Us versus Them

How the dichotomous populist dialectic together with the data crisis are re–shaping our world perception

© Noemi Biasetton, 2018
1. Not without flaws … Anti-Brexit poster by Artist Wolfgang Tillmans, 02. Boris Johnson during an “Out” campaign event, at Europa Worldwide freight company in Dartford, Britain March 11.

‘Us’ Versus ‘Them’

It has been also a year of strong, powerful and fearless slogans, communication strategies and propaganda, all aimed at just one thing: getting through the ‘real people’. For populists, the threat of being governed by a despotic majority, ruled by cold and mean elitists, is a chimera.
And whoever stands in the way of the popular will is an ‘enemy of the people’, as the Daily Mail puts it. → 3

3. “Enemies of the People”, Daily Mail, 4th November 2016. Headline to an article by political editor James Slack. Headline and article were about the three judges who had claimed that the UK Government would require the consent of Parliament to give notice of Brexit. The headline was widely criticized as being inappropriately condemnatory and attracted numerous complaints, given that the British judiciary is independent of the Government.
4. Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian party Northern League, 5. Marine Le Pen, president of the French party Front National, 6. Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, 7. Norbert Hofer, member of the Austrian Freedom Party.

Moving Towards a Post–Statistical Society

I do believe there is a strong link between populism and the crisis of statistics we are now facing. Theoretically, statistics should help settle arguments. They provide references that everyone can agree on. Yet in recent years, the level of distrust in statistics has become a real and tangible threat to western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 48% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government.
In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government ‘is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here’. We could therefore say that the current populist attack on ‘experts’ comes from the same indignation as the antagonism to the ruling class.
As British sociologist and political economist William Davies notices,

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Noemi Biasetton

Visual culture enthusiast ~ Currently PhD-ing at IUAV University of Venice