On-line and Off-line Influences

The readings this week concerning social media and other visual and non-visual methods of communication for populists were, in my opinion, a great way of displaying the networks required to bring populists together as well as the dispersal of the message. It highlights Postill’s message of there being substantial interaction between media, while also highlighting the impossibility of blaming a single piece of media or medium for media for the success of populists and populist parties. On top of this, as we get as well from Postill, everyone can and does use these tools, and just because there is a successful campaign does not necessarily mean that social media is the only thing responsible for that success.

I would argue that one of the things that social media has helped with is spreading specific vocabulary related to populist goals transnationally (especially the US/Europe vector) however as we see from Doerr, it is not only social media that helps to spread these images, specific political parties are involved in translating these images in different ways to match contexts. Despite this, I think that Kramer’s point about populists communicating identity identity is a central element of a lot of their use of mainstream social media. The ease of sharing the visual media associated with their particular populist movement in the shape of memes, posters, conspiracy, etc. has meant that a common vocabulary has developed, one that can then be enforced if the leader also uses this same vocabulary in either the mainstream media or on the same social media platform. These pieces of visual media allow immediate recognition of like-minded individuals, and even when they are translated, if the visual element of the media is the same, there is still the possibility of understanding outside of language barriers (mass media can even play the role of translator if there is a particular controversy around it). I want to emphasize here that this is not a thing new to social media, pamphlets, zines, and other forms of paper media have played this role for some time. What I will restate is that the transnational movement that these visual elements have when they are posted to a common social media space.

Perhaps not directly related to this week, but I found this article interesting: One Woman’s Mission to Rewrite Nazi History on Wikipedia

Transnationality of Ideas and Social Media

Emma C

The use of the internet and social media makes sharing messages even easier than ever. The ease of the information spreading also allows for many ideas and movements to become transnational. As we saw last week and the week before, because of the world’s connectedness, movements such as QAnon, which originate in America, gain popularity in non-English speaking countries such as Germany. In particular with the pandemic, we can see how easily misinformation can spread since anyone can post whatever they like and people tend to believe what they read on the internet. I suppose the pandemic is the perfect example of how the spread of misinformation is transnational because of the internet.

The way in which right wing groups and populism have used social media to their advantage is also a more recent phenomenon. Populism is often about the will of the people and being anti-elite, social media is the perfect breeding ground for populist movements to share their ideas. Social media is widely available to everyone and there are millions of everyday people on these sites. The everyday person tends to be the targeted audience in populism as they spread their ideas as being, “ideas of the people.” With how easily ideas can be spread, people on social media may feel that they relate to something a group is talking about and become interested in learning about their other ideas. Media and interconnectedness in the 21st century has provided right wing groups the perfect place to share their ideas.

Benjamin Krämer, “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1309

Özçetin B, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22(5-6) (2019):942-957.

The Popularization of Far Right Politics

By Ali Yasin

Social media and the internet more broadly, can be seen as the most recent examples of a historical and technological trend towards the popularization of information. The ongoing development of information and communications technology has gradually widened the scope of public engagement in political, social, and philosophical discourses. This steady trajectory towards “mass society”, has been reflected in evolution of political movements across the ideological spectrum.

Both the far-right and far-left were early adopters of radio and film as mediums for political action during the early 20th century. Doing so expanding the reach of their political mobilization from the traditional property holding upper and upper middle classes, to the organizing urban workers in the case of the far-left, and the disaffected lower middle class in the case of the far-right. In both instances, their political programs took on the character of mass societal movements with revolutionary ambitions. Subsequently, liberal governments during and after the Second World War, were forced to adopt similar systems of political mobilization and governance to prevent revolution from either the right or left. This adaptation is reflected in the trans-Atlantic development of the liberal welfare state in nations across western Europe and North America, as a centrist alternative to the mass politics of the 20th century.

Now in the 21st century, the internet as the primary means of communication, has had a similar yet distinct effect on the development of contemporary politics.

