Short answer: Not very. More a matter of groups talking to supporters and past one another rather than deliberating about anything much. Individuals may be even less engaged in rational deliberation if they’re being abusive online.

There are a number of reasons why ‘deliberative democracy’ (a recent talking point amongst centre-left academics) seems all too far from reality. Most of us don’t actually have much time to deliberate – it’s easier and quicker to stick to campaign slogans. Even the issue of whether young people are suffering with mental health because of work and social pressures divides on ideological lines which can then, of course, extend to being a stress coping mechanism in themselves. Another point is the suspicion and mistrust which pervades Western societies (probably most of the world indeed). No one is happy to debate and deliberate with people they don’t trust behind their backs.

The current trend to ‘strong man’ politicians riding on nationalistic or religious populisms is also not likely to help with any deliberation. Instead it’s the opposite – emotive appeals, image making, and keeping compromises more behind the scenes and away from the public stance. Back in the 1980s the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas tried to relocate rationality in debate and communication between people, instead of the individual reasoning ‘subject’ that worried the ‘postmodernists’. Sadly, the ideal communicative action remains all too often just that, an ideal.

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