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The internet and their distortion in the socio-political culture

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Authors: Rojas Samper Mateo & Magan Asencios Marcelo*

The invention and development of the internet can be considered as one of the greatest technological advances of the 20th century, the internet has had a great upward transformation since its creation, which is, however, very recent from the historical perspective, and has remained of that first static network designed to carry a few bytes or to send a small message between several terminals. Today it has so much power that unlimited amounts of information can be emitted in this electronic giant. Until not so long ago the internet was a simple container of information where only those people able to understand and write in the specific code were in charge of publishing and maintaining content; now we all participate in a fundamental way in this project, having the possibility of generating and commenting on existing content. however, this development has also brought several with it a hidden side, some consequences, which are manifested in the users, but above all in their interaction, in what they comment and the most important thing in our opinion the action carried out after making the comment, since it is in most cases can be represented in a violent way such as a protest, a fight among others. from the point of not valuing the quality of the information and giving importance only to the fact that it affirms or contradicts what they think, depending on what the objective is.

During the last years of the 1980s and the 1990s, the internet has developed to such an extent that grew to include the computing power of the universities and research centers, which, together with the subsequent incorporation of private companies, public bodies and associations from around the world, was a strong impetus to the internet, this ceased to be simply a project of character state and went on to become the network of computers most massive in the world, comprising more than 50,000 networks, four million systems and more than seventy millions of users. Nicholas G. Carr1, expert in Information and Communication Technologies, and advisor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He claims he doesn’t think like he used to. It happens to him especially when he reads. “I think the biggest threat is its potential to diminish our capacity for concentration, reflection and contemplation,” Carr warns via email. “As the Internet becomes our universal medium, it could be training our brains to receive information very quickly and in small portions,” he adds. “What we lose is our ability to maintain a sustained line of thought over a long period of time.” Nicholas G. Carr, expert in Information and Communication Technologies, and advisor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He claims he doesn’t think like he used to. It happens to him especially when he reads. He used to dive into a book and be able to eat pages and pages hour after hour. But now it only holds a few paragraphs. He becomes distracting, restless and looks for something else to do.

On the other hand, this decrease in the capacity in our perception or the way in how we see things that makes us more susceptible to fall under the influence of fake news, this hoax to which new discoveries, events and news in general are subject. Based on this, it is believed that in 2022 there will be so much fake news on various topics that it will be very difficult to discern between what is false and what is true. In fact, we are already living it and there are thousands of situations of this kind. For example, in 2016 one of the most famous news was Brexit. It was reported through various media that the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union would bring greater benefits to the British. Something that in the long run has only brought difficulties to the British government, which has also had to deal with the situation of the coronavirus in the country, which had one of the highest rates of contagion and deaths.

However, the population believed it to the fullest and that is why they voted for the separation [1].

Figure 1. : Accessing Confirming and Contradicting Information Online Indices. by Anger, Fear, and Echo Chambers: The Emotional Basis for Online Behavior

To lose the battle in social networks is a consequence of the insistence, skewness and leber who developed a character instead of boosting the personality and character of a political actor; of those who do not report to detail and in an impartial manner and self-criticism to their clients; applying principles of telenovela that can never be imposed on a daily reality. Political power is forceful: it does not admit trials; it crushes those who do not deserve it; it consumes the energy and vitality of the actor when he cannot exercise it; citizen expectation wears out and reduces the margin of maneuver of the leader if he does not show his validity [2].

It is observed that inequalities end up naturalizing and are incorporated into the culture of society. The differences in the taking of decisions in the socio-political field become inequalities that lead to a high stratification, fragmentation and social segregation, which weaken the sense of belonging and cooperation in society [3]. It creates a culture of privilege that is the enemy of the capacity building, the historical experience indicates that social integration, equality, and cooperation go hand in hand, and are key in building a society that can make decisions with the ability to compete in a world in which technological progress redefines constantly the basis of international competition, the productivity and the creation and loss of jobs.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

What are the consequences of the internet in the socio-political field of our reality? How do fake news influence on the process of obtention of information and the users?

What’s the experts’ roll in this topic and how they have been affected by the new ways to obtain information caused by the development of internet?

What emotions do the users feel when they see or react to certain sorts of information and how this influence on their obtention of more information?

