According to Moises Naim, polarization, together with populism and post-truths, is one of the three p’s undermining democratic societies.
Observing the public debate, which is becoming more and more polarized, it seems we are losing our ability to talk with people who have other opinions. Instead, we talk about them.
We try to classify people who have a different opinion than us, with a label. Once this label has been issued, we feel we do not have to enter in debates with them anymore. On the contrary, we try to prevent debates, since this would provide our opponents with an opportunity to share their opinions.
The difficulty however is that the effectiveness of human societies depends on our ability to cooperate and reconcile our differences.
I am very interested in decision-making in organizations as well as in social media. This means a book like ‘An Ugly Truth – Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination’, by Frenkel and Kang is a double whammy for me.
The book describes the different scandals Facebook has been involved in in the past couple of years (e.g the Russian interference in US presidential elections, Cambridge Analytica, and the mass murder of Rohingya people in Myanmar). These scandals are well known and well documented in other books. The added value of this book is that it describes the decision-making process of the top leadership of Facebook with regard to these scandals.
What is even more interesting is the link the book makes between the motivation and ethics of the key decision-makers on the one hand and their decisions on the other.
The invention of the printing press proved to be a pivotal point in the development of our society because it enabled the dissemination of ideas and information at an unprecedented pace. It is unlikely that, without the printing press, the Reformation in the 16th century would have had such a huge impact, so quickly.
In the 20th century, radio and television increased the speed of information even more. It is likely that the public opinion about the war in Vietnam (the first television war) changed significantly as a result of the coverage of this war on television.
Social media emerges
No wonder that many governments tried to control these media, either in the form of censorship, or by creating monopolies for news dissemination (e.g in the former Soviet Union).
At the end of the 1990s, social media platforms started to emerge, disrupting the traditional media landscape of newspaper, radio, and television organizations.
In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal shocked the world. It became clear that Cambridge Analytica had used data from tens of million Facebook users, to influence the elections in the US, and the Brexit referendum.
A couple of days ago my bible app opened with this verse of the day: ‘To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice’ (Proverbs 21:3).
This text reminded me of the way some companies deal with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Rather than doing the right thing, they do the wrong thing and compensate for this by deploying CSR initiatives. There is even a special term describing this phenomenon: ‘Greenwashing’. In this context, it is no wonder that two professors from IMD (a leading Swiss Business School) published an article in 2018 with the provocative title: ‘Why nobody takes corporate social responsibility seriously’.
I always felt a deep respect for people who take personal risks in daring to confront oppression in a peaceful manner. Names like Mahatma Gandhi, Vaclav Havel and Andrei Sakharov spring to mind.
This Easter I especially think of German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), who was executed 75 years ago because of his active resistance against the German Nazi regime at that time.
The importance of the EU is increasing, but its continuity is threatened by the actions and behaviours of its own leaders
By Dirk Verburg
European cooperation is now more important now than ever
To state the obvious: we are living in a VUCA world, a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. The world order as we know it seems to be threatened by multiple problems, including (in arbitrary order): the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, the geo-political ambitions of China, wavering loyalty of the current US president regarding NATO, Climate Change, the Refugee crisis, the rise of populism in Western Democracies and Muslim extremism, to name but a few.
Given the nature and scale of these challenges, European countries have a far better chance to achieve a successful outcome if they deal with these challenges jointly, rather than individually.
EU politicians are ignoring warning signals about the lack of support of the EU by their votersContinue reading →