Discussion Are democracies dying?

Indus

Diamond Member
May 11, 2002
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Interesting article on how the democratic process is going in decline mostly because of - us.

We hate thinking and reasoning and doing math and democracy is hard.

On the other hand it's much easier to do 1 thing which all authoritarians demand - be loyal above all else.

Then you can blame all immigrants for all the ills of your life as you imagine a golden age without any of them.

It's already happening in many countries - Poland, Italy, Hungary, England, India, South Africa and now Canada and the United States.

So are you concerned about it as I am here of our next generation of right wing authoritarians?
 

UNCjigga

Lifer
Dec 12, 2000
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If only there was some sort of public institution that would be mandatory for all citizens to attend during their formative years, where they could learn about their civic duties to a democracy and be provided with the tools they need--critical thinking skills, deductive reasoning, math, scientific method. We might have had one, once, but I think it's been defunded at both the state and federal levels.
 

senseamp

Lifer
Feb 5, 2006
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This is why liberals have to start taking the original meaning of the 2nd Amendment seriously, even if they don't agree with the modern right wing distortion of it.
Security of whatever states are still left free might become of paramount importance.
 
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Jaskalas

Lifer
Jun 23, 2004
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If only there was some sort of public institution that would be mandatory for all citizens to attend during their formative years, where they could learn about their civic duties to a democracy and be provided with the tools they need--critical thinking skills, deductive reasoning, math, scientific method. We might have had one, once, but I think it's been defunded at both the state and federal levels.

You'll note the OP mentioned Western Civilization in general suffers from a malaise. Perhaps your American focused idea is missing the topic. Surely education is vital, but have all western people forgotten how to do that? Surely they've not all been de-funded.
 

Commodus

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 2004
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The weird thing to me is that it feels like there was a collective, not quite simultaneous decision to reject informed democracy. Like they'd grown bored of unspectacular but competent government and wanted to risk wrecking it all for the sake of something new. "Intelligence? Science? Nuance and compromise? Pah, just give me the right-wing populist idiot who tells me the lies I want to hear."

The real question is how long it lasts. There's evidence of people turning away from it, such as the exit of Malvini in Italy, the replacement of Zuma in South Africa, the meltdown of Boris Johnson's government and, of course, the 2018 US midterms. The question is whether or not these changes will both continue (the ultimate test being the 2020 US election) and take the planet back to some semblance of reasonable, fact-based government.
 
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woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
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The weird thing to me is that it feels like there was a collective, not quite simultaneous decision to reject informed democracy. Like they'd grown bored of unspectacular but competent government and wanted to risk wrecking it all for the sake of something new. "Intelligence? Science? Nuance and compromise? Pah, just give me the right-wing populist idiot who tells me the lies I want to hear."

It may seem strange until you look at what has been happening in the world particularly over these past 10 years. Specifically, I'm talking about the rise of social media as well as the generally increased reliance people have on online sources of information.

The researcher in the OP's link is correct in his diagnosis. The internet is in the process of destroying democracy. Ironically, the democratization of information is undermining the democracy of actual government.

The real question is how long it lasts. There's evidence of people turning away from it, such as the exit of Malvini in Italy, the replacement of Zuma in South Africa, the meltdown of Boris Johnson's government and, of course, the 2018 US midterms. The question is whether or not these changes will both continue (the ultimate test being the 2020 US election) and take the planet back to some semblance of reasonable, fact-based government.

The hope is that liberal democratic culture has fermented long enough to have a built in immune system. Not to reject bad ideas from the populist right. Humans are incapable of rejecting bad ideas when delivered in just the right emotional pitch. Rather, to reject such ideas only after they have gained some traction in actual government, as they did in 2016, then resulted in demonstrably terrible consequences. And by that, I mean consequences worse than what we've seen so far. If OTOH the authoritarianism increases only gradually, desensitizing us to each new injustice or indignity at each step, then I'm afraid we're in real trouble.

This is why, for example, I keep saying in every Brexit thread that I actively desire a no deal Brexit for the UK. The people who voted for leave need to see that their country is suffering as a result. If they do not, they'll just keep voting for the same bad policies based on the same nationalist and nativist instincts. We aren't going to convince these people with any words. They'll only be convinced when they can see the disaster these ideas have caused.

Time will tell if this authoritarian trend has peaked or is still in early stages.
 