The well-known business explosion on the internet left digital-age enthusiasts with a panic of any financial crisis. The novel idea of selling content, concepts and products through web pages seemed to disappear in the tide of the everyday where the new ends up being part of the natural panorama to finally disappear coldly in it. After the crisis some pioneering Internet companies entered their war quarters and tried to modify the rules of the game on the Web, betting on the user rather than content and collaboration rather than simple competition. It is thus born this core concept called generically as Web 2.0, in which began to emerge more than simple pages or portals, platforms for exchange and collaboration as blogs, wikis, peer-to-peer as B torrent, Napster, Ares, and platforms for dissemination and collaboration-free information and content such as Myspace, YouTube, Slideshare, Ustream and so-called “social networks” such as Facebook, Twitter, etc With the boom of these applications and many others related to them, the volume of users expanded exponentially creating waves of virulent and ephemeral media phenomena, such as home videos on YouTube, gossip on Twitter, urban legends on Facebook This turn placed a large part of what is called de facto public opinion disseminated in these collective platforms, ready to become a public square at the slightest provocation. Thus, almost as an accident, as collateral damage, there appears in these platforms and applications the temptation to opine and persuade on any issue of public and therefore political interest. After this come the political actors to try to distribute the media spoils, and thus incorporate into their repertoire of persuasive devices the new machines of weaving campaigns and obtaining popularity and votes. To date they have not achieved it at all. The relevant studies described above show this. Computer applications work on the basis of minimum principles of a fundamental feature of so-called usability. When we say usable, we mean a simple to use program with simple applications. Almost entirely, the software industry aims to make programs more usable and more attractive all the time. In Web 2.0 applications and more clearly in social networks, given their interest in users, the most important part of their function are the principles of usability, this is how users get the opportunity to interact through various reactions, from the “like”, the “add” on Facebook or a “retweet” or “follow” on Twitter, you have the possibility to express with a few parameters the support or not to a topic of public interest. But the question remains, do these simple acts have any kind of political impact? The basic idea of the creators of Twitter is to simplify content and facilitate relationships, then rank them and measure their impact. All this with the measure of 140 characters for each publication of the user, something like two simple statements (subject, verb and predicate). This was how this company managed to consolidate itself as the main platform of protest in various political events such as the citizen rebellions in the Arab countries that lead to the Arab Spring, the last elections in the United States5, and other events. From this event, we can consider that the policy discussions among its most numerous actors, citizens, not only multiplied, but also simplified, and it is here that a controversial debate begins, on the one hand, the idea that the process of citizen debate and deliberation is being enriched through these criticisms and statements that over time have become arguments whose sources of information are quite dubious. On the contrary, others agree that this form of discussion rather impoverishes and hinders the exchange of political ideas and gives way to the promotion of radical ideas, hatred, discrimination. etc. According to several studies, the political behavior of individual users on social networks is predominantly characterized by two key emotions, fear and anger. Fear tends to result in a desperate search for information that confirms or denies the fears of the affected person, however, users who are afraid tend to seek information that contradicts the facts that generated that emotion with the simple aim of reducing the fear they feel. In this sense of fear is also present anxiety, which is related to the sense of lack of control that tends to weigh opposing views to one another, this way you could say that the anxious people are more susceptible to information contemporary but do not tend to line up immediately to ideology or partisanship [4]. Now, while anxious people express the desire to seek more information and learn more about the issue that concerns them to somehow contrast statements that a priori are considered official, people who express anger tend to seek information that, on the contrary, confirms their ideas on a certain topic, for example, the anti-vaccine movement, which predominates quite in developed countries, people who declare themselves anti-vaccine claim to constantly inform themselves with official publications of medical journals, or they link other diseases to vaccines that are meant to cure others.

Figure 2: Twitter Flagged 300,000 Misleading U.S. Election Tweets

A citizen is not free to decide whether the logic he follows when acting is governed by false information or knowledge, which is propagated by fake news. The rise of fake news has therefore been a blow to the quality of democracy, due to its influence on the election processes of candidates and the misinformation they imprint on public opinion regarding public affairs. A well-formed public opinion, which enjoys critical and free thinking, is beneficial for democracy, already as a closed space in which content focused on reinforcing that common ideology is shared and all that publication that questions the idea defended by this group is censored [5]. Within these echo chambers there are no intermediate positions, since the members of the same publish content that only favours their ideological position, denying or attacking the existence of those contrary opinions. Fake news demonstrates their influence on the users dividing them in different “tribes” made up of other users who defend ideas similar or equal to theirs and are with these with which they maintain a greater interaction, still, they maintain little interaction or debate with groups that express different opinions. Over time this has created an environment in which to decide on whether to initiate a debate online, one need to take in certain situations of risk, as the humiliation before a large group of people, also when it comes to discussing about a political issue can be risky, because many times there is a feeling of rejection towards this topic, putting it above the preservation of the harmony and coexistence rules.

The role played by experts, professionals, researchers and other media whose role is to spread truthful information is also of paramount importance, the problem with this now is that people no longer regard experts as the main sources of information, or even as reliable sources. For example, a person feels a very strong discomfort in the chest and decides first to look for their symptoms and to continue with this search thinks that they have something as serious as lung cancer, after this he will arrive at the hospital stating that he has lung cancer, however, the expert will have to convince him that it is not so. Although it might seem difficult to believe, or very ridiculous that sounds, there will be people who will do everything possible to contradict claims by an expert giving more validity to the information you have read on some site any of the internet, in the United States have been given the nickname of “Facebook scientists”, as this is their preferred social network to publish their “discoveries” and comment on those of other scientists of Facebook. However, there are also a number of errors that have been committed by experts, for example, in the 1970s, nutritionists most recognized of the united States reported to the government that the consumption of eggs may be lethal for Americans if he is not removed from the diet due to the high cholesterol that contained, upon hearing this, the White House initiated a propaganda campaign with the aim of avoiding the consumption of this food, however, after some time something unexpected happened, people began to die from other diseases because they began to consume foods whose cholesterol did damage their body, the products with which they replaced eggs made them suffer from diabetes and other diseases. Experts make mistakes and make mistakes all the time. However, the effects of such mistakes range from slight embarrassment to waste of time and money; in certain cases, they can result in death and even lead to an international catastrophe. And, despite this, the experts ask the citizens to trust their judgment and have confidence not only that mistake will be rare, but that the experts will identify those mistakes and learn from them. Day by day, the laity have no choice but to rely on experts. We live our lives embedded in a network of social and governmental institutions to ensure that professionals are in fact who they say they are, and in fact can do what they say they do. This day-to-day confidence we have in professionals is due to a situation of need. It’s very much the same way we trust everyone else in our daily lives, from the bus driver we assume is not drunk or the restaurant we go to every weekend and assume the chef has clean hands. This is not the same as trusted professionals when it comes to public policy issues: to say that we trust our doctors to write us the right prescription is not the same means that we are going to trust all medical professionals to know about whether there should be a national health care system. To say that we trust a university professor to teach our sons and daughters the history of World War II is not the same as to say that there is the confidence of all academic historians to advise the president of our country on matters of war.

