Democracy and Disinformation in the Era of Trump
Are we in the end-times of liberal democracy in the United States? For some years, Americans have been losing faith in institutions, civil norms, and perhaps the idea of America itself. The question has been dramatically sharpened by the election and presidency of Donald Trump.
Is it possible that liberal democracy – and by extension the liberal world order that the United States guided and gained from – was a short moment in American history, a seventy-year period of relative democratic stability at home and global leadership abroad. Is an epochal shift taking place? If so, to what? Illiberal democracy? What are we to call and how are we to understand the emerging order?
These questions have been complicated by the radical disruption of political culture and communication by new digital technologies and the prevalence of disinformation in place of a reliable and consensual ground of information and understanding. And by the distracting “reality show” of the Trump presidency that blurs entertainment and political life as never before. This overstimulation is disorienting, and damaging to basic perceptions about what constitutes politics or diplomacy.
How can Americans reconnect with or reinvent democratic traditions and institutions? How can journalism regain public trust and attention and help to shape a functioning democracy? What is the future of dissent and free speech in the digital era? Can social media be a source for democratic good?