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From the Editors

Why The Conversation needs your help to build a better informed, more cohesive democracy

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Back in 1992, US political scientist Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history as a process of evolution and predicted the world would embrace Western liberal democracy.

Democracy’s downward trajectory over the following three decades is best summed up by the character in a Hemingway novel who described the process of going bankrupt as “gradual, then sudden”.

Already in 2024 we have seen several populist and authoritarian leaders across the world succeed by leaning into conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation. Sydney University democracy expert John Keane has described this approach to political leadership as a form of “gaslighting”. A formerly obscure book by US philosopher Harry Frankfurt, “On Bullshit”, is now being widely quoted as an insightful text on modern political communication.

Experts will differ on precisely what is driving the rise of populism in our politics, but one thing is clear: the emergence of digital media and social media has comprised our information ecosystem.

Today it is just too easy to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation. The rise of artificial intelligence is only accelerating this trend.

All this, in turn, has eroded trust and made it easy for bad actors to take advantage of the confusion. How are we to get out of this mess?

No one has a simple solution – and don’t believe anyone who tells you they do. If we’re to nudge democracy back on track, a lot of things will need to go right – and one of the most important is improving the quality and trustworthiness of the information available to all citizens.

This is where The Conversation has a role to play. We take the work of the world’s best academics and make it widely available, for free, to people who need unbiased explanatory journalism to be better informed.

This is vital for democracy because better information will lead to better decisions, in politics as well as our everyday lives.

We do our work with no political agenda – our only goal is to help people access the information they need. We make all our work free because we think meaningful participation in democracy shouldn’t depend on wealth.

We also make our articles free to republish to give our colleagues in the media access to leading experts. We hope this will lead to better public debate and build social cohesion.

But to keep doing all this, we need your help. This week we launched our annual donations drive. If you value the work we do, please donate whatever you can afford and help us build a democracy that is better informed, less confused and more cohesive.

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