Figure 3: Trust in Medical Scientists Has Grown in U.S., but Mainly Among Democrats. About six-in-ten believe social distancing measures are helping a lot to slow the spread of coronavirus in the nation. Report. May 21, 2020.

According to several studies, the political behavior of individual users on social networks is predominantly characterized by two key emotions, fear and anger. Fear tends to result in a desperate search for information that confirms or denies the fears of the affected person, however, users who are afraid tend to seek information that contradicts the facts that generated that emotion with the simple aim of reducing the fear they feel. In this sense of fear is also present anxiety, which is related to the sense of lack of control that tends to weigh opposing views to one another, this way you could say that the anxious people are more susceptible to information contemporary but do not tend to line up immediately to ideology or partisanship. Now, while anxious people express the desire to seek more information and learn more about the issue that concerns them to somehow contrast statements that a priori are considered official, people who express anger tend to seek information that, on the contrary, confirms their ideas on a certain topic, for example, the anti-vaccine movement, which predominates quite in developed countries, people who declare themselves anti-vaccine claim to constantly inform themselves with official publications of medical journals, or they link other diseases to vaccines that are meant to cure others [6]. In a certain way, we cannot deny the fact that this people are looking for information, but if we focus on the quality and accuracy of this information, we will see that it is not supported by official institutions (Ministries of Health, World Health Organization), however the goal here is not only informed, it is also “inform the others”, so that you begin to share this information in the network as if it were true, by filling it with arguments and statements, this is of course, brings as a consequence the increase of the misinformation and the spread of “fake news”.

PURPOSE OF THE STUDУ

Will address the issue of the influence that the development of the internet and one of its greatest inventions, social networks, in it have obtained not only in the way in which we understand, seek information, but also in how we share and discuss it, also, it will talk about how this influences the political behavior of users in social networks.

  • Analyze the roll of the experts in this new era, characterized by the easy access to information that’s also decrease experts’ credibility.
  • Visualize the impact of fake news and other sources of information of dubious quality

RESEARCH METHODS

Analysis and synthesis to obtain an objective opinion about the subject; Analogy to be able to deduce the use of unknown terms from the analysis of the relationships they have with other terms; Classification to establish the order of importance of sources.

We try to use qualitative research which tends to look for the causes of phenomena in the depth of the interpretations that the subjects make about them, so they work with portions of subjects or materials sometimes very small (making use, sometimes, of the so-called “saturation of a sample” The qualitative orientation allows us to obtain a better understanding of complex processes, social interactions or cultural phenomena, since it collects data of lived experiences, emotions or behaviors and the meanings that individuals provide them.

FINDINGS

The role played by experts, professionals, researchers and other media whose role is to spread truthful information is also of paramount importance, the problem with this now is that people no longer regard experts as the main sources of information, or even as reliable sources. For example, a person feels a very strong discomfort in the chest and decides first to look for their symptoms and to continue with this search thinks that they have something as serious as lung cancer, after this he will arrive at the hospital stating that he has lung cancer, however, the expert will have to convince him that it is not so. Although it might seem difficult to believe, or very ridiculous that sounds, there will be people who will do everything possible to contradict claims by an expert giving more validity to the information you have read on some site any of the internet, in the United States have been given the nickname of “Facebook scientists”, as this is their preferred social network to publish their “discoveries” and comment on those of other scientists of Facebook. However, there are also a number of errors that have been committed by experts, for example, in the 1970s, nutritionists most recognized of the united States reported to the government that the consumption of eggs may be lethal for Americans if he is not removed from the diet due to the high cholesterol that contained, upon hearing this, the White House initiated a propaganda campaign with the aim of avoiding the consumption of this food, however, after some time something unexpected happened, people began to die from other diseases because they began to consume foods whose cholesterol did damage their body, the products with which they replaced eggs made them suffer from diabetes and other diseases [7]. Experts make mistakes and make mistakes all the time. However, the effects of such mistakes range from slight embarrassment to waste of time and money; in certain cases, they can result in death and even lead to an international catastrophe. And, despite this, the experts ask the citizens to trust their judgment and have confidence not only that mistake will be rare, but that the experts will identify those mistakes and learn from them. Day by day, the laity have no choice but to rely on experts. We live our lives embedded in a network of social and governmental institutions to ensure that professionals are in fact who they say they are, and in fact can do what they say they do. This day-to-day confidence we have in professionals is due to a situation of need. It’s very much the same way we trust everyone else in our daily lives, from the bus driver we assume is not drunk or the restaurant we go to every weekend and assume the chef has clean hands. This is not the same as trusted professionals when it comes to public policy issues: to say that we trust our doctors to write us the right prescription is not the same means that we are going to trust all medical professionals to know about whether there should be a national health care system. To say that we trust a university professor to teach our sons and daughters the history of World War II is not the same as to say that there is the confidence of all academic historians to advise the president of our country on matters of war.

