November 20, 2017 Print

Populist parties preaching nationalism and protectionism received over 8 percent of the total vote in Slovakia’s 2016 parliamentary elections. The majority of these votes came from the younger generation, participating in elections for the first time. This populist appeal stems from many of the false promises the parties have made, offering a quick fix to all of Slovakia’s economic issues. The Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS), an Atlas Network partner based in Bratislava, has devoted itself to encouraging young voters to think critically about these issues by exposing the myths that these parties have propagated to garner their support. INESS understands how these false claims, left unchecked, have the potential to be extremely harmful to the future prosperity of Slovakia.

“We see it as vital to dissect and unravel the unrealistic and potentially dangerous populist agenda, in as many ways as possible, so as to educate the general public, and avoid repeating the mistakes that have already been made in the past,” said INESS’ chief strategic officer Veronika Fajbíková.

To accomplish this goal, INESS’ new project – “Slovakia 2044” – recently launched a website (in Slovak) to combat the appeal of populism using the same technologies and practices that have fostered the growth of populism in the country. The project is composed of eight professionally animated cartoon videos, a physical publication that was distributed to secondary schools throughout the country, and select presentations at certain schools with INESS’ economic analyst discussing the false promises of populism.

The first video in the cartoon series is set in a hyperbolized future of 2044, where populist promises have turned into reality in Slovakia (English subtitles).

The first video of the series is set in a hyperbolized future of 2044, where populist promises have turned into reality in Slovakia. The remaining seven videos are focused on exposing individual myths that have been spread by populist parties in the country. These include the fabricated beliefs that foreign investors suck wealth from Slovakia and that a state takeover of major enterprises will lead to economic prosperity for all.

To publicize their work, INESS has marketed the videos on Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and their newsletter, with Slovakia 2044 being picked up by major Slovakian news outlets. Focusing their outreach on Slovakia’s youth, INESS also distributed twenty thousand brochures – which debunk the populist utopia – to students in more than 330 schools throughout Slovakia. As of November 20, 2017, the videos have reached more than fifty thousand individuals on Facebook.

Fajbíková explained that the overarching goal of INESS is to “broaden public awareness of the principles of market mechanisms’ functions and the effects of state interventions and their impact on society and everyday life.” These videos are intended to do more than oppose some of the fallacies brought upon through the populist agenda. INESS wants to instill in its viewers the value of being skeptical of political promises and policy proposals. Rather than taking political statements at face value, it is necessary to fact-check and think critically about the implications of the various policies that are presented.

The Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS) is a recipient of Atlas Network’s Illiberalism grant, which is awarded to help its partners who are working to combat the new authoritarianism and stop the rise of illiberal statist sentiment.

Learn more about Slovakia 2044 (in Slovak):