Europe in 2019 appears chaotic, conflicted, and divided. Populist movements wash over the continent, the Brits are getting ready to crash out of the EU after a chaotic Brexit process, and America under Trump is turning its back on Europe. In Hungary and Poland, democracy is under pressure. European nations, similarly to the US, have shown themselves vulnerable to influence from Putin’s Russia. To many observers it looks like Europe is falling apart right in front of our eyes.
This is the dark backdrop looming behind the election to the European parliament on May 23rd. The election may turn out to be one of the most important in our lifetime. There are legitimate reasons to fear that the divisions we now see on the continent will be mirrored in the new parliament. Do we run the risk that the post-war, pro-European cooperation will be replaced by an isolationist nationalism? Will this lead to a defeat for the foundational values of the European project? And what happens when legacy media gets challenged by new actors, who can disseminate disinformation, propaganda, and fake news almost without restrain via social media?
Few people have followed these developments more closely, nor written as incisively about them, than journalist and author Anne Applebaum. She was met with disbelief in 2016 when she warned that the West was only “three bad elections” away from the end of the liberal world order as we know it: If the Brits voted themselves out of the EU, if Trump became president, and if Le Pen became the leader of France. At that time this was seen as a completely unlikely result. We know what happened.
Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and her analyses are listened to and read with the greatest seriousness all over the world. She is concerned with finding new ways to counter the disinformation that can break through the sound-proofed walls of the echo chamber. We have invited her to learn about what we stand to lose.