Framing Populism

This week’s readings were unified by examining the spectrum of right-wing populist movements in Europe. Rather than trying to draw broad conclusions that link these movements together, they dissected specific issues that were dealt with by right-wing populist movements in order to distinguish differing positions or frames of these issues. Specifically, the articles by Gattinara, Pattermotte & Kuhar and Schmidt illustrated these differences well by examining specific issues or events to display varying reactions to them, with the goal of portraying a more comprehensive picture.

Gattinara utilized the reaction of Italians towards the Charlie Hebdo cartoon and the following attacks to display the broad spectrum of reactions within Italy. He analyzed the reactions of three specific groups: populist radical right actors, extreme right actors and ultra-religious actors. What he found was that ideology led to differences amongst these three groups, however there was a trend to include liberal democratic principles within a narrative of exclusion based on cultural differences. This highlighted the pragmaticism of far-right groups as they converge on a single issue from differing perspectives.

Pattermotte & Kuhar focused on the anti-gender campaigns frequently associated with the far-right, but sought to unpack these movements beyond the simple label of the global right. Instead, they divided the anti-gender movements between the historical Catholic narrative and rightwing populism. By differentiating the two campaigns, it became more apparent how they interact and mobilize their followers. This provided more context within concrete settings in which these campaigns are occurring and enabled a deeper understanding of the phenomenon.

Finally, Schmidt examined the PEGIDA movement that occurred in Germany, which opposed Islamization, and found two key attributes at its core. These attributes were autonomous nationalism and ethnopluralism. These two attributes fulfilled two differing needs for the PEGIDA movement. On one hand, autonomous nationalism fulfilled the practical side of the movement, including its mobilization, communication and cohesion of the movement. While on the other hand, ethnopluralism satisfied the ideological underpinnings of the movement, creating a theoretical framework and a unifying cause.

These case studies are interesting, as they illustrated the pragmatic nature of far-right populist movements across Europe, as well as display the diversity across them. While it appears as though they are unified in their cause for a homogenous society, a large variety of perspectives lead to quite unique framings of events and issues. Ultimately, these case studies provide a more comprehensive understanding of far-right populist movements beyond generalizations.

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