Inoculation Against Populism: Media Competence Education and Political Autonomy

Moral Philosophy and Politics 6 (2):211-234 (2019)
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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.

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Frodo Podschwadek
Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz

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