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New Populism, Social Media and Direct Democracy
Ingo Plöger
Brazilian entrepreneur, Pres. CEAL Conselho Empresarial da America Latina - Brazil

Large-scale political analysts are beginning to pay special
attention to New Populism. Strongly supported by social
media, a leadership emerges by not using the "politically
correct" to communicate, receives a growing support of
attention, direct dialogue, and finally votes. The power of
synthesis by the 280 characters of the most used Twitter,
makes the communication very direct, blunt, and not deep.
They are headlines and links that one can read in less than
2 minutes with immediate reactions. This mobilizing force
overthrew governments, settled in popular movements,
and serves as an immediate protest for what we do not
want. Twitter is hardly set up to promote programs, ideas
and proposals that need deeper insight. A few people use
Twitter to set up "their tribe of excellence" by following
thinkers and proposers. The trend of thought conformity
of the chosen "tribe" is continuously reinforced in their
opinions, through the Artificial Intelligence embedded in
the system. Artificial Intelligence (AI) seeks the similar,
causing us to have more and more "communities of
harmonic thoughts", that is, offerings of ideas and
thoughts that are closer to our values and preferences. This
would reinforce in volume and speed the conformities,
reducing the habit of the coexistence of the antagonistic.
Today each one of us confronts from childhood, the
college to groups of friends to have the need to confront us
with divergence of ideas. Learning to separate in the
civilized coexistence to distinguish the idea of the person,
learning in the controversial does not customize the
adverse opinion. In the harmonious communities, these
difficult conversations shall be reduced, and the less
civilized confrontation is in the clash among the "tribes."
Observing the unfolding of the BREXIT, the passions rose
to such a level that within families, pro and con groups
became radical in such a way that there were situations of
members no longer speaking to each other. Similar effect
we observed in the Brazilian elections, between Bolsonaro
adherents and adherents to Lula's Haddad, to the point that
familiar WhatsApp groups have irreparable separations
from family members.
Direct language, unfiltered, by social media increased the
"clash of civilization," not as Huntington predicted by
cultural values, but by the deep disharmony of the tribes.
While the traditional media of large publics increased the
language of the "politically correct", in the opposite
direction, social media uses, direct language, nothing
politically correct but very direct and often offensive,
better portraying the reality of people's opinion. It is not
hard to imagine that this same phenomenon now driven by
Artificial Intelligence to reinforce simple, opportunistic
and momentary opinion carries leadership to power. At the
same time, we perceive a weakening of the traditional
media, stuck to the politically correct, that to regain its
adhesion cannot bring a differential of qualitative
journalism that calls attention and has adhesion like social
The new political leadership, inspired by this opportunity
realized that in the use of social media of great impact,
could have a differential that would lead to power by
direct voting. This happened very visibly with the outsider
Trump and now in Brazil with Bolsonaro.
The interesting thing is that they continue in the
communication to keep this dialogue direct, through
Twitter, privileging the self and you, and taking out the
intermediation of the media and the public transmitter.
Presidents of this profile do not need spokespeople, and
even the press has no way to interpret something that
followers have seen on Twitter. It is a way of bringing and
staying with the voter in the listening, by the synthetic
form of the 280 characters, enough to know what is going
on. Totally insufficient for a deeper, analytical and
strategic assessment. He becomes a populist because his
communication turns to the snapshot of effect phrases
leaving the interpretation to whoever wants to make
whatever he wants.
Direct democracy begins to settle by the easy and
immediate technology. The problem is that forces of
democracy such as the Public Opinion, Democratic Parties
and Institutions, parliaments, etc. they need the discursive
and the debate, to be of quality.
The risk of this abrupt transformation is that the debate
becomes less civilized and wilder. That the citizen wants
another form of communication and resolution of his
problems than the politically correct in the language is
comprehensive but - now comes the most critical - in the
procedures is an over roading acceptable ? If I no longer
have patience in the controversial, in the clash of ideas, the
trampling of democratic and legal decision-making
processes become acceptable. The risk of democracies
being run over by the New Populists with the support of
many is no longer a fiction. The best example is in
BREXIT, where the mindset of leaving the EU overlapped
with any rationality; today political, legal procedures have
made any solution unfeasible, and deadlock has settled.
We know that the "turnaround" of the BREXIT opinion
came when Cambridge Analytica entered the game
bringing the assessment of 50 million Facebook Britons,
making a campaign targeting each individual in their
specific uncertainty, through their AI.
Who is in check now - is democracy. If democracy does
not reinvent herself, she may succumb!
Latin America, which is predominantly democratic and
has great creative and innovative potential, must begin its
process of modernizing its political process. Starting with
the parties, and their way of managing their
representativeness via direct. A new form of Governance
is required in the Parties decision making process. Those
who succeed, using the effectiveness of networks and
technology to get closer to their constituency will win!
Nevertheless, it will have to admit first a new governance.
Direct Democracy without governance turns an easy game
to demagogues and populists. The new debate on the
governance of democracy is fundamental in these new
determinants of social networks and the phenomenon of
New Populism.
Nothing different from what happens in our companies. If
we are far from the preference of our consumers, and do
not reinvent ourselves in our organizations, we are bound
to succumb. Understanding and interacting with people
will be strategic, because every day we see something new
appearing and changing the mindset of our consumer.
Modern entrepreneurs, active in social media and political
actions, urgently need to be the protagonists in the
performance of party modernization and political
processes. Otherwise, we will have more unpredictable
New Populists in our democracies, and our future will
become much more unpredictable.
New Populism will move forward but … what will New
Democracy be like?