Defending democratic discussion in the time of information overload

Ft Ligonier, Photo: Michelle A. Leppert

A recent paper I worked on proposes a novel method for defending the discussion of an open democracy in the time of weaponised narrative. Rather than trying to refute or block propaganda, democracies should cordon off areas that are to remain free of distortion and defend them specifically. In this case, I propose defending political speech in Australia’s parliament from weaponised narratives.

Here are some key points:

  • Information overload has permanently changed the news environment for the public, challenging democracies as a result.
  • The human need to find patterns of meaning in events, combined with increasing information availability, exposes Australians to the risk of accepting false or damaging stories.
  • Nation-states can weaponise these narratives to further increase their spread, destructiveness, and focus toward an intended population, especially online.As seen in the US and UK, the use of these narratives can disrupt and degrade the normal functioning of democracy.

The paper  – full version here and download here – centres on a key notion: that in a time of endless globalised information flows, open democracies must assert their right to sensible political discussion.

The co-author on this paper was ANU NSC academic director Matthew Sussex.

Here is a short piece for The Age on the subject, also co-authored with Sussex.

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