Imagine a democratic society where politicians use all their resources on what they are meant to do, instead of engaging in manipulative and low standard verbal fights in the media. Currently, the stream of news media dictates the politicians, and politicians dictate the media. Never before have political parties used more money on public relations management and spin doctors.
The long meaningful debate seems to be gone. Instead we get a whirlpool of information, which often looks meaningless, harmful and dirty, and upsetting. People get annoyed with the onslaught of negativity and grow distant to politics and politicians, or they start hating them. Some go to the extreme, whether that extreme is left, right or religious. The extremes fire themselves up in social media and in closed web forums. There they construct their own version of realty. It makes a very polarized society.
Some politicians use these extremes to get more attention. They play them up against each other. This is not a good way to handle a society. It destabilizes a country. It is worst during election years. We saw an incident of this in Charlottesville in 2017, after the polarizing USA election campaign.
The election campaigns in USA can get quite nasty. Negative political advertisements have increased. Although few people like these ads, harmful commercials weaken the opponent nonetheless. People tend to have an extra awareness to negative information.
Media itself is also under attack. We have gotten to know the term post-truth politics. The whole idea of “post-truth politics” is to deal with people’s emotions. Facts and rationality are scrutinized. Different media tells different “truths”. If one media source disagrees with one’s opponent, the well-known phrases “fake news” or “fake media” is used as a final statement of dismissal.
Media also plays a great part in how it became like this: In the way media outlets present politicians and political disagreement with “warlike” headlines; How they focus on the populistic political personalities that create the most stir or appeal the most to people with no special interest in politics.
Psychographic profiling is also an increasing problem. Social media like Facebook engages in trade with personal information via “likes” and apps. This information is of great value for marketing companies and other companies that want to change the popular opinion or target possible voters. The Cambridge Analytica case showed us how this company used personal information they bought from Facebook to target people with strong messages on specific issues such as immigration and gun legislations.
Sources also say that they sent tailor-made messages to people who otherwise would be on the opposite sides on the political spectrum. Examples of this as follows: “The presidential candidate endorses gay marriages”. And: “The presidential candidate is strict on that gay people will not be allowed to have children”.
This is how politicians can get votes from both conservative and liberal sides. In such a manner, contradictory information is spread to groups of different people that never meet, contributing to their polarized reality orientation. This is a serious threat to the democracy! This is the worst form of dirty cheating populism!
Let’s get rid of the monster that gnaws on the foundation of modern civilised society. The forms of democracies we have today have a frightening weakness. The masses can easily be manipulated by media into electing narcissistic power-hungry leaders. It’s easier to manipulate people with social media today than it was for Goebbels in the end of the thirties.
Let’s modernize the political system. Let’s make it work democratically and rationally. We are fed up with quarrelling and lying politicians! We are fed up with being served fake candy. Let’s get real again!
I have a strong belief that a new form of technocracy would be the best way out of this mess. Technocracy is defined by Wikipedia as the management of society by decision-makers who are selected on the basis of their expertise in their areas of responsibility, particularly scientific knowledge.
It would be desirable to apply this to local and state government.
However, there will be problems when the best solutions to technical problems contradict the solutions voters support on social media. The abstract answers to complex problems proposed by experts are often different from the simpler, platitude-laden answers proposed bycharismatic populist politicians.
When populist politicians appeal to emotions and not to rational problem solving, then distrust of the experts builds. This distrust can warp into conspiracy theories and allegations that the expert has an ulterior motive for promoting his or her expert opinion. At a more practical level, this distrust results in legislation being passed without thought of real consequences and in unqualified people being appointed to positions that should be occupied by a technocrat.
The Middle Way
Direct democratic technocracy represents a middle way: It uses hard facts and real-time public consultation, elections, public internet conferences and data analysis to capture the specific desires of the people, while expert committees balance short-term needs and long-term objectives.
Let’s imagine a new railway station is being planned in the city where you live. First the local government must communicate with their inhabitants to map their needs and desires. Then they can make several different expert options about the locality and the functionality of the station. Then they will have the public vote about it. All of this can be easily done by using the Internet.
This method can also be used on issues of health and education on a national level of government. In Switzerland they already have a system quite similar as this one, and in Singapore they have well-functioning technocracy. Fuse these systems, and it might be the best cure against populism. *
So let’s get rid of our present political party leaders. Replace them with good willing people who want what is the best for society. Replace the people who want to become famous, powerful and exposed in media with the people who have the best ethical standards in each party. Each political party should then elect their own experts on every field of politics.
Nominate an economist with a Ph.D. and experience working with the economy to be their candidate for leading the state treasury. Further a medical professor with experience from the health sector to be their candidate to the head of the health department, and so on.
Another important thing is that the leader of each party should not be allowed to be the head of state, whether president or prime minister. The highest position of the state should be led by a small group. This is to prevent a power-hungry, charismatic and manipulative leader from being elected, again.
*Parag Khanna, https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/to-beat-populism-blend-democracy-and-technocracy-spore-style
Ole-Asbjørn Friesl, Editor of FlokkPress