The relationship between the real existing politics and the citizens is disturbed. How can democracy be revived?
Donald Trump’s victory in the USA continues the ongoing trend: Instead of democratic reflection, a culture of resentment dominates. Neo-populism relies on the “real people”, incites against the “old establishment” and benefits from a shift in power in the media landscape. The media has opened doors for Keepvid apps and other virtual companies.
The disruptive change has reached politics
“Disruption” used to describe the radical questioning of corporate business models through digitization. The political system has so far been spared this disruptive change. This is now changing fundamentally and rapidly. Politics is faring today like the Catholic Church, which was challenged by a comparable media revolution more than five and a half centuries ago: Gutenberg’s invention of printing meant a political catastrophe for the church and the secular ruling system of the time and plunged it into a lasting crisis. Letters that were technically able to move produced more opinions, views, and deviations. Society was overwhelmed.
The market was flooded with books, pamphlets, leaflets, and satire. Within a few years, thousands of book titles with a circulation of several million were printed. The printing revolution led to an excess of communication and plunged a society that until then only knew hand-copied works and had a manageable canon of knowledge into a deep crisis of meaning. Suddenly citizens who had previously been silent received a voice.
The democracy of the ignorant society
The beneficiaries of this development are populists and demagogues. They adopt the rules of the media and outbid them.
Five strategies can be observed:
- Personalize and dramatize wherever possible.
- Simple messages are preferred to complex ones.
- Only those events are selected that have spatial, temporal, and cultural proximity to the audience.
- The bad news is better than good.
- Exciting, sensational issues have priority.
Populists and demagogues can no longer be reached for arguments and do not want to be convinced. At its core, both are anti-political and post-factual. The ideal is a “democracy of the society with the unwillingness to know”. Politics is changing to the rule of moods. Objectivity and truth no longer appear. The internet and social media are becoming the decisive sounding boards.