Aarhus Universitets segl

Mobilizing during the COVID-19 Pandemic: From Democratic Innovation to the Political Weaponization of Disinformation

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

Political scholars express concern for the continued resilience of democracy in the face of multiple crises. In times of crisis, social movements articulate grievances and make demands of political leaders and policymakers. In contrast to the wave of pro-democracy movements following the 2008 global financial crash where protesters demanded accountability from elites, mobilization during the COVID-19 pandemic has defied expectations in several key ways. First, the expectation for protesters to mobilize primarily online in the face of the restrictions and risk associated with large gatherings has not been upheld. Instead, we have witnessed widespread “offline” mass protests. Second, despite high mortality rates and significant disparities in the effectiveness of national public health responses, we have not witnessed widespread mobilizations demanding governments do better to protect citizens from the virus. Instead, we have seen two radically different responses: At one extreme, veterans of “pro-democracy” movements have “pivoted”, using their skills and experience to either make-up for weak government responses to COVID-19 (Hong Kong) or to reinforce government efforts to contain it (Taiwan). At the other extreme, "anti-democratic" and predominantly far right-wing movements have mobilized against public health measures, circulating COVID negationist and conspiracy messages. Indeed, the political weaponization of disinformation has been a notable feature of pandemic mobilization. I analyze these contrasting trends, highlighting the challenges they pose for the effective handling of the pandemic, and their broader implications for democratic legitimacy and resilience. In so doing, I call attention to the ways that mobilization during the pandemic challenges scholars to revisit some of our assumptions about the dynamics of social movements in times of crisis, and how they can foster or erode democracy. The analysis also suggests that scholars analyzing the impact of information disorders on democracy need to pay careful attention to offline protest as well as online transmission.
TidsskriftAmerican Behavioral Scientist
StatusE-pub ahead of print - nov. 2022

Se relationer på Aarhus Universitet Citationsformater

ID: 227366062