When to intervene, and when not to intervene
When to intervene …
While it may be impossible to change the mind of the sloganeer themselves, engaging in the discussion serves a broader purpose. By intervening and offering alternative perspectives, it is possible to prevent others from blindly adopting the populist opinion. This is particularly important in situations where the influence of the sloganeer can be significant, such as public gatherings.
The impact on bystanders
Furthermore, engaging with populist sloganeers in the presence of onlookers and bystanders can have a profound impact. It prompts critical thinking and reflection among those observing the interaction. It encourages others to speak out against populism and challenges the assumptions and biases propagated by the sloganeer. By actively countering populist slogans, individuals and groups targeted by these divisive messages are empowered, as they see that they are not alone in their resistance.
The message to the wider community
Engaging in the discussion also sends a powerful message to the wider community. It demonstrates that there are individuals who refuse to let populist rhetoric go unchallenged and are willing to stand up for democratic values, reason, and inclusivity. This can inspire others to join the conversation and contribute their voices to the fight against populism. While changing the opinion of a sloganeer may be unlikely, the impact lies in the ripple effect created through engaging with them. By making others think critically, encouraging opposition to populism, and empowering targeted individuals and groups, the discussion serves as a catalyst for positive change. It helps to dismantle the allure of populist slogans and build a more resilient and informed society.
When engaging in discussions surrounding populist slogans, it is crucial to establish clear limits that uphold democratic principles and promote respectful dialogue. While populist sloganeers may not necessarily agree to these rules, it is still essential to set them as a reference point. Referencing democratic values can serve as a foundation for setting these limits. By emphasizing the importance of freedom of speech within the bounds of respecting others’ rights, individuals can attempt to have discussions that remain inclusive and constructive.
… and when not to intervene
Nonetheless, you need to remember that not every discussion is beneficial. Pick your (verbal) battles:
For instance, if you are at an event organized by populist groups or populist political parties, chances are you will be in such a minority, that it is most likely not worth your energy to engage in a discussion – you will not convince your adversaries, who are caught up in self-perpetuating dynamics.
Furthermore, you might be maneuvering yourself into a dangerous situation. It is important to stay safe. You are not doing anybody a favor by taking risks to your physical integrity. Under all circumstances, your first priority should be to get out of the situation unharmed.