According to several studies, the political behavior of individual users on social networks is predominantly characterized by two key emotions, fear and anger. Fear tends to result in a desperate search for information that confirms or denies the fears of the affected person, however, users who are afraid tend to seek information that contradicts the facts that generated that emotion with the simple aim of reducing the fear they feel. In this sense of fear is also present anxiety, which is related to the sense of lack of control that tends to weigh opposing views to one another, this way you could say that the anxious people are more susceptible to information contemporary but do not tend to line up immediately to ideology or partisanship [8]. Now, while anxious people express the desire to seek more information and learn more about the issue that concerns them to somehow contrast statements that a priori are considered official, people who express anger tend to seek information that, on the contrary, confirms their ideas on a certain topic, for example, the anti-vaccine movement, which predominates quite in developed countries, people who declare themselves anti-vaccine claim to constantly inform themselves with official publications of medical journals, or they link other diseases to vaccines that are meant to cure others.

In a certain way, we cannot deny the fact that this people are looking for information, but if we focus on the quality and accuracy of this information, we will see that it is not supported by official institutions (Ministries of Health, World Health Organization), however the goal here is not only informed, it is also “inform the others”, so that you begin to share this information in the network as if it were true, by filling it with arguments and statements, this is of course, brings as a consequence the increase of the misinformation and the spread of “fake news” [9].

From this we have come to the idea that the different users are divided into groups or “tribes” made up of other users who defend ideas similar or equal to theirs and are with these with which they maintain a greater interaction, still, they maintain little interaction or debate with groups that express different opinions [10]. Over time this has created an environment in which to decide on whether to initiate a debate online, one need to take in certain situations of risk, as the humiliation before a large group of people, also when it comes to discussing about a political issue can be risky, because many times there is a feeling of rejection towards this topic, putting it above the preservation of the harmony and coexistence rules.

CONCLUSION

Finally, the experts are most likely the ones who have had the most difficult in this situation, having this lack of credibility that they did not previously enjoy. And, although there is a margin of error in the information provided by experts, we can be quite sure that it has gone through several filters and by the judgment of not just one person. The accessibility of information that gave us the internet and the rapid spread of this through the social networks they created a kind of phenomenon in which everyone can be an expert because he has read articles on a few sources, or has seen a certain amount of videos on YouTube, and well, this does not mean that the subject has not learned anything, this is usually enough to acquire a general view of the matter [11], however, knowing what diseases affect the respiratory system doesn’t mean you have the best advice on how to treat them. Currently both the United States and the European Union are trying to pass laws that make the information pass through cones that go by discarding the part unusable or not credible this7, however, and as was expected, the question of who should monitor the behavior of users and the quality of information on the internet or in social networks-without taking advantage of his position is too controversial and that the governments hide information that harm the image of the country to their citizens and those of other countries, companies (like Facebook) compromise the privacy of their users, and so on.

Ultimately, by allowing the existence of large amounts of dubious information, also intended simply to misinformation of users, the internet is weakening the capacity of laity and scholars alike for research, the new star skill of the 21st century is power. distinguish between junk information and quality content, or at least real. This might seem like an odd statement coming from a member of the academic community, because I gladly admit that Internet access makes my job as a writer so much easier. When they were in college, our parents and even most of you who are reading this article, spent hours and hours in a library and carried books and articles with them to write simple things like an essay or a research paper. Personally, my computer is full of pdf files, whether they are books or articles that I have at hand to read, that is infinitely better than going blind from reading so much in a dark library room.

The susceptibility phenomenon of users has also been affected by being intertwined with the content they find not only on the Internet, but also on social networks. As we have already seen the emotions and reactions that users have when using the different social networks, they are classified into two groups, those with anger as the main characteristic, and seek to impose their ideas and what they consider to be true information (for more ridiculous as it may sound) to the rest,

through techniques such as ridiculing in front of other users or discrediting. On the other hand, fear is one of the strongest emotions and, logically, one always hopes to realize that he was wrong and there is nothing to fear, for this purpose, the user with fear will defend information that contrasts his fears. Both cases are worrying since the latter can be strongly influenced by the former.

* Marcelo Magan Asencios, Institute of International Relations and World History (Lobachevsky University, UNN)   Department   of   World   Diplomacy   and   International   Law    Russian   Federation,   Nizhny   Novgorod.   Email: marcelo0102hp[at]gmail.com

