Are Europe and its democracies threatened by a wave of populism? On May 8, 2017, Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt (PropStop project) discussed this question at a panel discussion that was hosted by the Osnabrück-based newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ). The event was part of the NOZ project “populism, positions, perspectives”, which was initiated in view of the upcoming Bundestag elections, dealing with measures of opinion manipulation and disinformation strategies during election campaigns.
Apart from Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt, expert for digital communication and hidden online propaganda, Hans-Georg Maaßen, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and Klaus-Peter Schöppner, opinion researcher (former director of the Emnid institute) participated in the panel discussion. Based on the question whether and how populism affects individuals and the society as a whole, the discussants debated the opportunities and risks of communication in social networks. Even though they stressed various positive aspects of online media, they also questioned the democratic potential of the Internet. Prof. Dr. Quandt pointed out that a new aggressive culture of discussion has emerged in online media, but also demanded not to take a dismissive, ignorant stance: “Those who have different opinions should not be embarrassed or attacked, they rather deserve respect.” Moreover, Quandt argued, media literacy and political culture should be taught at schools in order to reinforce a democratic understanding.
The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reported on the panel discussion in the article “NOZ-Diskussion: Internet als Fluch für Demokratie?“ (only in German).