Classical music, as composed by Bach, Gershwin or Glass, is very demanding and is understood by only a few people worldwide. Either one understands the music and therefore loves it or vice versa, one loves it and then begins to understand it. An entirely different kind of music was made by Elvis Presley, Madonna, etc. A music that is easy to understand and that you can consume even without special attention – popular music. Even the Fam. Strauß has created something similar in the 19th century with the Viennese Waltz. It was then called popular and not popular.
TV series also have a range from popular to elite. The series American Gods is very demanding. You need historical and cultural background knowledge to be able to follow the content at all. The Austrian TV series “Vorstadtweiber” does not need it. Just watch and enjoy the stupidity of the protagonists. The term popular is largely positive. Phenomena that fall under it are widely accepted and approved. But popular is far from being populist.
In episode 2.3. “The Waldo candidature” from the series Black Mirror shows us clearly the difference between popular and populist. It all probably happened in a US region. In a regional TV runs a cartoon with a blue bear, called Waldo. The production is designed to build on situation comic. The figure of the blue bear is controlled by a background mechanism. Facial expressions, gestures and language are composed online by a background actor. The dialogues are at extremely low levels. They are spoken by Jamie, who was a little successful comedian in his earlier career. Amazingly, the series is very successful and the producers would therefore like to expand it. In the crew, one quickly comes up with the idea that Waldo could get involved in the current election campaign. With this concept, Waldo now appears in public and attacks politicians with empty-handed vulgar attacks. This is also very popular with the population. So that one decides on the part of the production, to position Waldo as own candidate. The actor Jamie says: “I am neither stupid nor smart enough to make politics.” He favors candidate Monroe and takes it lightly for now, saying, “Why waste time on animated nonsense?” The longer the election campaign lasts, the better Waldo scores. It comes to a television discussion which is denied exclusively by the cartoon character. The other candidates do not speak. Only Monroe was able to say “It’s very easy what he does – he makes fun of himself. If he has no jokes, the expressions such as F*ck come to the knee “. Thus, the cartoon character of the applause of the audience is safe. Waldo has no program, does not say what he stands for, has no values he represents and except “piss-take the politician” he can do nothing.
Populism is not only created by the stupidity of the audience, but it also needs a personal concern of large crowds. So there must be populations that are disadvantaged or at least feel deprived. Only this interplay of ignorance and perceived deprivation can lead to populism. For a mass phenomenon, however, there is still someone who recognizes precisely this disadvantage and appeals in simple terms. Great powers such as the Third Reich, religions have emerged. Christianity was originally a populist movement. Many Jews felt disadvantaged by the occupation of the Romans. They also had no knowledge of how to get rid of such an aggressor. The recipes for it then Jesus delivered.
The initiation of a populist movement needs a high intellect. The movement itself is hardly initiated by an ignorant mass. An elite is usually a smaller group with a very high level of information, who at least believe themselves to believe that they belong to an elite. In the diametrical between favored / know and disadvantaged / ignorant, power can grow. What it takes is a charismatic leader. This does not necessarily have to come from the elite – it can also be a people of the people – but is controlled by the elite.
The CIA is so supposedly a preferred group, so an elite. This is exactly what occurs in the episode. An agent tries to win the producers of Waldo for their own interests. The agent says, “Waldo is a construction that is gratefully accepted by humans and is also a political killer.” The CIA basically does not care who the American president is, whether Republican or Liberal. The important thing is that they have as much influence as possible and thus control the people. The agent suggests, “With a purposeful, hopeful statement we deliver (CIA), they then mobilize the masses without discouraging moderate counters. The Waldo candidacy was produced in 2014 and is most similar to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The screenwriter has thus excellently expressed a visionary ability. If you read the Twitter messages from Donald Trump you might be inclined to come from Waldo. However, one should not dare to believe that Donald Trump tweets himself – this is done by his state and its strategists. In the background of Trump operates an elite who controls her leading figure accordingly. The same is probably the case in North Korea and Turkey. In order to not be one-sided here, it should be noted that behind all the power figures there is an elitist circle. This also applies to Merkl, May, Grabar-Kitarovic and all others.
Now there is still a population group that is equipped with little knowledge and information and is convinced to belong to a preferred majority. These are the conformations. These are the basis of traditional parties. These are their regulars. People who think of themselves and of a few others that they are disadvantaged would then be called dissidents.
The four terms Populists, Dissidents, Conforms, and Elitars can be used to describe the political currents of a society well. In the age of digitalization, social media are now added. The elitist part of the populists knows how to use this instrument well. Taking the example of Austria and current surveys, the Strache FPÖ, including Facebook, is the dominant political organization. This can then be used to send off exactly those messages that are for a little intellectual / informed population group. On the contrary, the personalization of the electronic media can break down the message to individual people and thus better address their disadvantages.
This social mechanics, so far described, can be used by digitization to build up enormous and global power. As can be seen in the credits of the episode, Waldo has created a global empire. To construct power in the digital world, artificial intelligence (elite), popular access (Facebook) and leadership (actor) are required. At risk are both populist and compliant populations. In both cases their ignorance is exploited. In the worst scenario of superintelligence, human knowledge does not help anymore. What a blue teddy bear can become!