While previous technologies like radio, film and TV broadcasting all expanded the general public’s capacity to receive information and narratives, the internet is the first to radically expand its ability to also construct and disseminate them as well. As a result, political activists on the far-right and far-left have once again adopted this new arena of political action and altered the character of their political movements in the process. Rather than portraying themselves as the vanguards of mass political movements like their early 20th century predecessors once did, modern activists now present themselves as agents of culture change seeking to undermine the artificial narratives of the elite and supplant them with the organic will of the people. This has inevitably given the politics of the modern far-right and far-left an increasingly populist orientation. Ironically, it has also once again led the political establishment to adopt these new modes of politics, fearing the growth of either ideology. Although some centrist politicians like Barack Obama and Emanuel Macron have had success incorporating populist energy and strategies into liberal political agendas, as the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and Macron’s drastic decline in popularity have shown, they may be quickly outpaced by the members of the far-right and their now decentralized system of narrative construction.  

Works Cited:

Imen Neffati, “Anti-sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo” French Cultural Studies (2021) 32(3):280-295.

Nicole Doerr, “Bridging language barriers, bonding against immigrants: A visual case study of transnational network publics created by far-right activists in Europe” Discourse & Society 28(1) (2017): 3–23.

Benjamin Krämer, “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1309

John Postill, “Populism and social media: a global perspective.” Media, Culture & Society. 40(5)(2018): 754-765.

List of Topics and Sub-Modules for Week 11: November 24

Peculiar Media and Modern Populism

M. Nagy

If this is a horse, I fully intend to beat it dead at this point. I will be blunt and paraphrase the words used by Brubaker in defining what populism is simply, it is rhetoric.1 In framing the term in such a way, it can then be analyzed in a fashion rather than be used as a journalistic cliche. Identifying populism the term as such is important as it strips away the fanciful nature of populism being used to attach the concept as a synonym for bad politics.

Now, why bring up the arguments by Brubaker when they are detached from this weeks readings by nearly 3 months? Simply put, there is nothing special or unique about the fashion in which populism is conducted now compared to the historical precedent. Neffati demonstrates how traditional print media has the capacity to, at the minimum, convey and cultivate a deep-seated aspect of fear in its readers.2 Whether this is something crafted by the paper or merely drawing out from the popular conscious; I think is an argument that goes far beyond the data the author presents however. Regardless of that, its certainly not a new form and is a direct continuation of traditional print media. I disagree with their analysis that this is a development in pushing of boundaries, at least in the grander scheme; as maintaining a freedom of speech, and to offend, is typical in any form of hyperbolic media such as Charlie Hebedo.

With the movement from print to visual media, there is the possibility for adaption into something wholly unique from its predecessors. As Özçetin notes that, “certain parts of the media may act as agents of populist rhetoric themselves; how media figures, including journalists, columnists and commentators may resonate with the populist discourse of the party in power.”3 There is indeed a growing emphasis on the tools and, in particular, the individual nature of the spread of populist rhetoric between those who agree with the message inherently. I would point to this being more a form of elaboration of the previous iterations of media however, as it is the natural evolution of the democratizing nature of more easily accessible creation, distribution, and consumption of media.

Viewing the different iterations of media as something new and unique can sometimes be a productive and useful tool in determining the effects they are having on a society. It also runs the risk of oversimplifying the situation in establishing a new effigy to rally around and burn at the stake. As Postill puts it succinctly, “Just because a populist – or indeed a non-populist – social media campaign preceded an electoral victory, we cannot assume that this triumph was a result of that campaign.”4 There is a desire to make things special and unique, it makes it easier to understand why things do not go as planned. However, Populism and the methods it uses to spread through modern media are not new; after all, Plato did outline it two and half millennia ago in his allegory of the cave.

1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .

2Imen Neffati, “Anti-sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo” French Cultural Studies (2021) 32(3):280-295.

3Özçetin B, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22(5-6) (2019):942-957.

4John Postill, “Populism and social media: a global perspective.” Media, Culture & Society. 40(5)(2018): 754-765.

