Gegen Populismus / Democracy without Populism

Worldwide Reading Appeal / Aufruf zur weltweiten Lesung

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ilb is organizing a Worldwide Reading against Populism on September 7th. I think after the Brexit this is more useful than ever. We would be grateful if you participated. In this case please write us at:
Below you can find the appeal and a signatory list of authors, who have signed the appeal so far.

Democracy without Populism

The international literature festival Berlin (ilb) calls on all individuals, institutions and media outlets that care about democracy to participate in a worldwide reading of selected texts for Democracy and against Populism, on 7 September 2016.

Populism describes a political position that aligns itself with the prevailing emotions, prejudices and fears of a population, and uses these to define an agenda promising simple and quick solutions to all problems.

Some argue that populism is part of the inherent logic of politics, that it is present in some measure in all society, and can be a force for good. That may be, but history shows that populist feeling can quickly be manipulated by unscrupulous leaders, on the left and right wing, to ugly ends.

Now, in many countries across the globe, in long established and newer democracies, populist sentiment is being stoked and exploited by demagogues such as Donald Trump in the US, Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in The Netherlands, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Nigel Farage in Britain, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jacob Zuma in South Africa, Frauke Petry in Germany, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Narendra Modi in India – to name but a few.

These rabble-rousers brazenly lie to the public, pledging fantasy policies, scapegoating minorities, trumpeting national superiority. Their inflammatory rhetoric distorts and devalues language, while their propaganda debases the public sphere as racist, sexist and nationalistic attitudes become mainstream. This firebrand approach threatens democracy, which depends on deep discussion not shallow sound bites.

Populism thrives on binaries: it’s always us against them.

Populism narrows the definition of “the people”, excluding immigrants, refugees, religious groups, indeed all minorities.

Populism despises pluralism – never admitting that the opposite of pluralism is totalitarianism.

With this worldwide reading, we express an urgent need for a better understanding of democracy, and for more critical yet humane political thinking, in our societies.

We call on every individual to be more skeptical about the easy answers and quick fix “solutions” of demagogues. We ask simply that you stop and think.

We call on the media, on journalists and editors, to refrain from sensationalist reporting and instead to frame the news in a more responsible way, not just uncritically disseminate the dangerous views and toxic speech of Populists.

We call on respectable political parties to resist the temptation to follow in the footsteps of demagogues and thus shift the entire political spectrum towards extremes. We ask for a truthful, more compassionate and creative approach to politics, and more direct engagement with citizens.

We call on governments to recognize the legitimate concerns of citizens who, discontented with
Globalization in its current neo-liberal form, long for an alternative. We ask for earnest commitment to dealing with the growing inequality that is the underlying cause of much unrest in today’s world.

In the near future all texts for the readings will be available in various languages on the website.


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