Italy: The Sea-Watch saga exposes the societal changes, polarisation at the detriment of analysis and reason

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Italy’s tussle with the Sea-Watch migrant rescue ship is a textbook case of politics in the age of Matteo Salvini. For weeks the hardline minister railed at the boat’s captain; and when a judge proved him wrong, he challenged her at the ballot box.

France 24 carries an article by Benjamin Dodman, which analyses how Salvini’s stance exposed his disregard for rule of law. 

The Lampedusa incident, and its massive amplification on social networks, reflects a well-known trend in current political debate. Across Europe, the increasing polarisation fostered by mass media has seen moderate voices drowned out by extremists. Stefano Ondelli, a professor of linguistics at the University of Trieste, likens this polarised landscape to a football stadium, where the fans at opposing ends make all the noise while those in the middle stands are largely quiet.

“Political debate in the media is increasingly following the same pattern: we’re getting more polarisation, to the detriment of analysis”.

Ondelli traces this evolution to societal changes and the explosion of mass media from the late 1990s, when politicians “gradually started speaking in simplified – or, rather, simplistic – terms”. The shifting language has favoured the development of extreme and exclusive positions that are conveyed quickly and forcefully, dividing the world in white or black, right or wrong.

“Most people now get their news from the web, where argumentation tends to give way to the endless repetition of clear-cut points of view, shared with people who are often already like-minded,” he says. “It’s more important to repeat the same theme again and again, each time in a more forceful manner.”


Watch and read more here. 

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