REFERENCES

  • Hu X., Li X., Yu H., Qiu J Exploration for Multidisciplinary Knowledge Structure on Information Visualization: Bibliometric Analysis and Content Analysis in WoS During 2004~ 2013. Research on Library Science, 2015. 424- 442 pag. Retrieve from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277681737_An_overview_of_knowledge_management_research_viewed_ through_the_web_of_science_1993-2012
  • Julio Montero-Díaz, Manuel-Jesús Cobo, María Gutiérrez-Salcedo, Francisco Segado-Boj, Enrique Herrera-Viedma (2018) science mapping analysis of ‘Communication’WoS subject category (1980-2013) xmlui/handle/11250/2597058
  • Mcgail A. Lost & forgotten: An index of the famous works which sociology has left behind. The American Sociologist 52 (2), 304-340, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.springer.com/journal/12108
  • Shumin Yang, Fei Wang, Zheng Lin, Dazhi Jiang, Teng Zhou (2021) Publication volume of major databases related to ideological and political education: using big data and Internet technologies 2nd International Conference on Big Data and Informatization Education (ICBDIE), 465-469. Retrieved from: http://www.weizhewei.com/publications.htm
  • Jens Beckert, Lisa Suckert (2021) The future as a social fact. The analysis of perceptions of the future in sociology Poetics 84, 101499, (wos) Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304422X20302424
  • Philipp Korom (2019) The political sociologist Seymour M. Lipset: Remembered in political science, neglected in sociology. European journal of cultural and political sociology 6 (4), 448-473, (wos). Retrieved form: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23254823.2019.1570859 [8] Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity.
  • Retrieved from: https://www.worldcat.org/title/liquid-modernity/oclc/44157073

Higher School of Economics, Master student Politics Economics and philosophy Moscow Russian Federation

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Women’s Plight During Natural Calamities: A Case Study of Recent Floods in Pakistan

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Starting mid-June 2022, flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rainfall have brought widespread destruction across Pakistan. © WFP/Saiyna Bashir

Recently, at the United Nations general assembly, the Prime minister of Pakistan’s speech started with the challenge of climate change, which is bringing havoc into the country through floods. This shows Pakistan’s serious concern about drastic climate change in the world which is impacting Pakistan. It is estimated that around 1/3 of Pakistan is under water, which has affected 33 million people. Above 1500 deaths are recorded. The infrastructure of about $10 billion has been destroyed. The PM Shehbaz Sharif in the UN specifically highlighted women’s plight and mentioned children’s deaths. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the eighth most affected country by climate change. While, Pakistan has less than 1% share in global greenhouse gas emissions, it is more on the receiving end of the devastation of climate change. After a decade, Pakistan is standing in the position it has witnessed in 2010 but, more horrific.

Natural calamities like floods not only bring devastation with them, rather they also bring other illnesses such as waterborne diseases. It also brings more hardships for women and children. There is a general understanding that natural calamities do not make any difference in gender. It impacts all members of society equally. The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Asaka Okai, said that whenever a disaster strikes, women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men. Women are experiencing more impact from the devastation caused by the flood. Women are victims because, during floods, natural cycles don’t stop, which occur in the body of a female, such as menstruation, and pregnancy. Similarly, women are the target of harassment, rape, insecurity, and diseases.

According to statistics, about 650,000 women are pregnant and 73,000 are about to give birth. In Pakistan, most women give birth to their children in homes, but due to flooding, their houses are destroyed. They are not left in safe shelters. Due to floods, they are shifted to camps where all family members live together and the privacy of females has decreased. According to estimates, about 1000 health facilities are partially or fully destroyed in Sindh and 198 health facilities are destroyed in Balochistan, which also decreases access to health care. Destruction of infrastructures such as roads and bridges has increased difficulty in reaching clinics and hospitals. Women are not receiving proper medical facilities and care, which increases the mortality rate. Women go through natural cycles of menstruation for which they need sanitary materials. As per media reports, women living in flood-affected areas are using tree leaves. Living in a conservative society, it is considered taboo to talk about these things. When NGOs started to collect sanitary materials for women, they faced a lot of criticism from the conservative faction of society, saying that instead of collecting unnecessary things, they should gather food for them.

During this disaster, people become homeless, due to which they are shifted to camps where access to toilets and clean drinking water becomes difficult for women. This also increases the chances of getting diseases. Living in camps, women face security issues. Male members of their families go in search of food while women and children are alone in camps. Harassment cases are reported from these areas. Recently, a case of a teenage girl was reported in Shahdadpur. The victim was raped by two rickshaw drivers who are familiar with her. They told her that there is ration distribution for flood-hit areas. If she agrees to accompany them, then you can give her access to that.

In Pakistan, women are responsible for performing house chores. Due to flooding, there is standing water everywhere. Women have to move in those waters to perform their tasks. Stagnant water is the breeding place for water-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and typhoid. In Sindh, the percentage of malnourished kids is 41.6% (National Nutrition survey of 2018). Malnourished women and children are more prone to these diseases. The National Disaster Management Authority has reported the deaths of 536 children and 308 women. Widows and orphans face food and security issues. In Sindh and Balochistan, it is not acceptable for a female to go out of the house. NGOs should keep this in mind while distributing rations to the public. These sufferings during disasters pose deep imprints on the psychosocial and mental health of females. Their suffering will not end here in the camps but, when they move to their homes, standing water from flooding is waiting for them. There will be no home to live in for them, which gives rise to the same issues they are facing in camps.

