From sociologist Matthijs Rooduijn at Nature:
Initially I took the view that academics investigating these parties and politicians should approach their study as objectively as possible: they should try to be neutral observers who focus on understanding the causes and consequences of the rise of these political actors, without making moral judgements about the empirical patterns that they encounter.
Yes, a scientist should be a neutral observer.
However, things have changed. Populists in Hungary and Poland seriously challenge liberal institutions, populist discourse has become more widespread and, when in government, populists are no longer merely junior partners.
It certainly sounds worth studying…
Most disturbingly, mainstream parties in Europe seem to have incorporated elements of populism’s illiberalism. In France, for instance, the enduring state of emergency established after last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris has led to abusive raids and infringements of people’s rights. Many mainstream parties in Western European countries are choosing security over liberty — probably because they feel the radical-right populists breathing down their necks.
Observation: Radicals rarely come to power unless the political class has stopped listening to average non-radicals, leaving the latter with little choice.
So I have changed my mind and my approach. I will remain as neutral as possible in my academic work, but I increasingly feel obliged to take part in the public debate about this topic, and to warn in the media of the increasing tension between populism and liberal democracy. More.
Dr. Rooduijn, if you want to be a politician, you can probably download the papers to file with your district electoral officers. Or whatever works where you live.
Seriously, this stuff appeared in Nature. Someone, please hand this budding stump orator an axe.
Folk at Nature are still, apparently, “stunned ” by recent electoral events they might have predicted, had they followed conventional science practices like this: We sometimes get it all wrong. So for now, we observe. Listen. Record. Hypothesize later. Rant seldom. Rave never.
The current mood, “We know better than you, you dorks” will produce little insight. But we can expect it to be tried often, as it is so much easier than the approach suggested above.
See also: Nature: Scientists stunned by Trump victory. Really? What does that say about the scientific method?
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