Back in 1992 American political scientist Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history and predicted the world would embrace Western liberal democracy.

Democracy’s downward trajectory over the following three decades might have been predicted by Murphy’s Law, but it is best summed up by the character in a Hemingway novel who said the process of going bankrupt was “gradual, then sudden”.

In 2024 we have already 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 the most common populist leadership strategy as a form of “gaslighting”. A once obscure book by American philosopher Harry Frankfurt, “On Bullshit”, has become a widely quoted reference text.

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 single solution – and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. If we’re to nudge democracy back on track a lot of things will need to go right, and one of the most important will be 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 that meaningful participation in democracy shouldn’t depend on wealth.

We also make our articles free to republish to seed our colleagues in the media with better information. We hope that this will lead to better public debate and build social cohesion.

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

Misha Ketchell


If the RBA’s right, interest rates may not fall for another year. Here’s why – and what it means for next week’s budget

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Australia’s economy is already alarmingly weak. A big cut in government spending in next week’s budget could push us from a per capita recession into an actual recession.

Expelling students for bad behaviour seems like the obvious solution, but is it really a good idea?

Linda J. Graham, Queensland University of Technology

Two male students have been expelled from a Melbourne private school for their involvement in a list ranking female students.

‘Eye watering’ spending, growing debt make up surprisingly generous Victorian state budget

David Hayward, RMIT University

Victoria is in huge debt but the government is keen to keep spending to stave off worsening unemployment.

Coalition demands amendments to government’s deportation bill, as crucial High Court judgement set for Friday

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In the dissenting report to the deportation bill, the Coalition says it supports the policy intent of the legislation but has significant concerns about potential unintended consequences.

First Nations imprisonment is already at a record high. Unless government policy changes, it will only get worse

Thalia Anthony, University of Technology Sydney; Kristopher Wilson, University of Technology Sydney

Lowering Indigenous incarceration rates is a key aim of the Closing The Gap targets, but there are more First Nations people behind bars than ever. How did this happen and what can fix it?

Martha isn’t Baby Reindeer’s biggest villain. So why is she painted as such?

Alex Simpson, Macquarie University

The greater crimes in the show are committed by Darrien – yet these are not the show’s main pitch.

Yes, adults can develop food allergies. Here are 4 types you need to know about

Clare Collins, University of Newcastle

You’ve heard of cow’s milk and peanut allergies. But what about tick-meat or fruit-pollen allergies?

‘Groundhog Day’: 40 years of Australian government responses to domestic violence reveal a bumpy road to change

Zora Simic, UNSW Sydney; Ann Curthoys, University of Sydney; Catherine Kevin, Flinders University

This is not the first time domestic violence has been declared a national crisis. Australian governments first got seriously involved in 1985. What can the past 40 years teach us?

A ‘conservation conundrum’ – when rat control to conserve one species threatens another

Victoria Florence Sperring, Monash University; Rohan Clarke, Monash University

The sad case of the Norfolk Island morepork shows we need a way to control or eradicate invasive rodents without killing native species.

An outsider on the inside: how Ans Westra created New Zealand’s ‘national photo album’

Paul Moon, Auckland University of Technology

The author of a new biography of renowned New Zealand photographer Ans Westra explains how she and her art were in many ways inseparable.

How a filmmaker, a pile of old shells and a bunch of amateurs are bringing our oyster reefs back

Dominic McAfee, University of Adelaide; Craig Copeland, University of Newcastle

A clever approach to restoring Australia’s native oyster and mussel reefs in Queensland’s Moreton Bay is catching on, giving community groups a way to get involved in their local patch.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

  • How does the drug abemaciclib treat breast cancer?

    Sarah Diepstraten, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute; John (Eddie) La Marca, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

    Stopping cells from dividing into new cells is one way to fight cancer. This is how the drug abemaciclib works.

Science + Technology

Arts + Culture


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