen on the streets of demonstration-racked countries like Spain, Haiti, Russia, Egypt or Ukraine.

Why it matters: Just like the Arab Spring, most of these protests are aimed squarely at existing governments.

  • The spark that sets off the mass protests is often the kind of thing that would normally elicit no more than generalized grumbling — a modest rise in subway fares, a cut in gasoline subsidies, a new tax on WhatsApp. Invariably, even when those moves are reversed, the protests continue anyway.
  • Taking a leaf from the gilets jaunes in France, the protestors tend to express anger at the entire political system, rather than having a clear political agenda or even identifying with a political party.
  • Peronism, always more of a state of mind than a coherent political ideology, is particularly well suited to this kind of moment. Countries that aren't Argentina don't have a Peronist political leader that the disaffected can rally behind.

My thought bubble: The anger sweeping the globe is more destructive than constructive. Anybody attempting to "harness" it will inevitably fail.

One big quote:

"Monsters walk among us. Corruption is normal. Trust, outside a narrow circle of friends or kin, is unthinkable."
— NYT film critic A.O. Scott, on how Bong Joon Ho's films reflect reality

Editor's note: This piece was corrected to show that protests have toppled the billionaire prime minister of Lebanon (not president).

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).