Last year's elections in two of the world's largest liberal democracies, Great Britain and the United States, had outcomes which some called surprising, some called the onward march toward more right wing populism at the expense of liberal ideas and values. This became the point of departure for this master thesis, which aims to explore populism's relation to the public sphere and its implications on liberal democracy in the case of Trump and the American media landscape.
The analysis draws on Jan Werner Müller’s theory on populism and liberal democracy, and Jürgen Habermas’ theory of the public sphere - specifically his hypothesis from 1962 that it would decay into a site of self-interested contestation for the resources of the state rather than a space for the development of a public-minded rational consensus. Our find- ings are based on quantitative data and mappings of Twitter conversations, which show that increasing numbers of people are using social media for news consumption, even though many believe that social media is a place of bias and unreliable news sources. Twitter and Facebook’s algorithmic timelines foster the infiltration of commercial interests into the media, turning the critical public into a passive consumer public, and insulating its users from people whose viewpoints run counter to their own, causing a fragmented and polarized media landscape. At the same time, Trump does not engage with the reasoning public; he excludes his critics and opposition on moral grounds, and he uses his platform to propagate his no-filter messages with success. Neither Trump nor the public sphere are contributing to a nuanced, rational debate about the political. Instead, public reason is being damaged, both by populism and by the media's fragmentation, polarization and mistrust. Through populistic, anti-elite arguments and exclusion, Trump is de-legitimizing the free press, undermining the political establishment, criticizing legislative power, and challenging the liberal democratic structures and values from within.
|Educations||MSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis|
|Number of pages||191|