Media giving the far right room to grow

Kathleen McKinnon

The distinction between “thin” and “thick” ideology for populism is useful (Kraemer, 1296) when looking at populist movements. It shows the differences between where there is more salience on a particular right-winged movement than another and not only that, but also in whether or not these movements are strong to begin with- having a good ideological base.

I would argue that there is perhaps more of a thick ideology present now than when the Kraemer article was written because it was in 2017 just after the election of Donald Trump and before a wave of populism in many European countries, or at least during the outset of this. That means that there have to be some deeper connections in the ideology and this is likely due to the role of the media in sensationalizing issues and reporting on far-right issues in other countries such as in the US as well as how quickly non mainstream events can be spread. This creates a network for the far-right to deepen their ideology, although international aspects are not a new phenomenon. Not all far-right ideas and things shared in media pick up enough momentum to become important in seeing what the right-winged populist believes, however as in the case of the Hebdo event, there is an aspect of a thick ideology that is emerging since there was a popular aspect of supporting Hebdo in the mainstream media as well as by people at large (Neffati, 288). This predates the election of Trump, however, shows that there is a united front and movement towards right-winged populism that suggest it does go beyond thin ideology in some aspects, however, there remain weaknesses that have allowed right-wing populism to fade somewhat in recent years and perhaps it will fade back to think ideology despite media having given populism some help in becoming salient.

Imen Neffati, “Anti-sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo” French Cultural Studies (2021) 32(3):280-295.

Nicole Doerr, “Bridging language barriers, bonding against immigrants: A visual case study of transnational network publics created by far-right activists in Europe” Discourse & Society 28(1) (2017): 3–23.

Populism and Media: A Complex Relationship

D.Khaznadji

The readings from this week added another layer of complexity to the analysis of populism. The dissemination of populist rhetoric is not merely done through traditional political avenues. Özçetin suggests the importance of popular culture in shaping populist discourses. The case of the internationally praised historical drama Diriliş: Ertuğrul, which will be discussed in the following lines, is a good example. Postill asserts that populist communication is subject to a “dual hybridity” (old/new media and online/offline communication). Finally, I wish to talk about Neffati’s article on Zionism and Islamophobia in the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. The particularity of this case is that it offers an example where the populist discourse is not always happening from a top-down dynamic. 

Özçetin shows how popular culture can perfectly be in line with a political agenda. The case of Diriliş: Ertuğrul symbolizes the populist message of Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist message is centered around the primacy of the Sunni-Muslim majority and the betrayal of the Kemalist elite. As Özçetin stresses, the character of Ertuğrul is a representation of Erdoğan himself, who is supposedly fighting against the evil embodied in the elitist class. The success of this show on an international level shows how effective popular culture can be in promoting a political party’s message. 

When it comes to social media, Postill places them as part of a “dense web of highly diverse online and offline communication practices”, in addition to old and new communication practices (762). I liked the nuance brought by this article. Postill insists that social media are not only used by populist candidates but also by “establishment politicians”. When used with mainstream media, it can be a very powerful tool for politicians. As for the point about places like mosques being places of important political discourse, there is definitely truth to that. Such discourse, however, is not uniform. It is important to consider for example the differences in Islamic preaches in Muslim and non-muslim countries. Muslims living in the West might have a different understanding of what it means to be part of a nation than Muslims living in a country where the majority is Muslim. 

Finally, the case of Charlie Hebdo offers a good example of how actors that are outside of the government in power can be influential in shaping public opinion. Neffati states that Philippe Val, director of Charlie Hebdo, “manipulates readership” into thinking of Islam as inherently antisemitic, and by extension a threat to the French Republic. Among the many outrageous caricatures and drawings that the magazine published, one of them depicts Muslims as an alien coming to invade a free and secular Europe. The message here is clear, the Muslim community is an enemy that does not belong in France. Today, as French Muslims are increasingly pushed into choosing between their faith or their country, a media like Charlie Hebdo becomes an alternative way for the populist message of the French government to reach the people. 

