What constitutes our democracy and what we need to do to keep it

Democracies are always vulnerable, but particularly during times when new, open information channels are created, according to Zac Gershberg of Idaho State University.

The current state of our democracy is debatable. Partisanship is high. Few policies with majority support — policies that would combat things like climate change or increase the minimum wage — can pass Congress.

And beyond that is the nature of presidential elections. Seven out of the last eight Republican presidents didn’t win the popular vote and our previous presidential election was almost overturned in a coup attempt.

Two authors of a new book called “The Paradox of Democracy” suggest that our democracy may be slipping — and not just because of how it tends to give power to land over people. Rather, it may be slipping because our free and open society is too free and too open.

“What’s different about digital media, particularly social networking, is that every individual has access to the power of mass communication.” — Zac Gershberg, Idaho State University

 Listen: How to protect our democracy from bad actors.



Zac Gershberg is an associate professor of journalism and media at Idaho State University and co-author of the book “The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion.”

He says that because everyone has access to tapping into mass communication channels. That means those same channels can be coopted by people trying to spread false and nefarious information, thereby making our democracy more vulnerable.

“What’s different about digital media, particularly social networking, is that every individual has access to the power of mass communication,” says Gershberg. “So, it’s no longer that citizens and consumers just passively absorb information and persuasive efforts, it’s that we can now create and publish our own writing, our own recordings.”

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