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

Inoculation against Populism: Media Competence Education and Political Autonomy

  • Frodo Podschwadek ORCID logo EMAIL logo


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.


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.


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

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