The rise of populism and a deepening distrust in the government and the media have upended old assumptions about the world. Many in academic and journalistic circles are beginning to question whether democracy is something that can be taken for granted.
In an effort to better understand these challenges, The Washington Post recently partnered with journalist Christian Caryl to launch Democracy Post. The blog went live last week and will incorporate a wide range of perspectives from all over the world – from fledgling democracies to more established ones alike.
“Democracy really is in crisis,” Caryl told MediaFile in an interview. “The whole idea of democracy is up for grabs right now, and we can see that even in our own country this is the case. It would have been hard for me to imagine that a year or two ago.”
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit nearly half of the countries tracked by its annual “Democracy Index” saw their scores decline over the past ten years. Even the United States, which has long seen itself as a bastion of global democracy, was recently downgraded to “flawed democracy” status.
Meanwhile, trust in government, the media and NGOs have all taken a hit, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. The annual report, which has been gauging public support of various institutions for over 20 years, noted that there has been a “global implosion of trust” in recent years – intensifying a downward trend.
Against this backdrop, Democracy Post seeks to understand the motives driving this distrust and explore how democracies of all kinds face the challenges of the twenty-first century.
Caryl, who has had a long career as a foreign correspondent, originally edited the Democracy Lab blog for Foreign Policy magazine. The blog featured more academic-style articles and ‘deep dives’ into particular issues. With this new venture, he plans to do things a little bit differently.
“I’d like to be journalistic about it,” said Caryl. “I’d like to focus on a particular angle, a particular story, and hit it hard and concisely and then move on to the next thing.”
Caryl also plans to draw on some of the more successful parts of Democracy Lab, such as the large network of writers he managed to build up over the five years of its existence. He plans to feature a wide range of perspectives on democracy, so as not to be limited solely to a Western point of view.
“I happen to be of the belief that you can only write about a subject by writing a lot about the bad guys and their strategies – by which I mean authoritarians, strongmen, and dictators of various colorations.” Caryl told Media File. “You can really only do that story if you analyze how they govern, how they think, and how they behave.”