Open society in crisis

Communicating political common sense: How can we confront populism?

Informed, balanced and reasonable debate was one of Helmut Schmidt’s trademarks. His approach to policy making was through debate, argument and even dispute in an open and free society.

Our western-style open society, oriented towards objective dialogue and rational consideration, is increasingly under pressure. The problem of communicating via the media is currently seen as a significant reason: Many people are aware only of what is fed to them as links in their social media “filter bubbles”. This means that public opinion is influenced less by facts and truths than by emotions and resentment within one’s own social group. The post-factual distortions of the truth to which such ideological compartmentalisation can lead were demonstrated during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Divisions are emerging on many levels of society. The Foundation has set itself the goal of counteracting this impending development and coming up with answers to the following questions:

  • How can we engage with the kind of populism that makes political capital out of people’s fears and offers over-simplistic answers to complex questions?
  • Are we justified in speaking of a growing failure of the elites in important countries in the West?
  • What differentiates and unites individual countries and what counter-strategies can be pursued in the European and global contexts?

The work of the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung will support the development of social initiatives that strengthen and promote the European set of values governing political action.

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