María Luengo, researcher: “Europe can be depolarized, having an impact against partisan animosity” | Technology | EUROtoday

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What is polarizing? There are those that assume that that is what EL PAÍS does—Lo País, they may most likely say—and there are those that assume that, to make use of the phrases of President Pedro Sánchez, the one fault lies with “the far-right digital galaxy” and “the sludge machine.” ”. In Spain and different international locations, opposing, polarized visions collide, which don’t assist to dissect a phenomenon that, indisputably, runs by our society, leaving a path of distrust and institutional crises. To put issues so as, a big crew of lecturers from 35 international locations has determined to launch a challenge that analyzes polarization in Europe, to make a well-defined atlas of the issue on this continent, with the intention of intervening to de-escalate it.

At the pinnacle of the a couple of hundred researchers concerned is Professor María Luengo (Madrid, 52 years outdated), from the Carlos III University, specialised in disinformation and media, as a result of “the idea arose by studying what journalistic impartiality is in the context of a society. polarized.” “The media is biased, but is the cause in society, which is increasingly biased and polarized?” she asks herself. To reply that and plenty of different questions, the community of consultants that it has led for six months will work for 4 years with two clear targets. The first is to outline the issue nicely, as a result of in his opinion we should fight radical polarization, which tears aside the social cloth with hatred, and never a lot polarization. very a lot, the one which retains the democratic muscle robust, impressed by Chantal Mouffe. They need to research it from social psychology, anthropology, identities, tradition and different disciplines, to seek out “common European patterns”, as a result of virtually every thing that has been printed to this point is from US political science.

The second goal is much more formidable: studying to cut back this stress, primarily based on “a map of depolarization initiatives in civil society and the media,” to design their very own interventions. Because they consider that it’s doable to depolarize Europe. Luengo attends EL PAÍS on the Madrid amenities of Carlos III, not too long ago arrived from Poland, the place they held the primary work marathon.

Ask. The very first thing is to outline what polarization is.

Answer. We have an interest within the phenomenon of radical polarization, as a result of a part of what we perceive is that polarization isn’t all the time unhealthy, and depolarization isn’t all the time good. There has all the time been partisanship and that additionally prompts democracy and citizen participation. The drawback is when this polarization turns into radicalized, when it’s uncivil, when there may be already a change of state in what can be bizarre politics. And it turns into animosity: I don't such as you since you're not one among my individuals, and every thing you assume appears unhealthy to me from the beginning.

P. That is the one they’re making an attempt to de-escalate.

R. Right there we’re. We need to be clear concerning the theoretical foundations of what we name polarization and depolarization. How can we perceive it? How is it being understood? And how can we, critically, higher place ourselves earlier than that idea? The gurus of polarization, particularly within the United States, already use phrases that attempt to additional qualify the time period, a partisan animosity, as a result of in any other case it’s a hole phrase. The cultural methods which can be nurturing liberal democracies find yourself in very opposite tales or narratives. And that’s, as we stated, permeating in the direction of two antagonistic blocks, the place it’s now not an agonism, a struggle between political contenders, however an antagonism, a “I hate you”, a struggle of opposites.

P. But there may be additionally false polarization, a psychological mechanism that leads us to consider that the opposite hates us greater than is actual.

R. Almost all of the research, virtually every thing we find out about polarization, comes from political science, about elections, and in addition some communication. There could be very little social psychology, when it appears to us that, for instance, in social networks it’s key to check the psychology of those that polarize in networks, as a result of ultimately it’s a few who set the development. There is a necessity for larger data of cultural parts, anthropology, and parts of psychology, that are little or no developed. And the development is about by the United States or the Anglo-Saxon world. We need to go right down to work on social polarization, extra linked to the civil sphere.