Media Constructing Populist Networks – The New Societal Issue

Wesley M.

Populists incorporating their rhetoric within the current hybrid networked media to create a network and thus have become a societal issue.

Associate Sociology Professor Nicole Doerr discusses how the far-right has become more mainstream within our society, point out the populist transnational linkage’s power with the specific example of the Swiss People’s Party’s black sheep poster campaign, arguing how populists use cartoons to create solidarity within their political fearmongering discourse against immigration to mobilize and connect far-right supporters.[1]

Benjamin Krämer discussion of populist’s uses of the medium of the internet has allowed them to spread their anti-elitist/othering believes in such a way as to create a more fluid ideological base while using online platforms to appeal in a top-down way to the people, utilizing cyber-populism to promote their outgroups, ethnocentric, nationalistic intentions, while using provocative language strengthens them against their critics because it allows for their followers belief in them to grow (echo chambers).[2]

John Postill’s discussion of the influence of social media on populism is unique in the sense that he doesn’t solely focus on social media, he acknowledges the effective populism and media as a whole rather than that specific subset of media type, he discusses how the left/right/centre of the political spectrum each use social media, he touches on the specific subset called theocratic populism and it’s contestation of traditional media also pointing out how non-populists use social media too ultimately pointing out that the social media is merely a portion of the media, and that overall the effects of all media types have allowed for populism to return.[3]

The other two readings this week both discuss specific examples of how media can be used by the far-right in order to promote an agenda. Imen Neffati discusses the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: briefly discussing the Philippe Val and Sine debate over Israel/Palestinian, before touching on how post-9/11 Val who was already anti-extremist-Islam became even more so, the overall argument Neffati is seeking to make is that the magazine is actually anti-Islam which has in the authors viewpoint helped promote this sentiment within France.[4] I actually disagree with this last argument as it seems rather weak: while the magazine does seem to highly critical of any religion, it seems to be more anti-Islamic-extremist or indeed being against any kind of extremism rather than subtly attacking one religious group of people, that said I will admit the French populace possibly conflating extremists with members of the non-extremist religion is definitely an issue, I just don’t think it can be blamed on this magazine. Burak Özçetin’s discussion of how the Turkish populist AKP party utilizes popular culture specifically the historical television show Diriliş: Ertuğrul in order to promote their ideology of an anti-elitist restoration of a specific group of ‘people’ while demonizing the ‘other’ group within Turkish society, as well as to project nationalist rhetoric through the show, with his discussion of the fallout of the Butterfly Awards controversy successfully showing the struggle of Islamic influence versus Western influence.[5]


[1] Nicole Doerr, “Bridging language barriers, bonding against immigrants: A visual case study of transnational network publics created by far-right activists in Europe” Discourse & Society 28(1) (2017): 3-20.

[2] Benjamin Krämer, “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1305.

[3] John Postill, “Populism and social media: a global perspective.” Media, Culture & Society. 40(5)(2018): 754-763.

[4] Imen Neffati, “Anti-sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo” French Cultural Studies (2021) 32(3): 280-295.

[5] Burak Özçetin, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22 (5-6) (2019): 942-952.

Bibliography:

Doerr, Nicole. “Bridging Language Barriers, Bonding against Immigrants: A Visual Case Study of Transnational Network Publics Created by Far-Right Activists in Europe.” Discourse & Society 28, no. 1 (January 2017): 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926516676689.

Krämer, Benjamin. “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1309. https://doi-org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1328520.

Neffati, Imen. “Anti-Sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo.” French Cultural Studies 32, no. 3 (August 2021): 280–95. https://doi.org/10.1177/09571558211027041.

Özçetin, Burak. “‘The Show of the People’ against the Cultural Elites: Populism, Media and Popular Culture in Turkey.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 22, no. 5–6 (October 2019): 942–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549418821841. Postill, John. “Populism and Social Media: A Global Perspective.” Media, Culture & Society 40, no. 5 (July 2018): 754–65. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443718772186.

Scapegoating the LGBTQ2S+

In the readings this week there is a very common theme of populists and the far-right using anti-gender propaganda to push their conservative narratives. We can see examples of this in both the Patternote reading and the Zuk&Zuk reading. Patternote points out an important aspect of how “by seeking to produce a moral panic, anti-gender activists try to legitimize their particular claims, establish the validity of the issues raised, stir up concern among the general population and attract media attention.” (Patternote, 11) In the Zuk&Zuk case study of Poland, we can see how this notion of scapegoating that Patternote mentions play out in a real-world context. The far-right in Poland consistently uses the anti-gender movement to critique and challenge changing society because “from the point of view of nationalists, then, defenders of gay rights have emerged to become just like anarchist opponents of the social, state and moral order and, even worse, like barbarians attacking civilization.” (Zuk&Zuk, 571). This is not just an issue isolated to post-communist European countries, as The Guardian article points out. Since the rise of Brexit and far-right ideology in North America, England is seeing a huge spike in hate-targeted crimes against people in the LGBTQ+ communities. The article states that “The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In the most recent year of data, police recorded 11,600 crimes, more than doubling from 4,600 during this period.” That is a staggering, and unacceptable statistic. In conclusion, from the readings this week, it is clear anti-gender movements are used by far-right organizations and politics as a ‘veil’ for their primary goals/intentions.  

Mobilizing the Masses

M. Nagy

To quote Brubaker from the second week, populism is the successful use of “politics of fear”.1 The effective ability to categorize and separate a population into insiders and outsiders creates a dynamic of constant anxiety that fuels a desire for stability. In this respect, the new and the uncertain go hand in hand with one another; why else would populist leaderships seek to shut down or re-appropriate prestigious institutions if they disagree with their conceptualization of reality?2 It provides not just a rallying point for discourse on the nature of these foreign and different ideas, it also allows for a managing of the future messaging on a given topic. This is also not a new phenomenon, as it has been demonstrated in how Italian populists took control over the news media within their nation to secure a platform of expression and dialogue.3

In much the same way, we see the use of “Creating uncertainty, managing fear and building an atmosphere that makes everyone feel that he or she can become a victim always requires some demonised enemy.”4 The simultaneous attack on academic institutions and gender dynamics through the effective othering as a means of ‘re-establishing’ a hierarchy from the past in times of turmoil and uncertainty as a means of creating stability. Through this charismatic approach to the modern issues, populist can engage and spur their supporters into the approaches that further this dichotomy. It establishes the precedence for more than institutional attacks, but personal ones as well. As seen in the case of the United Kingdom, failure to address the deep-seated issues that cause a distrust of what these people consider foreign; can have massive reaching impacts of bodily harm to both the individual and the public.5

1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .

2Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, https://www.boell.de/en/2017/04/10/report-trenches-debate-around-teaching-genderstudies-hungary .

3Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.

4Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.

5 Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019, https://www. theguardian.com/world/ 2019/jun/14/homophobicand-transphobic-hatecrimes-surge-in-englandand-wales

The Far-Right: United in Fear

Kathleen McKinnon

In the anti-genderism movement, the far-right is picking another opponent and this is not a surprise. We can see through time the folk devils have often changed, from Jews and antisemitism in the WWII years, to democracy and the West and now land on genderism, not that it has never been a topic for the far-right but now it is a more publicized enemy of the right in today’s backsliding European countries. In Poland, the church takes a role in the issues with abortion and genderism (Zuk and Zuk, 567), but it may be the case that even if the church was absent from the discourse in Poland, as it was in France (Paternotte and Kuhar, 8), that this type of rhetoric would continue. 

The factors that unite these issues are closer than the circumstances that make them different in each country. The fear and hate that unites the far-right against a common enemy, the fear of change and deviances vs. whether or not the government is far-right and can condemn genderism, if the Church is playing a role, etc. In each case, the underlying factors are the same even if the catalysts change depending on the context for a respective group.

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.

Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588