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Juiblex

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Sep 26, 2016
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Democracy is the worst form of government. It allows idiots like Trump to win because of dollars, and making empty promises to the masses that he had no plans of following through on. I thought he was going to eliminate the national debt in 4 years or whatever? Um.... ???? Politicians need to be held accountable for their empty promises. Electing another idiot from the same pool of candidates is not going to fix anything. Electing from the other pool of candidates isn't going to work either. Because both pools are actually part of the larger pool of people who are really in control, who lurk in shadows, with their dollars dangling with more empty promises with the real agenda.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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I think the article is (probably purposefully) over the top but I do think that Rosenberg accurately diagnoses a big problem with modern democracies that they are going to have to find a way to deal with, specifically that the right wing movements of the last 20-30 years are fundamentally contemptuous of liberal democratic values. If you have a situation where a significant proportion of the population sees no value in the system then they have no qualms with tearing it down in order to get their way. In the past you had a ruling caste of sorts and while that was in some ways fundamentally undemocratic they were still popularly elected and, just as importantly invested in the system, regardless of ideology. I believe that's why you saw Nixon impeached and Trump not.

And no, it's not the same on both sides. This is one problem the center and left have in fighting this movement is that it is asymmetric warfare. The right is uninhibited in what actions it takes because they don't have to factor the health of the system into what they are doing. Destroying it is a feature, not a bug.
 
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Commodus

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It may seem strange until you look at what has been happening in the world particularly over these past 10 years. Specifically, I'm talking about the rise of social media as well as the generally increased reliance people have on online sources of information.

The researcher in the OP's link is correct in his diagnosis. The internet is in the process of destroying democracy. Ironically, the democratization of information is undermining the democracy of actual government.

I'd tend to agree... as great as it is, the internet has made it easy to disseminate false info and reduce the desire to verify and investigate. Hence the legions of Trump drones who'll believe anything he says on Twitter and treat obvious propaganda pieces and amateur blogs as authoritative sources.

The hope is that liberal democratic culture has fermented long enough to have a built in immune system. Not to reject bad ideas from the populist right. Humans are incapable of rejecting bad ideas when delivered in just the right emotional pitch. Rather, to reject such ideas only after they have gained some traction in actual government, as they did in 2016, then resulted in demonstrably terrible consequences. And by that, I mean consequences worse than what we've seen so far. If OTOH the authoritarianism increases only gradually, desensitizing us to each new injustice or indignity at each step, then I'm afraid we're in real trouble.

This is why, for example, I keep saying in every Brexit thread that I actively desire a no deal Brexit for the UK. The people who voted for leave need to see that their country is suffering as a result. If they do not, they'll just keep voting for the same bad policies based on the same nationalist and nativist instincts. We aren't going to convince these people with any words. They'll only be convinced when they can see the disaster these ideas have caused.

Time will tell if this authoritarian trend has peaked or is still in early stages.

I sure hope there's an immune system, though I also hope any damage is limited. I don't want to see years-long recessions or further Russian encroachment just to prove a point. And the danger is that many of the perpetrators of this damage fully intend to remain in power by any means necessary... I don't want Republicans or Conservatives rigging the system so thoroughly that it becomes virtually impossible to vote them out.
 
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glenn1

Lifer
Sep 6, 2000
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I think the article is (probably purposefully) over the top but I do think that Rosenberg accurately diagnoses a big problem with modern democracies that they are going to have to find a way to deal with, specifically that the right wing movements of the last 20-30 years are fundamentally contemptuous of liberal democratic values. If you have a situation where a significant proportion of the population sees no value in the system then they have no qualms with tearing it down in order to get their way. In the past you had a ruling caste of sorts and while that was in some ways fundamentally undemocratic they were still popularly elected and, just as importantly invested in the system, regardless of ideology. I believe that's why you saw Nixon impeached and Trump not.

And no, it's not the same on both sides. This is one problem the center and left have in fighting this movement is that it is asymmetric warfare. The right is uninhibited in what actions it takes because they don't have to factor the health of the system into what they are doing. Destroying it is a feature, not a bug.

If that's your line of thinking then you should stop using the word "democracy" since it's obvious you don't actually believe in it. You believe in a Disney-fied version of it where progressive elites run things on behalf of those governed via "democracy" and actually actively prevent democracy from happening. The quote from the article describes your mindset perfectly:

The irony is that more democracy—ushered in by social media and the Internet, where information flows more freely than ever before—is what has unmoored our politics, and is leading us towards authoritarianism. Rosenberg argues that the elites have traditionally prevented society from becoming a totally unfettered democracy; their “oligarchic ‘democratic’ authority” or “democratic control” has until now kept the authoritarian impulses of the populace in check.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
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I think the article is (probably purposefully) over the top but I do think that Rosenberg accurately diagnoses a big problem with modern democracies that they are going to have to find a way to deal with, specifically that the right wing movements of the last 20-30 years are fundamentally contemptuous of liberal democratic values. If you have a situation where a significant proportion of the population sees no value in the system then they have no qualms with tearing it down in order to get their way. In the past you had a ruling caste of sorts and while that was in some ways fundamentally undemocratic they were still popularly elected and, just as importantly invested in the system, regardless of ideology. I believe that's why you saw Nixon impeached and Trump not.