The media has always played a major role in highlighting issues that are of major concern. It should highlight the issues faced by women during this situation by sending female journalists who can cover flood-hit areas. So, they can bring these issues to the public to make people aware of the issues faced by women. This will help in sensitizing the public that the issues which are faced by females are a matter of serious concern and importance.  It will assist the government authorities to make policies that will also cater to the issues of Pakistan’s 48.5% population of females, which makes up a major chunk of the population. NGOs and government institutions that provide relief equipment to these areas should also keep in mind teenage girls and pregnant women. NGOs who distribute rations should make two counters so that widows and orphans can also get access to food easily without complication.  To control harassment and rape issues, law-enforcing institutions should deal with these criminals seriously so, no other person thinks about committing these types of offences. Nonetheless, it is yet to be witnessed whether the concerned authorities be able to cater to the plight of the women during catastrophic floods in Pakistan or whether the women will be left in despair and self-help.

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Anatomy of right-wing populism

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Twenty-five years ago, Fareed Zakaria introduced the concept of illiberal democracy: he revealed how some legitimately elected governments undermine liberal democratic principles by eroding the rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms. He predicted that this new form of regime would significantly damage the status of our democracies if not appropriately challenged. After almost two decades, the 2014 speech of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán marked the official birth of illiberal democracy in modern Europe, with a discourse that echoes the 1997 article. Except that it is the exact opposite of what Zakaria hoped to hear.

Orbán’s rhetoric and attitude are supported and endorsed by several populist leaders across Europe and beyond. What the Hungarian PM represents is the result of a long democratic recession that Larry Diamond estimated to start in the early 2000s in continents such as Asia and Africa. It appears that it is now the turn of Europe, as we can deduct from the rising popularity of multiple anti-establishment and nationalist parties across the continent. Despite populism not being exclusively a right-wing phenomenon, most of its support in the EU is represented by radical right parties that are often Eurosceptic.

This aspect is also confirmed by the outcome of the last European Parliament election in 2019. The results indicate a nationalist trend and a shift from the centre-right to the far-right within the populist vote: the relative populist electoral strength was highest in two European parliament groups, namely Identity and Democracy (ID) (including Salvini’s League and Le Pen’s National Rally) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) (including Brothers of Italy and Law and Justice in Poland), which are both very critical of the union and formed exclusively by right-wing (or even far-right in some cases) populist and nationalist parties. These two groups, albeit not achieving the brilliant results they were expecting, have won 135 seats in the European Parliament, and their main parties happened to be very strong nationally. Considering that the historic European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) have lost 65 seats combined from the previous election, it is not a bad outcome overall for right-wing populism.

In 2017, Bridgewater’s populism index in developed countries revealed that this phenomenon was at its highest rate since 1930s. In addition, the think tank Timbro estimated that more than a quarter of European electors vote for authoritarian populist parties, with Poland and Hungary among the four countries with most support. Political scientist Cas Mudde observed instead that the average support for these political forces is the highest since 1940s, with over 20% since 2010. Slightly different estimations are calculated but nevertheless this shows to what extent have these parties grown in recent years. One might consider these factors as alarming, since many scholars claim the expansion of populism and nationalism could eventually topple liberal democracies and favour authoritarian regimes, as already occurred in history.

What do we mean by right-wing populism?

First and foremost, before getting into the details of right-wing populism, an overall definition and brief explanation of populism must be provided. Mudde defines populism as an “an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’”. Populists also believe that all members of the ‘pure’ group have the same aims and abide by the same principles, hence they do not accept a pluralist society consisting of diverse needs and concerns. Some of them also claim that this perceived faction of ‘the people’ comprises only of one ethnicity, class and religion.

Populist parties no longer seek out compromise and consensus through tolerant and democratic practices, but instead try to overthrow what they believe is a corrupt and broken system. In this way they undermine democratic institutions such as courtrooms and media, while attacking any aspect of society that opposes the common will of ‘the people’. They also refuse the search for a balance between the needs of the majority and the minority, as they claim that disregarding the interests of the majority is a violation of democracy, thus supporting “a form of democratic extremism or, better said, of illiberal democracy”.

Moreover, the cult of the leader is crucial in the populist world. This may sound obvious because a charismatic figure is always needed in politics in order to move masses and influence opinions, regardless of the political party. However, populist leaders declare they embody the will of the people and often appeal to the worst instincts of the population, manipulating fears and anxiety to increase their support. As politics is not only made of rational thinking, but also emotions and sentiments, they interpretate fear and desperation with (sometimes false) claims and simplistic solutions to contrast complex issues.

Populist groups are usually considered ‘catch-all’ movements, meaning that they follow the popular support rather than choosing a specific side. However, it could be discussed that this wide definition of populism is reductive. In fact, French economist Thomas Piketty deems it as a generalisation and refrains from using this word since there is a variety within that group: any party criticizing the current establishment is labelled as ‘populist’ without differentiating the diverse forms of this phenomenon. For instance, right-wing populists are usually hostile to immigration and minority rights, whereas left-wing populists are often culturally inclusive.

It could be further discussed that the argument about the people versus the elite tends to be overused as we have cases in which the political system is widely corrupt, and thus brings to legitimate concern and popular discontent to demand for more transparency and equality, such as in Greece, Spain and Italy. The movements that have emerged in these countries (Syriza, Podemos and 5 Star Movement respectively) showed a different approach to politics in comparison to prominent right-wing populist parties, as they have not undermined or taken over democratic institutions when elected to govern their respective countries.

