The world may be heading into an “illiberal moment,” a “post-truth, post-West, post-order” era, characterized by democratic decline and growing support for authoritarian governance, the annual Munich Security Conference has warned.
Populist and “illiberal forces” threaten the liberal world order, casting doubt on many of the international institutions that have underpinned this order since World War Two, according to the report, released today ahead of the February 17 conference.
“The world is facing an illiberal moment. Across the West and beyond, illiberal forces are gaining ground,” the report said.
Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?
“The international security environment is arguably more volatile today than at any point since World War II. Some of the most fundamental pillars of the West and of the liberal international order are weakening,” said the MSC chairman, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger (above).
“We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945,” he said. “Are we entering a post-order world?”
The ascendancy of populist rhetoric has fundamentally shifted the discourse of liberal democracy and the principles that accompany it, the report suggests.
“This does not bode well for liberal values around the world,” it adds.
“Russia has demonstrated a particular ability to use these weaknesses of open societies to further its objectives and cast doubt on democratic institutions,” it states. “Across Europe, the members of a new ‘Populist International’ rely on so-called alternative media that regularly spread Kremlin-friendly messages or fake news.”
Previously unpublished analyses carried out by the Hertie School of Governance compare the budgets and social media reach of state-funded public international broadcasters: Russia’s RT and China’s CCTV rank especially high. In recent years, these states have also made strides in expanding the global presence of state-funded cultural institutes [as detailed by the National Endowment for Democracy – left], the report adds:
Disinformation and its ability to influence political structures and undermine traditional media narratives has proven to be a post-truth feature of a political environment created by an interconnected voter base, and one that has consequential repercussions on security.
“The main threat is that citizens’ trust in media and politicians might further erode, creating a vicious cycle that threatens liberal democracy,” the report said.
“Yet, they [states] cannot forbid ‘fake news’ or introduce ‘truth agencies’ lest they turn illiberal themselves. Preventing a ‘post-truth’ world, in which ‘nothing is true and everything is possible,’ is a task for society as a whole,” it added, referring to lawmakers’ attempts to criminalize the production and distribution of disinformation.