Narratives – accounts of the world that link actions and events into meaningful contexts – help us order, explain and describe the world, no matter what our perspective. These accounts function like other stories, evoking emotions and providing us with motivations. But what if this form of narrative evokes fear, rejection or even hate?
Right-wing extremists and right-wing populists use digital media in the most up-to-date ways possible, and with considerable success. The functioning of social networks, where emotionally charged stories can turn quickly into viral hits, accommodates their narratives. Research, public debate and counter-reactions have to date focused primarily on the issues of fake news and criminally prosecutable content. However, the narratives cannot be legally prohibited or eliminated, because they are seldom punishable by law – yet they have an impact even when couched in a moderate tone.
In order to address toxic narratives effectively, we need our own powerful accounts of the world – in short, democracy narratives. We must learn not only to shape democracy and diversity, but also to tell their stories.