Nonetheless, the majority of European populist parties have right-wing tendencies. This type of nationalist populism (also defined as ‘national populism’ by British academics Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin) is mainly based on xenophobic and protectionist sentiments, in addition to be against the neo-liberal establishment. Right-wing populist parties tend to regard nationality as a rigid and unmodifiable homogenous identity (mistakenly connected only to ethnicity), and they are therefore against any form of pluralism, whether it is based on culture or sexual orientation. Although some national populists consider themselves patriots defending their sovereignty, it could be argued otherwise. Italian scholar Maurizio Viroli observes in his book that the terms ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ are often misused: while the former mostly reflects a protectionist and isolationist approach (rather than sovereignty), the latter is also based on the respect of other cultures.

Furthermore, most right-wing populist parties are willing to live in a democratic context, but they are against the liberal values of present-day democracies, such as media freedom and minority rights. As a matter of fact, they believe they represent the true nature of democracy, which focuses on the needs and interests of the majority that felt excluded and neglected by the ‘corrupt elite’ in recent years. Nevertheless, by emphasising the importance of the majority at all costs, they end up discriminating who is not part of ‘the people’, hence appearing to be a regressive and undemocratic response to a legitimate concern.

What are the causes of the global rise of populism?

Political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris suggest that the rise of populism is mainly due to economic inequality, which was partly caused by phenomena such as globalisation and austerity. The shift from the industrial age to what Piketty describes as a “globalised era of hypercapitalism and digital technology” has created high levels of inequity around the world. Piketty also argues that the concentration of wealth is disproportionate because the ratio of economic growth is lower than the so-called ‘return on invested capital’, hence much of the resources end up in the hands of a microscopic part of the population. Indeed, the latest Credit Suisse report indicates a great disparity in the world, with 1.1% of the population owning almost half of the global wealth (45.8%), and the bottom 55% of the population possessing only 1.3% of the total resources.

While globalisation had its own advantages (such as giving work to millions of people in emerging economies), it has also displaced many low skilled jobs and produced economic stagnation in developed countries. This has resulted in an ever-increasing wealth gap; this disparity, in turn, has created underserved communities who began to distrust the global system. Already twenty years ago economist Joseph Stiglitz (in his book Globalization and Its Discontents) warned us that rising inequality would pave the way for the rise of anti-establishment parties, such as nationalists and populists.

The 2008 financial crash further deepened the economic gap: the main consequences of the so-called ‘Great Recession’ have been high levels of unemployment, growing inequality and impoverishment of the working and lower middle classes. Moreover, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the austerity policies implemented by the European Union, including tax raises and spending cuts, exacerbated the situation. The austere measures were in fact not combined with effective social protection systems, hence degrading the conditions of workers as well. This circumstance thus led the EU into an identity crisis, which we are still experiencing today with the rise of several Eurosceptic parties. 

Some might discuss that this is connected to the decline of liberal democracy, as the European Union is mainly based on liberal values. Mudde observes that the crisis of democracy results from the failure of the liberal establishment in the political system, and not from several external challengers trying to undermine it. In fact, he also claims that “contemporary populism is an illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism”. The fact that the liberal system could be or become undemocratic is not unrealistic as it sounds, especially if we consider that in history liberalism was not always applied in democratic contexts, such as in many European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The democratic crisis was also caused by the deterioration of traditional parties that lost touch with the lower middle and working classes, which have stopped trusting a system that has sold them false promises and has not met their needs. As a matter of fact, the level of trust towards parties across the EU has been in a declining trend in the last decade (just over 20% in 2019). This is also demonstrated by factors such as lower electoral turnout and decreasing participation in political activities, but also by the growing interest towards non-traditional parties. This aspect is critical because once you cease to identify in a political movement, you automatically find refuge in national identity, ideology or religion.

Furthermore, the advent of right-wing populism has cultural determinants as well: the 2015 migration crisis has indeed displaced millions of asylum seekers and economic migrants, many of which coming from Muslim countries. Their religion is a key aspect because right-wing populists have increasingly exhibited xenophobic attitudes towards Islam, which is seen as a civilisational threat, particularly after 9/11 and the rise of ISIS. Whereas there is no justification for such discriminatory behaviours, raising a question about EU’s handling of the migrant crisis may be a legitimate concern. According to Article 79 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the union “shall develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows”. It could be discussed whether some member states have not put enough effort and resources to cooperate and find a common solution, but it is also true that the EU could have anticipated the crisis by implementing appropriate immigration controls and reception systems. In fact, Mudde acknowledges that migration policies were often “undemocratic in spirit”, meaning that they were not the outcome of collective discussions and decisions taken together with the population. Hence, right-wing populist parties have exploited this crisis to criticize the EU with improbable scapegoats: for instance, describing migration from Africa and the Middle-East as an invasion or claiming that NGOs and liberal institutions are plotting for an ‘ethnic replacement’ of the European people.

Conclusion

As a result, right-wing populists (or at least most of them) reject liberal democratic values rather than democracy in its entirety: those values that are entrenched in the EU and other international institutions. However, the populist response does not seem to respect EU fundamental goals and values, nor basic democratic principles. The main issue is the approach used to criticize the liberal system. Populist movements tend to appeal to the fears and anxieties of the voters to attack the elites, which are perceived as always corrupt and distant from the population. This cannot be accepted as a fair argument, because, as we cannot generalise that all populists are fascists or xenophobic, then we cannot assert that the so-called elite is all corrupt either. As a result, neither the growing populist sentiment nor the liberal establishment are to be completely eradicated, but rather challenged and improved through collective discussions and decisions.