And no, it's not the same on both sides. This is one problem the center and left have in fighting this movement is that it is asymmetric warfare. The right is uninhibited in what actions it takes because they don't have to factor the health of the system into what they are doing. Destroying it is a feature, not a bug.

Yes that accurately describes the political right in western democracies. But these ideas have been around for a long time. Why are they getting so much traction just now? In the past, it was economic collapse. The worldwide recession starting in 1929 and persisting through the 1930's was directly causative of the rise of European fascism. But right now we're in pretty good economic times, and arguably have been for at least 6 or 7 years.

I think Rosenberg is correct. It's the internet and social media. The genie has been let out of the bottle and I think some very bad things will have to happen before it's even partially put back in, if ever. I very much hope I'm wrong about this.
 
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fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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If that's your line of thinking then you should stop using the word "democracy" since it's obvious you don't actually believe in it. You believe in a Disney-fied version of it where progressive elites run things on behalf of those governed via "democracy" and actually actively prevent democracy from happening. The quote from the article describes your mindset perfectly:

I specifically said the ideology of those running it was not relevant. Did you not read my post? As for democracy, if you're going to say what the US had basically since its founding is not democracy that's a transparently wrong and silly argument. Sovereignty has always remained with the electorate, so we have always been a democracy.

Party activists have seized control of the parties and nomination process, particularly the Republican Party, and replaced those 'anti-democratic' smoke filled rooms where previous candidates were nominated with primaries dominated by ideologically extreme voters who choose candidates overall less popular and less representative of the electorate as a whole than what they replaced. Is that more 'democratic'? Sure, in that more people were involved in the candidate's selection. Does the result end up being more representative of what the average voter wants? Nope.

It's especially bad in the US as our system is poorly designed to deal with highly ideologically disciplined parties in government, leading to dysfunction and governmental paralysis.
 

whm1974

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Jul 24, 2016
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Democracy is the worst form of government. It allows idiots like Trump to win because of dollars, and making empty promises to the masses that he had no plans of following through on. I thought he was going to eliminate the national debt in 4 years or whatever? Um.... ???? Politicians need to be held accountable for their empty promises. Electing another idiot from the same pool of candidates is not going to fix anything. Electing from the other pool of candidates isn't going to work either. Because both pools are actually part of the larger pool of people who are really in control, who lurk in shadows, with their dollars dangling with more empty promises with the real agenda.
Democracy is indeed the worst form of government, but all others have been tried.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
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Yes that accurately describes the political right in western democracies. But these ideas have been around for a long time. Why are they getting so much traction just now? In the past, it was economic collapse. The worldwide recession starting in 1929 and persisting through the 1930's was directly causative of the rise of European fascism. But right now we're in pretty good economic times, and arguably have been for at least 6 or 7 years.

I think Rosenberg is correct. It's the internet and social media. The genie has been let out of the bottle and I think some very bad things will have to happen before it's even partially put back in, if ever. I very much hope I'm wrong about this.

Why do you think the right has been so much more susceptible to corruption and extremism by social media and the internet?

Also, while I agree that the internet and social media has played a significant part in what we see now it seems the lurch towards ideological extremism on the right significantly predates the internet and has been primarily driven by those least likely to use the internet heavily. How would you account for this?
 
Nov 29, 2006
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Why do you think the right has been so much more susceptible to corruption and extremism by social media and the internet?

Also, while I agree that the internet and social media has played a significant part in what we see now it seems the lurch towards ideological extremism on the right significantly predates the internet and has been primarily driven by those least likely to use the internet heavily. How would you account for this?

Religion/Church? Sheep are easy to lead.
 
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Luna1968

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Then you can blame all immigrants for all the ills of your life as you imagine a golden age without any of them.

I guess the difference between legal and illegal immigrants is not in your agenda. Also show me one person bagging on LEGAL immigrants? arent you a Legal Immigrant?
 

balloonshark

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Jun 5, 2008
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Religion/Church? Sheep are easy to lead.
As someone who used to consider himself a republican I tend to agree with the the religion/church theory. They teach you to fear god, the devil and going to hell. When you're taught to fear and hate you are easily controlled and manipulated. All rational thought is tossed aside since questioning what is said is a betrayal of your faith and you will burn in hell just for using your free will. It's an insane way to go through life.

Are whole lives we are taught there is an us and a them. Democrats and republicans, Christians and Muslims, Steelers and Ravens, Yankees and Red Sox, Auburn and Alabama, etc. etc. They keep us distracted and hating the other 'team' which keeps the attention off of the real folks calling the shots.
 
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Starbuck1975

Lifer
Jan 6, 2005
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Rosenberg’s conclusion is causing a stir because he rightfully identifies Trump as the end of the death spiral, not the beginning. Democracy only works when the populace has a shared experience that binds them together, with political elites in place to safeguard institutions and temper the masses.

