Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 7, 2019

Inoculation against Populism: Media Competence Education and Political Autonomy

Frodo Podschwadek ORCID logo

Abstract

This paper offers an analysis of the relation between political populism and mass media, and how this relation becomes problematic for democratic societies. It focuses on the fact that mass media, due to their purpose and infrastructure, can unintentionally reinforce populist messages. Research findings from communication science and political psychology are used to illustrate how, for example, a combination of mass media agenda setting and motivated reasoning can influence citizens’ political decisions and impair their political autonomy. This poses a particular normative challenge for modern democracies: how to counter these populism-supporting effects within the constraints of democratic legitimacy? After showing how severely limited legal measures to curb populist media effects would be, the paper argues in favour of media competence education as a way of providing future citizens with an epistemic toolkit to navigate the media environment and strengthen their political autonomy.

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Philosophy PGR Seminar at the University of Glasgow, the 2017 ASPP Conference, ECAP9, and the V. Salzburg Conference for Practical Philosophy. Thanks to the participants at these events for their comments (in particular to Detlef von Daniels and Norbert Paulo). Furthermore, I owe thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive feedback.

References

Balmas, M. and Sheafer, T. (2010). ‘Candidate Image in Election Campaigns. Attribute Agenda Setting, Affective Priming, and Voting Intentions’, International Journal of Public Opinion Research 22 (2): 204–229.Search in Google Scholar

Bennett, W.L. ed. (2004). Taken by Storm. The Media, Public Opinion, and US Foreign Policy in the Gulf War (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press).Search in Google Scholar

Boin, A., Hart, P., and McConnell, A. (2009). ‘Crisis Exploitation. Political and Policy Impacts of Framing Contests’, Journal of European Public Policy 16 (1): 81–106.Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, G. and Lomasky, L. (1993). Democracy and Decision. The Pure Theory of Electoral Preference (New York: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, J. (2016). Against Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, S. (2002). ‘Children’s Choices or Children’s Interests. Which Do Their Rights Protect?’, in D. Archard and C.M. MacLeod (eds.). The Moral and Political Status of Children (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 53–69.Search in Google Scholar

Brighouse, H. (2009). ‘Moral and Political Aims of Education’, in H. Siegel (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 35–51.Search in Google Scholar

Buchanan, J.M. (1984). ‘Politics without Romance. A Sketch of A Positive Public Choice Theory and Its Normative Implications’, in J.M. Buchanan and R.D. Tollison (eds.). The Theory of Public Choice - II (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press), pp. 11–22.Search in Google Scholar

Buchanan, J.M. and Tullock, G. (1999). The Calculus of Consent? Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (Indianapolis: Liberty).Search in Google Scholar

Callan, E. (2010). Creating Citizens. Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Search in Google Scholar

Christiano, T. (1996). The Rule of the Many. Fundamental Issues in Democratic Theory (New York: Westview Press).Search in Google Scholar

Christiano, T. (2008). The Constitution of Equality. Democratic Authority and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2005). Speech, Media, and Ethics. The Limits of Free Expression: Critical Studies on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of the Press, and the Public’s Right to Know (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan).Search in Google Scholar

Considine, D., Horton, J., and Moorman, G. (2009). ‘Teaching and Reaching the Millennial Generation through Media Literacy’, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52 (6): 471–481.Search in Google Scholar

Cook, T.E. (1999). Governing with the News. The News Media as a Political Institution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Search in Google Scholar

Feinberg, J. (1985). The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law: Offense to Others (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Flynn, D.J., Nyhan, B., and Reifler, J. (2017). ‘The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions. Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs About Politics’, Political Psychology 38 (2): 127–150.Search in Google Scholar

Galston, W.A. (1991). Liberal Purposes. Goods, Virtues, and Diversity in the Liberal State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Gaus, G.F. (1996). Justificatory Liberalism. An Essay on Epistemology and Political Theory (New York: Oxford University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Gollust, S.E., Lantz, P.M., and Ubel, P.A. (2009). ‘The Polarizing Effect of News Media Messages about the Social Determinants of Health’, American Journal of Public Health 99 (12): 2160–2167.Search in Google Scholar

