From populism to tribalism: the new frontier of political consensus

Voters’ low education, social anger, fake news dissemination?
No, explaining the political communication at present days must take in account the tribal individual attitude, a legacy we inherited in the species’ adaptation process.
Its fair to state that the social networks rise, and the fact that VIP and politician are massively using them, originated a borderless space where users are acting like hunters for accessing infos and messages useful to their tribe.

Similarly to cavemen, the websurfer is moved by his survival instinct coded in his own DNA, looking for a safe place and for aggregation with his peers in front of unlimited, potentially dangerous external stimuli.

No matter if we’re in the middle of the savannah or surfing a social nextwork, living in a world where smartphones has turned into a body extension, making virtual live sometimes even more complicated than the real one.
Distances within ourservels and public figures are shortening within the Web, everybody creating interactions and using the very same tools, empathy being emphasized by this perceived closeness. So, the influencer or the political leader – which are so often coexisting – are turning into tribal chiefs, keeping the tribe together, fighting for their own land, being supported and defended from external menaces.

In order to keep the tribe united and ready for fighting, myths and enemies must be created: this is where social media simplistic and illogical storytelling comes from.
Tribes’ members are naturally incline to conform one to each other, accepting any information which is making their beliefs stronger, strengthening the group identity, justifying its defence.

More than one century ago, French sociologist Gustave Le Bon stated in his world-famous “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind” that messages must be easy and, less the words, the easier the understanding for the masses. Nothing better than a 280-characters twwet then.

The truthfulness isn’t crucial, because, as Le Bon said:

“The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim”.

Within the mass, which Le Bon consider under a psicological point of view and not as a simple bunch of people, the individual turns into a new entity, loosing his own traits and accepting a new, collective identity.

Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931)

The mass is totally unconscious-driven, the most primitive human instincts coming out while the mass is deprived of any critical capacity, leading to accept imposed and undisputed judgments. If, within it, a single individual can mature in his conscious a critical attitude towards the event he is witnessing, he will take care to keep that to himself and to repress it, since the majority of those present do not move upstream as the individual logic would suggest.
Supported by the number, the individual acquires a feeling of invincible power and yields to instincts which, in solitude, would necessarily had held in check: since the crowd is anonymous, the sense of responsibility disappears. In short, the most instinctive and primordial part emerges and the tribal logic wins.

Voter’s behavior

After the electoral results in Hungary and Poland, research was conducted on voters (Beyond populism – tribalism in Poland and Hungary, Political Capital, 2018): against any expectations, the research proved that those who had voted for populist parties did not necessarily share populist attitudes or had an aversion to the so-called elite.

At the core of their choice there was no adherence to the “populist rethoric”, but a strong attraction for the simplicist narratives that depict the political scene as a struggle between two parts, a good one and a bad one, and an innate predisposition to tune trust a strong-perceived leader.

The electorate shows, therefore, the traits of a tribe united around its leader, ready to fight against the enemy.

So, the tons of words spent on disinformation and ignorance of the electorate do not explain the polarization and radicalization of the current political scene. It is not a question of populism, but something congenital and atavistic, namely tribalism, which finds fertile soil in the present day media landscape.

1 commenti On From populism to tribalism: the new frontier of political consensus

  • “Supported by the number, the individual acquires a feeling of invincible power and yields to instincts which, in solitude, would necessarily had held in check: since the crowd is anonymous, the sense of responsibility disappears. In short, the most instinctive and primordial part emerges and the tribal logic wins.” Proprio quello che auspicava e sapeva fare Goebbels e oggi, sembra, molto bene la destra popuòista e non solo. Già disparve, in tempi andati, dal 1920 al 1925, il senso di responsabilità dei singoli in Italia, ridestato solo per poco dopo l’assassinio di Matteottti e poi risprofondato nell’abisso dopo che il fascismo gettò la maschera.. Speriamo non sparisca di nuovo, facendo affondare la maggioranza nel grigiore. Sono state proprio le maggioranze grigie ad aver favorito l’imporsi delle minoranze combattive, che ben sapevano come manovrare le folle. Speriamo che i contributi di intellettuali come Ilaria Bifarini possano contribuire ad arginare il nuovo pericolo, a cento anni di distanza, senza farci avere un nuovo fascismo. Grazie sempre a Ilaria Bifarini.

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