Deliberative Democracy and Mass Media: Towards a Normative Theory of Mediated Public Debate
My contribution will focus on the relevance of deliberative democracy for designing a normative theory of mediated public debate. I will contend that despite robust difficulties it is still possible to construct a normative ideal of mediated public deliberation – i.e. of mass media-mediated deliberation. First of all, I will start by underlining the dilemma deliberative democracy is facing in mediated societies: because it is inspired by a face-to-face model of communication, it is unable to address the “fact of mediation” (i.e. the fact that mass media play a crucial role in selecting, broadcasting and framing political information and political arguments that are available to citizens). Considered from the perspective of the traditional account of deliberative democracy, mass media appear as unfit for deliberation. Four main objections to the idea of a mediated deliberation can be identified (regarding fragmentation, asymmetry, passivity and complexity). Then, I will formulate three responses to this dilemma and criticize them. I will especially argue against one of them, which suggests giving up on deliberation in mass media and restricting it to non-mediated arenas of communication. I will argue that such a solution requires in fact giving up on a deliberative conception of democracy. Finally, I will discuss how we could proceed to reconstruct a deliberative ideal that would be relevant for mediated societies, by considering the fact of mediation not only as an obstacle but also as a resource for deliberation. This will allow me to respond to the four objections identified.