Gutmann, A. (1996). Democracy and Disagreement (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap).Search in Google Scholar

Gutmann, A. (1999). Democratic Education (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action (Boston: Beacon Press).Search in Google Scholar

Habermas, J. (1996). Between Facts and Norms. Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT).Search in Google Scholar

Hague, C. and Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy across the Curriculum. A Futurelab Handbook (Bristol: Futurelab).Search in Google Scholar

Hobbs, R. and Jensen, A. (2009). ‘The Past, Present, and Future of Media Literacy Education’, Journal of Media Literacy Education 1: 1–11.Search in Google Scholar

Hopmann, D.N., Elmelund-Præstekær, C., Albæk, E., Vliegenthart, R., and Vreese, C.H.D. (2011). ‘Party Media Agenda-Setting. How Parties Influence Election New Coverage’, Party Politics 18 (2): 173–191.Search in Google Scholar

Kahan, D.M. (2013). ‘Ideology, Motivated Reasoning, and Cognitive Reflection’, Judgment and Decision Making 8 (4): 407–424.Search in Google Scholar

Kahneman, D. and Tversky, A. (1982). Judgment under Uncertainty. Heuristics and Biases (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Kahneman, D. and Tversky, A. eds. (2000). Choices, Values, and Frames (New York, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Kunda, Z. (1987). ‘Motivated Inference. Self-Serving Generation and Evaluation of Causal Theories’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53 (4): 636–647.Search in Google Scholar

Kunda, Z. (1990). ‘The Case for Motivated Reasoning’, Psychological Bulletin 108 (3): 480–498.Search in Google Scholar

Levinson, M. (2004). The Demands of Liberal Education (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Mancini, P. (2013). ‘Media Fragmentation, Party System, and Democracy’, The International Journal of Press/Politics 18 (1): 43–60.Search in Google Scholar

Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E., and Zhao, J. (2013). ‘Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function’, Science 341 (6149): 976–980.Search in Google Scholar

Mazzoleni, G. (1987). ‘Media Logic and Party Logic in Campaign Coverage. The Italian General Election of 1983’, European Journal of Communication 2 (1): 81–103.Search in Google Scholar

McCombs, M.E. (2004). Setting the Agenda. The Mass Media and Public Opinion (Cambridge and Malden: Polity).Search in Google Scholar

Mercille, J. (2015). The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis. The Case of Ireland (New York: Routledge).Search in Google Scholar

Mill, J.S. (2008/1859). ‘On Liberty’, in J. Gray (ed.). On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 5–130.Search in Google Scholar

Mueller, D.C. (2003). Public Choice III (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Nyhan, B. and Reifler, J. (2010). ‘When Corrections Fail. The Persistence of Political Misperceptions’, Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330.Search in Google Scholar

Prior, M. (2010). Post-Broadcast Democracy. How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections (New York: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (2005). Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Redlawsk, D.P. (2002). ‘Hot Cognition or Cool Consideration? Testing the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Political Decision Making’, The Journal of Politics 64 (4): 1021–1044.Search in Google Scholar

Redlawsk, D.P., Civettini, A.J.W., and Emmerson, K.M. (2010). ‘The Affective Tipping Point. Do Motivated Reasoners Ever “Get It”?’, Political Psychology 31 (4): 563–593.Search in Google Scholar

Reidy, D.A. (2001). ‘Pluralism, Liberal Democracy, and Compulsory Education. Accommodation and Assimilation’, Journal of Social Philosophy 32 (4): 585–609.Search in Google Scholar

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. (2013) Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL). Assessment Framework: Country Readiness and Competencies (Paris: UNESCO).Search in Google Scholar

Waldron, J. (1999). Law and Disagreement (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Search in Google Scholar

Wood, T. and Porter, E. (2019). ‘The Elusive Backfire Effect: Mass Attitudes’ Steadfast Factual Adherence’, Political Behavior 41 (1): 135–163.Search in Google Scholar

Yamagishi, T., Terai, S., Kiyonari, T., Mifune, N., and Kanazawa, S. (2007). ‘The Social Exchange Heuristic. Managing Errors in Social Exchange’, Rationality and Society 19 (3): 259–291.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2019-11-07
Published in Print: 2019-11-18

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston