“Réchauffement des esprits” (heating minds)

by | 15 Jun 2024 | Governance

In the context created in France by President Macron’s astonishing decision to dissolve the National Assembly, this title “Heating Minds” could sum up the state of French society these days.

If the issues were merely anecdotal, one would be tempted to paraphrase another book by writing “A President should not do that”

In fact, before designating the state of nervous breakdown that is going through French society, “Heating Minds” is the English translation of “Réchauffement des esprits”, the title of the excellent book by my friend Pascale Thumerelle.

In truth, the full title, translated in English, of her book, published by Actes Sud, is Heating Minds. The social responsibility of cultural industries, a cry of alarm on the sometimes negative, and too often neglected, influence of hateful and disinformation content on our psyche …

And a plea for better consideration by companies in the sector, mainly multinational, of their central role in social cohesion.

In fact, the most commented and shared content occupies a privileged place in the news feed of X (ex Twitter), Instagram, Tik Tok: the algorithm identifies the post as generating engagement and promotes its dissemination and that of similar content.

This “philosophy”, if we can put it that way, actually gives priority to the most incendiary content, because it is more likely to maximize engagement.

The result is a situation that Pascale rightly denounces: an overabundant broadcast of hate content, stereotypes, disinformation fueled by the distortion of facts, marketing practices that are harmful to children, etc.

Through these mechanisms, it is ultimately our relationship to the truth, abandoned in favor of emotion, that is being questioned.

In January 2023, there was much comment on an IFOP – Jean-Jaurès Foundation – Reboot Foundation survey on young people’s relationship to science in the age of social networks: Many criticisms of the methodology and the very objective of the survey had emerged, pointing to data that was ultimately not so scientific.

In fact, the conclusions were quite appalling: according to this document, six out of ten young people thought it possible that the Earth was flat, with more than one in four adhering to the theory of creationism. A third of young people trust social networks for sharing photos and videos (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.). And 41% of “TikTokers” believe in the idea that a content creator/influencer who has a large number of subscribers tends to be a reliable source.

IFOP had an easy time getting the laughers on its side by talking about a “knock knock generation”…

But isn’t it a bit easy to make them wear the hat when we have seen for years the appalling spectacle of French politicians, who, all tendencies combined, insult each other and call each other names, driven at best by emotion, at worst by hatred.

I don’t know if things will calm down in the coming weeks, and to tell the truth I don’t really believe it.

But please, heated minds or not, let’s come to our senses!

Iconography : Pascale Thumerelle, the author, during an autograph session at the Librairie les Traversées