María Luengo, at the Madrid facilities of Carlos III, on May 28 before the interview.
María Luengo, on the Madrid amenities of Carlos III, on May 28 earlier than the interview.Alvaro Garcia

P. With a European focus.

R. The very first thing we hope is to help Europe somewhat extra, establish, give visibility, strengthen networks of researchers who’re engaged on this, do an evaluation of civil society or media initiatives in every of those international locations. And then I hope that we actually handle to take the step from academia to life, to the true world: having an affect is crucial. Experimentally take a look at depolarization interventions towards partisan animosity. We need to contribute one thing optimistic, not solely perceive nicely what polarization is, but in addition attain that depolarization.

“We hope to intervene to depolarize Europe, to have an impact in the real world.”

P. Can Europe be depolarized?

R. We consider that it may be detected and intervened to depolarize it, that there be larger pluralism and never that antagonism, that “I cross you out, I don't understand you and I don't even investigate, because emotionally I am with my group, and I have to think the same as them in all of them.” the subjects”. In some depolarization proposals there was talk of spaces of peace, because polarization is understood as conflict, war. In that sense, let's see how we can understand each other in a kind of post-conflict.

P. Is it a problem derived from the digitalization of societies?

R. Increasingly, polarization scholars place the beginning in the economic crisis, in 2008. Not so much in the digital issue, but more in economic inequality, because it also generates inequality in how we see ourselves, how we perceive ourselves. Experts like Luis Miller speak of a daily polarization, by neighborhood, that has always been like this, but that is still becoming more accentuated in the issue of material structures. That is there, but I think there is a multifactorial element: there is the economic, the political, what has happened in these years in Spain since the motion of censure… And in Europe, speaking with colleagues from other countries, we discovered that the whole historical issue , identity and culture is very important. The division cannot be understood without going to the past of their countries, to their identities. The war in Yugoslavia, our Civil War… These are things that we are sensing and that are going to be very interesting, because a network like this takes us out of Spain, and perhaps we are also very attached to our history and our way of seeing things. And Europe gives us that different perspective.

P. And do networks make these identities more toxic?

R. There are very contradictory studies. On the one hand, it has been shown that greater exposure to networks and being online exposes you to a plurality of ideas. But, on the other hand, you are in your tribe, which constantly reinforces what you think, your way of seeing things. There is still a lack of clarity about the influence.

There are extreme right-wing media, very aggressive, and there is really little journalism there. There are very shabby things”

P. And the contribution of social psychology.

R. Harmful or radical polarization no longer has to do with ideology, but with affective polarization, which is what we are exploring right now. An intensification of those negative affects towards the other person, just because they are different. The mechanism is not merely rational, it is not about “well I am going to give you arguments of reason so that you understand”, but it has to go to those affective, psychological, media literacy mechanisms. It is teaching people not to share information that you are not sure about simply because it goes against others. There is a lot of talk about misinformation and one of the reasons is that we misinform on purpose because we want to polarize, to speak ill of others. You have to be very careful there, that's where the alarm goes off. Perhaps networks not only amplify the extension, but also the intensity.

P. A lot of noise was generated by what President Pedro Sánchez said, when he spoke about digital media and the mud machine.

R. Different things are put in the same bag, because in digital media there is everything. But well, some specific, extreme right-wing, very aggressive media outlets are being identified, and there is really little journalism there, little professionalism. There are very shabby things. In that sense he is partly right, but digital is broader.

P. Is it necessary to define what a means of communication is? There are media and other things in disguise.

R. Some call it alternative media. Now there are many on the extreme right, but not only. In my view, they are a polarizing factor due to the aggressive tone and also because of this phenomenon that must be studied: there are some very partial platforms that not only try to win over their own, but also try to discredit those who are not theirs. , seek to generate political antagonism. In the Nordic countries they have been identified as “illiberal”, in the sense that it is not that they are extreme right, it is that they support ideas that go against democratic laws. That is very different, because they are going backwards in acquired rights, in civil liberties. Here it seems that everyone is in the bag of the extreme right, but it must be studied.

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