Around the world, there is concern about the spread of fake news. This series gives the floor to professionals from several countries to shed light on this issue that appears to threaten democracy. This file was prepared by Jean-Philippe Warren, Quebec Studies Chair at Concordia University.
Jean-Philippe Warren: Italian populism in the past 20 years has fueled your business. How is the original Italy? How Berlusconi and the pioneers of the five-star movement?
Maurizio Ferraris: Unfortunately Italy was advanced in the political field. This was the case with fascism, at the beginning of the twentieth centurye century. This is also the case with populism at the end of the twentieth centurye century. Without a doubt, these developments enabled me to understand certain things very early in my career, even if I wasn’t one of those who rejoiced in the fact that Italy was able to function as a political laboratory!
In the 1990s, I was convinced that we were heading towards a more rational society. But in the face of Berlusconi’s rise to power, which had no facts, but only explanations, I realized the need not to lose sight of the pursuit of objectivity. At the time, I was having discussions with my friend and mentor Gianni Fatimo. I said to this view of interpretation as an infinite interpretation: “Listen, there is something wrong here.
In the postmodern discourse prevalent in some universities in North America, science is seen as an instrument of domination, and a simple manifestation of the will to power. Are we not flirting here after the truth?
I think it’s a bit like the mild drugs here. When Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier smoke it in Parisian salons, it’s poetic. But if the captain of the plane you’re traveling in is using drugs, that’s a problem!
The current pandemic is here to remind us that there are facts, not just explanations. Today, we can very well believe that scientists share their major pharma interests, that they are corrupt and partial. But, in general, I’d rather have scientists at the head of our public health policies than shamans. In the end, we ended up finding vaccines!
What are the symptoms of post-truth?
Post-truth shows social malaise. This is very evident in populism, which rises at the same time against the rich and against the poor: we hate the rich because of their wealth and we fear the poor because of their poverty. And since there are always people who are richer and poorer than us, we end up hating everyone!
We are in a vicious cycle. Social disruptions are related to a technical problem, because automation reduces workstations. And social disruption is expressed through technology.
In practice, an individual loses a job in a factory: he has too much time because he has nothing to do, he is depressed. Thus he spends his time on the computer writing “post-truth” things, creating more space for technology …
What mechanisms can Italian society put in place to fight post-truth?
Social conflict will be solved in only two ways. We must intervene at the structural level: increase social justice and encourage education.
Most important and most important is the reduction of social unrest. We must limit and minimize social conflicts. We can start by seeing that the massive mobilization of humanity on the Internet is producing value. If it is a value, then it must be taxable. Through this tax, we will be able to support employment and education. I call it “webfare” (like “luxury”).
On the flip side, there is an education. Basically, the fact that people say anything is a good sign. Kant said that the Age of Enlightenment was on one’s mind. Before, the scientist did not think for himself. Parties and churches decide many convictions, and many opinions. Substantial electoral stability resulted from the performance of the voters as directed. Now in Italy, limbs appear and disappear every five minutes! It is a step forward in human history. People change their minds because they no longer obey the supposed authorities.
But this is not enough. Two more things must be done, according to Kant. First of all, you have to learn to think by putting yourself in other people’s minds. Next, you have to learn to think in agreement with yourself, that is, in a consistent way.
Kant said, “From humanity’s twisted stick, you can never have anything perfectly straight.” It remains, however, that man is the only animal that can be taught. We can teach the horse to perform tricks, but then distort the horse’s correct postures to make it serve human purposes. On the contrary, raising a person is helping him realize his humanity.