Moreover, the rise of right-wing populism is not the consequence of a single issue, but it is driven by a combination of mutually reinforcing economic and cultural aspects (from unemployment and wealth inequality to racism and xenophobia). These factors are the result of a series of events that affected our society in the last decades, such as globalisation, the Great Recession, the 2015 migrant crisis and the decline of traditional political parties. It would be thus too simple to only blame the vulnerabilities of the liberal establishment or the opportunism of populist leaders, as both approaches have had negative repercussions on the public.

On the one hand, populists have gained popularity due to genuine issues that liberal institutions have failed to deal with. On the other hand, they have also promoted ‘culturally exclusive’ behaviours (racism, xenophobia etc.) through demagogy and propaganda, often accompanied by the spread of disinformation. Nonetheless, the liberal system has perhaps not effectively dealt with crucial challenges and has showed weaknesses that exacerbated the socio-economic crisis we are witnessing, hence allowing right-wing populist parties to flourish. The more the people have felt left behind by the system, the more they have found refuge in national identity and intolerant ideologies. Therefore, the first step to take in order to explain and fight populism would be to bear responsibility for the inequal policies implemented through the years that have left many communities marginalised and prone to vote for anti-establishment parties. A card that does not seem to have been played well (or at all), since right-wing populist parties are increasingly on the rise in many countries around the world.

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New Social Compact

Education needs a transformation. The same holds true with how we monitor our commitments

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Image source: educationcannotwait.org

Education is the key to unlock our development challenges. Yet, millions of children and young people are left behind, unable to fulfil their potential and prepare themselves for the future. In many countries, the pandemic has struck off the modest gains of the past 20 years for the generation most affected by school closures, with long-term consequences. This week, the Transforming Education Summit  comes to an end. The world’s education leaders have gathered over the last few days in New York, invited by the UN Secretary-General as part of Our Common Agenda, to debate solutions to put education back on the right track. 

The Summit has come at a time when, according to UNESCO’s latest figures, there are an estimated 244 million children and young people across the world still deprived of any form of formal schooling. Over 600 million children and adolescents are either not completing basic education or do not acquire basic skills that would help them prepare for the future. With only seven years to go until the deadline to reach SDG 4, the global education goal, they are lacking the support to access a high-quality and fulfilling education. Compounding the problem is the fact that governments in the poorer countries appear to be cutting their education budgets

The Transforming Education Summit marks a key moment. But as leaders declare their determination to improve education in their countries, we must review how to translate these words into the concrete targets, so that these promises do not ring empty, and how to monitor progress towards them. While the Summit has debated solutions to make schools safe, healthy, connected and green, countries should express the level of their ambition through national targets for each of these commitments to spur action from now to 2030. 

The issues rising to the surface during the discussions and consultation around the summit are all critical. One in six children live in areas impacted by conflict that also destroys their education opportunities. Schools are being bombed and children and teachers are killed daily. Only last year, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on the protection of education in conflict zones. But more must be done to protect the education of affected children and young people. 

The compound effects of COVID-19, a war in Europe that disrupted grain production and exports, rising inflation and a looming economic recession, mean that the world is edging closer towards a food crisis. When schools closed their doors with little to no notice due to the pandemic, millions of students were cut off not only from their education, but also from one of their principal food sources. An estimated 39 billion school meals have been missed since April 2020. It is not only children’s physical development that was impacted. Without food, children simply do not have the energy to concentrate, and their education outcomes are therefore significantly worse. 

Another, equally significant impact of the pandemic was bringing learning from classroom to home. Laptops, computers, and iPads replaced pencils, erasers and pens as back-to-school essentials– for the lucky few: because this shift was reliant on all children having access to the technology required to learn from home. Unfortunately, with two-thirds of 3–17-year-olds unable to access the internet at home, this was far from the case. These children were left behind in systems whose efforts to catch up with the times simply failed them. As with many crises, this also predominantly affected children in disadvantaged homes and communities. The pandemic shed light on the foundations of education systems, which fuel exclusion and inequality. 

Finally, with almost two billion people affected by floods, droughts and storms every year, these devastatingly real consequences that climate change is unleashing on our planet are already being felt, though not equally by all. Climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the Global South, whose education opportunities are also poorer, further compromising their ability to adapt. At the same time, education systems in the Global North and in countries contributing most to global warming are yet to demonstrate how their schools will serve their climate change mitigation efforts.

Agreeing to the actions is one step, monitoring them is crucial to provide accountability and drive ambition. UNESCO has started a process where each country sets their own realistic ‘benchmarks’ in the road to achieving SDG 4. About 90% of countries have heeded this call and established national targets which they reasonably believe can be reached by 2030, in the hopes that this will accelerate progress. We encourage countries to also set national targets for 2025 and 2030 against each of the global initiatives to be tabled at the Summit. These will represent the transformation countries want to see. 

The follow-up mechanism after the Summit, based on national target setting, will be critical to convert leaders’ statements into improved education results for children and youth, as this call for action implores countries to do. The solutions to be agreed at the Summit must be appropriately monitored if we are to come out of this global education emergency. 

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