Saturday , December 15 2018
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No enemies to the right?

Summary:
Anthony Albanese has a piece in the #Ozfail (not linked) restating standard [1] claims that political life is increasingly characterized by echo chambers and that we ought to make more of an effort to engage with those whose views differ from ours. He mentions, as example of the dire consequences of not doing this, some international examples this polarisation in global politics has seen the demise of many of the historically successful progressive political parties such as France’s Socialist Party, PASOK in Greece, the Partito Democratico in Italy, the Social Democrats in Germany and many other affiliates of the Socialist International. In many countries, parties of the radical Right have emerged with disillusioned working-class people as their social base. What’s striking about

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Anthony Albanese has a piece in the #Ozfail (not linked) restating standard [1] claims that political life is increasingly characterized by echo chambers and that we ought to make more of an effort to engage with those whose views differ from ours.

He mentions, as example of the dire consequences of not doing this, some international examples

this polarisation in global politics has seen the demise of many of the historically successful progressive political parties such as France’s Socialist Party, PASOK in Greece, the Partito Democratico in Italy, the Social Democrats in Germany and many other affiliates of the Socialist International.

In many countries, parties of the radical Right have emerged with disillusioned working-class people as their social base.

What’s striking about this list is that most of the examples lost votes at least as much to parties on their left, which rejected their complicity in austerity: Syriza in Greece, Melenchon’s la France Insoumise, and the Greens in Germany and the Netherlands. Yet there’s no hint in Albanese’s article that the centre-left needs to be open to the views of such groups and their supporters: apparently, we need to be talking to the supporters of Golden Dawn, Le Pen, AfD and so on.

Albanese’s position in Australian politics is exactly the same. He’s happy to talk to Andrew Bolt and the Oz in the interests of an open debate, but as far as I know he has never had a good word to say about the Greens, let along sought to open a dialogue with them. Apparently some alternative views are more equal than others.

fn1. Although claims that the Interent has produced echo chambers have been made widely, it’s far from obvious that exposure to alternative views has diminished. Before the Internet, a rightwinger might read the Oz and their local Murdoch paper, watch Kerry Packer’s Channel 9, and listen to Alan Jones on the radio. Their social circle would often consist mostly of likeminded people, or would be one in which politics was avoided. It was (and remains) harder for a left-winger to get news only from leftwing sources, but someone who stuck to the ABC and the Fairfax press would have been exposed primarily to a socially liberal perspective.

I’m pretty sure there is empirical evidence on this, but I haven’t got time to look for it now.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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