2022 was dominated by conversations about democracy - in the U.S. and abroad - on the precipice, coupled with a fractured and fragmented global economy. While conversations about the state of democracy will remain high, we expect 2023 will bring us increased conversations about the rise of the multipolar world, or a distribution of power in which more than two countries wield equal amounts of influence. We will see an increase in stories and narratives about the waning influence of the West, namely the United States and countries in Europe. Stories will underscore the U.S.’ declining role as the world’s sole superpower and explore new distributions of power across the globe.
This shift will impact conversations, often driven by nostalgia, about national identity and democracy in the U.S., as well as stories about global competition (e.g., the U.K. versus China, Russia versus Europe). Conversations about the multipolar world are deeply connected to narrative contests around socialism, communism, capitalism, colonialism and democracy. U.S. economic prosperity, safety, security and precarity conversations flank this contest and will also be at the fore in 2023.
We will also see an increase in stories about heightened competition between nations. Trends will include xenophobic drumbeats of China’s increased status as a global leader and competitor of the West, the expansion of Russian spheres of influence, and the codification of a Leftist bloc of leaders in Latin America who rebuke Western influence in favor of building regional power.
Total mentions by issue conversations about democracy
This chart compares the conversational volume of Democracy, Communism, Socialism, and Colonialism. While democracy conversations operate at a very high volume, conversations about socialism are interconnected and operate at similar volumes. This year, we saw spikes in conversations about colonialism in March related to the invasion of Ukraine and in September 2022, related to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Conversations about Democracy, Communism, Socialism, Colonialism | November 2021 – December 2022 | Zignal Labs
NARRATIVES AT PLAY
- The United States is in decline
- The West is competing for dominance on the global stage
- Socialism and communism are threats to democracy
- Authoritarianism is a threat to freedom and global stability
- Free market capitalism and deregulation can restore the global order
- National interests before international interests
- Global migration is destabilizing the world
- Migration is natural
The advancement of the Left in Latin America can be a north star.
Stories about the threat of right wing authoritarianism have remained consistent since last year. What is new, however, is the rise in stories that favor socialism and progressive ideas in Latin America. Leverage progressive policy wins like the legalization of same-sex marriage in Cuba or the decriminalization of abortion in Colombia as standards we should strive for in the U.S.
Leverage the desire of people wanting to migrate out of the U.S. Many people want to leave the country for a host of reasons, and all of them are based on the desire to live abundant, joyful lives that are free from harm. Deploy messages that spark people’s imagination about possibilities that are worth fighting for wherever we are, such as paid medical leave, universal healthcare, and work-life balance.
Tread carefully when engaging in conversations about immigration and the waning power of the U.S. They can often reinforce nationalist and America First narratives. Pay attention to the stories you tell about jobs and workers in the context of the global economy. Conversations about global economic competition and the U.S.' domestic prosperity often go hand in hand. While some of these conversations may present openings to talk about worker solidarity and sustainable production at home, they are more often used to advance anti-immigrant and nationalist narratives that pit both people and countries against one another.
Watch out for recycled red-baiting tropes. In English-language media, the use of terms like “Marxism,” “antifa” and the “radical left,” coupled with anti-woke sentiment, is often deployed to dismiss and discredit progressive leaders and ideals. In Spanish- and Portuguese-language media, phrases such as “chavismo,” “castrochavismo,” “uribismo,” “petrismo,” “madurismo,” “liberalismo” and others condemning Leftist leaders across Latin America are commonly used to spread falsehoods about progressive leaders. This poses a risk, as these ideas and stories traverse language and often trickle into the diaspora in the U.S.
Racist anti-Asian narratives are embedded in stories about geopolitical competition. Anti-Chinese sentiment has morphed from pandemic-related sinophobia into an all-out narrative battle on geopolitical issues, the economy and COVID. As we named in Rona Report 2.0, there is political agreement across the two major parties and in mainstream news media that China is an economic and global rival to the U.S. This dynamic vilifies both China and Asian Americans, contributing to broader white nationalist and capitalist narratives used to justify violence and Cold War-style policies that hurt people at home and across borders.