Analyzing the Media's Response to Populism and Extremism




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Jul 21, 2017
by Aceel Kibbi
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Analyzing the Media's Response to Populism and Extremism

Takeaways from the first week of the 11th Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change Participants of the 11th Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change in Parker Hall

More than 80 students from 25 countries have convened at Schloss Leopoldskron to take part in this year’s Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change - Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism. Participants are discussing populism and extremism in the media landscape, and will go onto create multimedia projects to unmask fake news and counteract intolerance.

Over the past few days, students have been asked to reflect on the devices employed by political leaders around the world, and recognize the importance of analyzing the media’s role in manipulating information and serving power over truth. Several faculty members have presented their research and conducted interactive workshops. Listed below are a few of the takeaways students have been able to gain so far.

On bridging cultural divides

In less than 90 minutes of the program's start on Monday, students at this year’s Academy felt comfortable enough to share personal narratives about their identities and cultural backgrounds with one another. By doing so, they realized that they belong to one geographical knot that represents their diverse identities and values – they’re tangled in a multicultural web that would only fall apart were they fail to embrace their varied ideals.

On media literacy and active citizenship

In the light of the steady decline of trust in mass media and the rejection of evidence-based journalism, students heard there is a need for a media-literate response. Students learned the differences between a media literate individual and an active citizen, while challenging the misconception the two terms have similar meanings. They also heard there was a need for new sets of constructs for how media literacy can be impactful in battling extremism. Students walked away with a better understanding of how digital culture and new legacy networks foster partisanship and diminish one’s capacity to identify problems. With a sharper critical consciousness, students will now be able to effectively cultivate agency and build mechanisms to push communities to respond to them.

On victimhood and social divisions

The recipe for extremism has several main ingredients: blame, avoidance, attribution, and victimhood. Students learned how to challenge ideology by analyzing the definition of change, power, ignorance, freedom, resistance, populism and extremism. They also reflected on the dangers of victimhood and the ripple effect it creates - it divides people, breeds a competitive nature between them, and disempowers responsibility, which in turn fosters revenge, appropriation of general will and extremism.

On the ethics of journalism in covering extremism

There are challenges to reporting on extremism while abiding by the code of ethics in journalism. Students learned the methodology journalists follow when selecting the proper tone, angle, sources, and multimedia elements for a story, while keeping the benefit of the public in mind. Through a series of thought-provoking case studies, students put these guidelines into practice. To challenge their intuition even further, students were shown how images could be used as a powerful tool to represent different sides of extremism. Students were also encouraged to critically evaluate mainstream media outlets’ journalistic standards.

On creating relationships through imagination

The students’ imagination was put into practice when they were asked to envision a future world in which they would aspire to live. Some of the components they discussed included citizenship, identity, media, justice, healthcare, environment, participation, identity, education, human rights, international reform, technology, and religion. Together, they experienced the power of civic imagination in harnessing social connections, forging solidarity and imagining alternatives to current social, political and economic institutions.

Discussions continue next week.

Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism is part of Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running multi-year program, the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. More information on the session can be found here: You can also follow all the discussions on Twitter and Instagram by following the hashtag #SGSmedia.