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The strategies for destroying the public space

What is the communication strategy to bring society to a destructive polarization? How does one destroy the democratic environment and pluralistic debate? The aim is always to promote intolerance to those who think differently and to transform ideological identities into closed systems impervious to argument. The principal strategies of fake news as a political project are:

  1. The demonization of all those who are not part of the political group, who are then considered enemies whether of the people, religion, family or country. They become the object of constant attacks, connecting them to a range of vices, character defects and conspiracies, often based on information taken out of context about their lives. Or they are associated with people of dubious reputation to undermine respect for them and the institutions which they represent.

  2. The promotion of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories create a paranoid and diabolical version of the world. The conspirator is the one “behind it all”, a powerful minority (or individual) who is against the interests of the country, the family, order, the people, the nation or the class to which the opponents are directly or indirectly associated. The role of conspiracy theories is above all to identify outsiders as responsible for the eventual problems which a country is facing, especially the errors of their leaders. The blame is always placed on others.

  3. The identification of all those who disagree as belonging to the same unified group, although it is evident that enormous differences exist between them. This homogenization is achieved through categorizing all those who disagree as belonging to a single tribe, (communists, fascists, feminists), which is then caricatured. This homogenization of the enemy helps to create a feeling of unity and community among those opposed to the enemy. This idea of a common enemy allows the most diverse resentments, prejudices and group frustrations to be channeled in a single direction. Projecting on to the enemy the responsibility for a whole range of social malaises simplifies problems whose complexity needs to be recognized if a society is to respond adequately to the challenges it faces. Everything is reduced to blaming the other and having blind faith in the leader.

  4. The promotion of fear with regard to possible social transformations, which creates a sensation of chaos and an idealization of the past, (in spite of the fact that even given the existence of challenges, the quality of life today is better than in the past, there is less oppression of different groups and greater consciousness of the rights of each citizen).

  5. The promotion of authoritarian tendencies with the aim of producing a “new normal” which tests the limits of the judicial and moral system. In this new normal, offences, lies and systematic defamation are allowed. The aim is to destroy norms of civility and respect, making constant aggression an acceptable form of political action. Fake news and the declarations of authoritarian political leaders are continuously pushing the limits of what is acceptable in public debate. If these limits are felt to be threatened and there is a public reaction, the most common response is a tactical retreat, claiming that the issue was not to be taken seriously, that it was taken out of context or that is was misunderstood.

  6. Shift the focus of attention. This technique, a rhetorical ruse, is drawn on when the leader makes a serious mistake or is faced with a scandal, and is designed to divert attention by creating alternative sensationalist news or explaining away the event as the result  of a conspiracy.

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