New Populism

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 media. 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?

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