The last debate to launch the book “O Legado da Pandemia” addressed the lessons brought to the world of institutional politics and communication during this time
The last meeting in the debate series that marked the launch of the book “O Legado da Pandemia” (“The Legacy of the Pandemic,” in a free translation) was broadcasted online on March 4. Insper, in partnership with the nonprofit BRAVA, invited the public to discuss the lessons that the pandemic brought to the world of institutional politics and communications.
Insper professor Laura Müller Machado organized the book. It counts on reflections by 26 professors and researchers who had looked into the pandemic’s legacies and lessons for public policy. The book was made available for free in e-book format (in Portuguese). Learn more about the publication and download it here!
Authors and Insper professors Carlos Eduardo Lins, Carlos Melo, Milton Seligman, Pedro Burgos were brought together for this event. Prof. Laura Müller Machado was the discussion moderator. Journalist Aline Midlej, the anchor of Brazilian newscast Jornal GloboNews, was invited to comment and bring in her reflections on the topics studied.
The role of science in formulating policies
Author Milton Seligman, who served as Coordinator of Insper’s Advanced Program in Public Policy and Administration, talked about the relationship between science and the formulation of the most effective public policies to address the crisis. For him, this time’s legacy is that society is learning that researchers and scientists can and should participate in the formulation of action plans.
“Our society has come to learn about and even be proud of scientific institutions and to give science a central role as a beacon of the central topics of discussion across the globe. Alongside governments, we are seeing scientists assisting decision-makers in defining important policies. Rarely have these scientists’ actions generated such hope in people,” Prof. Milton said.
Aline Midlej agreed with Milton’s propositions regarding the importance of science’s greater presence in politics for our society. She cited the research brought in the article. It shows that Brazilians are among the group of people who least trust science. “That is one of the things that we have been trying to fight over this pandemic’s period. Never in recent history has science been so close to society”. The journalist also questioned how we as a society could organize ourselves so that this legacy continues and science is more present in Brazil’s daily communications.
For Milton, scientists can influence public administrators with mandates. Nonetheless, they will only make room for that influence if there is social awareness about it. “Often, officials are not open to that. However, there is room in civil society to put pressure on and advance science-based public policy”.
The course of politics
In Prof. Carlos Melo’s article, he questions whether there will be a change in the course of politics that we saw before the pandemic. In his view, it was necessary to understand that there were already different crises that preceded the pandemic. The current moment has accelerated them, integrating a major global transformation underway.
“In terms of legacy, the pandemic has shown the world needs public policies to deal with social inequalities and that the Central State has a crucial role to play in that. Over the past decade, a malaise in society became evident. Some took advantage of that to vocalize populism and demagoguery. However, the pandemic proved that these demagogues could not handle the crisis’ problems,” Carlos explained.
Aline seized on the professor’s explanation to question why those demagogues continue to have the support of so many people. “How does the lack of discussions at the official level prevent creating more robust policies to counter support for governments that implement such questionable life-sustaining policies?”
“Regardless of the pandemic, there is a prior evil, a resentment, and an impression of defeat. When thinking about the universe of public policy, you will have to think about a universe of sentiments to find some kind of solidarity. The institutions exist to coordinate actions and develop solidarity mechanisms. However, they have not achieved any of those things. So, they end up being questioned and lead to the belief in demagoguery,” replied Carlos.
The Future of Journalism
In the book’s third chapter, Prof. Carlos Eduardo Lins discusses the journalism industry. Like politics, it also had suffered from the pandemic due to facts it had been facing for a long time because of what he calls a serious structural crisis.
“With the pandemic, the previously discussed political and electoral values have become much more important, implying life and death. There was a return to the journalism that was practiced in the 19th century. It is a journalism of advocacy and partisanship, one far from the model we had known, which sought objectivity,” said Carlos.
Then, Aline acknowledged there is a great information revolution underway. “I think we are living in a new time, and it is a point of no return. Advocacy journalism will become more solid in the coming years. However, I wonder if the industry, the big bosses, investors, and the newsroom command are ready to legitimize that as a new way of communicating and making news”.
For Carlos, although there is no such thing as total objectivity, the previous model of journalism had its advantages. It had expounded opposing ideas that ended up being heard by all audiences. “I do not know if it will be better or not for our society this new advocacy journalism occupying this space. However, in the role of researcher, I must analyze the trends. I believe it is one that has been confirmed.”
How to communicate uncertainty?
Author Pedro Burgos debated the last book article. He spoke about the challenge of writing about the communication of uncertainty and how to talk to the public about what is not so well-known.
“There were several discoveries that, often, were communicated very assertively to the population. But science is a process, and many times it was used as a staff to show certainty. That was so even when no guarantees could be given about several things. Nowadays, we see interviews with experts, and they convey much more care with that certainty and assertiveness,” explained Prof. Pedro.
Next, Aline complemented the reflection by pointing out that, for her, credibility is not directly related to passing on unquestionable certainties. “We have to work on our ability to communicate uncertainty safely. I think that both scientists and journalists have had to experience that the pretty hard way, with this burden of having to bring encouragement to people.”
“Today, the world produces much more data. We need to learn to communicate it better, always remembering the gaps we have. Also, making it clear that those are the data we have so far, without necessarily having a full understanding [of them],” Pedro concluded.
Following that, the authors had some time to answer questions placed by the event’s audience. Watch the webinar’s full recording here: