The rise of populists and the mixing of fact and fiction through fake news are not only changing the political process in a certain country but also societies themselves.
What is fake news?
Fake news, messages that intentionally spread false content to mislead others, is not a new phenomenon. The same applies to populism, which is characterized by the appeal to “common sense”, the dichotomy between the “pure people” and the “corrupt elite”, anti-elitism, hostility to institutions, moralization, polarization and personalization of politics.
The challenges of populism and fake news for policy communication
Political problems both internally and externally are becoming more complex. The desire for simplification and explanation as well. The cause-and-effect relationships of crises often exceed the competence of individual experts. Society expects solutions from politics, but no state is able to do this on its own.
Suggested behavior in dealing with populism and fake news
Political, media, and social actors have to face these challenges. These solutions aim to strengthen the resilience of democracy.
Decelerate where possible: In principle, decelerating, especially in evaluating facts and presenting possible solutions, would be a desirable response to current developments. Anyone who has the time to check facts and weigh up possible solutions will usually make reliable and high-quality statements.
Promote a stronger separation of facts and assessment: Put simply, there used to be agreement on existing facts; the political debate revolved around interpreting the facts and the resulting political responses. In order to expose fake news and thus be able to name it, politics and the media should make a stronger distinction between facts and opinions in the argumentation and promote a systematic review of disinformation campaigns.
Maintaining and demanding a factual culture of debate: In principle, debates and arguments are good for democracy. They signal to citizens that their views are represented in the system, even if they are not shared and implemented by the current government.
Don’t let yourself drift: Current populism tries, in particular, to drift established parties and media as well as political actors through penetrating setting of controversial topics, including in particular flight, migration, and internal security, and to achieve a discourse shift.
Clearly represent your own point of view: Politicians have to fight harder for their own points of view again and convince voters instead of trying to drain populists by copying their statements.
Taking the citizens with you: Politicians have an obligation to communicate their considerations and decisions in a way that is understandable to the citizen and yet not in an unfair way. Communication can be a Meduim tool for politicians to reach citizens.