I agree that social media creates noise that undermines the few remaining functioning political elites, who increasingly have become tribalistic cheerleaders and enablers in their own right.

We’ve monetized the tools and platforms that undermine our institutions, put everyone into self absorbed tribalistic bubbles and undermine the common threads that bind societies together.
 

Indus

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May 11, 2002
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I guess the difference between legal and illegal immigrants is not in your agenda. Also show me one person bagging on LEGAL immigrants? arent you a Legal Immigrant?

No. Go through the Andrew Yang go back to China thread.
 
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Jhhnn

IN MEMORIAM
Nov 11, 1999
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Rosenberg’s conclusion is causing a stir because he rightfully identifies Trump as the end of the death spiral, not the beginning. Democracy only works when the populace has a shared experience that binds them together, with political elites in place to safeguard institutions and temper the masses.

I agree that social media creates noise that undermines the few remaining functioning political elites, who increasingly have become tribalistic cheerleaders and enablers in their own right.

We’ve monetized the tools and platforms that undermine our institutions, put everyone into self absorbed tribalistic bubbles and undermine the common threads that bind societies together.

Shee-it. That's just what our own right wing has been doing successfully for 40 years. There's nothing democratic about Capitalism, particularly of the multinational variety. They want govt to work for them exclusively & honest democracy is an obvious impediment to that. So they bought the GOP while establishing the media infrastructure to support the effort. Americans for Prosperity, Freedom works & a whole host of media manipulators & personalities drive it home, relentlessly, while they're literally looting the Treasury & rendering the govt a slave to debt, which they own. Conservastives, of course, refuse to see that he things they believe in & their best qualities are all turned against them in the process.
 
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woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
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Why do you think the right has been so much more susceptible to corruption and extremism by social media and the internet?

Also, while I agree that the internet and social media has played a significant part in what we see now it seems the lurch towards ideological extremism on the right significantly predates the internet and has been primarily driven by those least likely to use the internet heavily. How would you account for this?

Because the process of radicalization of the political right began with other media - specifically talk radio - back in the 80's. Then in the 90's, Fox News. But the internet has greatly accelerated it and extended its demographic reach. It's also spreading even more radical ideas than what was transmitted in those other media. Conspiracy theories are on the rise now for a reason.

As to why the right is more susceptible, I don't think we have any disagreement there. Conservatives are motivated to a greater extent by base and primal emotions like fear than are liberals. But liberals are susceptible too. As Yates said, "the centre cannot hold" any longer. When society becomes this polarized, something's gotta give.

It will be interesting to see what future historians write about this period and specifically the role of the internet. Will they say that this was technology that we just weren't ready for?
 

whm1974

Diamond Member
Jul 24, 2016
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Because the process of radicalization of the political right began with other media - specifically talk radio - back in the 80's. But the internet has greatly accelerated it and extended its demographic reach.

As to why the right is more susceptible, I don't think we have any disagreement there. Conservatives are motivated to a greater extent by base and primal emotions like fear than are liberals. But liberals are susceptible too. As Yates said, "the centre cannot hold" any longer. When society becomes this polarized, something's gotta give.

It will be interesting to see what future historians write about this period and specifically the role of the internet. Will they say that this was technology that we just weren't ready for?
I think they will say that about us.
 

ivwshane

Lifer
May 15, 2000
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Because the process of radicalization of the political right began with other media - specifically talk radio - back in the 80's. Then in the 90's, Fox News. But the internet has greatly accelerated it and extended its demographic reach. It's also spreading even more radical ideas than what was transmitted in those other media. Conspiracy theories are on the rise now for a reason.

As to why the right is more susceptible, I don't think we have any disagreement there. Conservatives are motivated to a greater extent by base and primal emotions like fear than are liberals. But liberals are susceptible too. As Yates said, "the centre cannot hold" any longer. When society becomes this polarized, something's gotta give.

It will be interesting to see what future historians write about this period and specifically the role of the internet. Will they say that this was technology that we just weren't ready for?

I think historians may refer to this period as the rebirth of the dark ages. Where once great empires and technological advances fell and a rise in "religion" (in this case it would be more like cults than official religions), where diseases spread because of beliefs and not science, because science was no longer believed or taught.

Hopefully it doesn't take 1000 years to get through it.
 
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Jaskalas

Lifer
Jun 23, 2004
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But right now we're in pretty good economic times, and arguably have been for at least 6 or 7 years.

But we are not. Trickle down has resulted in a mass looting with generational poverty not seen since the 1930s... or worse.

And it's not just an American problem via Reagan. It is Capitalism, by its very nature. Efficiency means achieving slave labor. One way or another the consumers are left holding the bag of false promises. It is painful and it is accelerating. It is raw, unbridled, predatory Capitalism that is making people feel like destroying our system, our way of life.