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.


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.

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

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

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. Postill, John. “Populism and Social Media: A Global Perspective.” Media, Culture & Society 40, no. 5 (July 2018): 754–65.

2 Replies to “Media Constructing Populist Networks – The New Societal Issue”

  1. About your assertion that Charlie Hebdo is more anti-Islamic extremism. I think you are right in saying that we cannot blame it all on this magazine, but it does reflect the conflation you talked about. In reaction to the terrorist attacks, anything that looks too “Muslim” is deemed as “not-French”. That in itself is a mistake because there is no concept of nation in Islam (apart from the Islamic Ummah, which transcends nationality). As a result, mainstream Muslims are increasingly targeted. The caricatures of Charlie Hebdo are a reflection of this uncomfortable atmosphere. Also, I think that her point about Jewish exceptionalism shows that there is a target put on the back of the Muslims in France.

  2. Thank you (I will admit I seriously debated how to write that point), I agree about your point about looking too ‘Muslim’ means many in France think they’re not French. Exactly, that Islamic label is the media’s fault, they should refer to the extremists via country not religion. Very true (if the French media would just say extremist Frenchman/Frenchwoman that might solve part of the targeting issue). Yes that I agree with (ultimately their topical caricatures exist to sell the magazine.
    I think the point about Jewish exceptionalism is itself rather interesting and has similar issues. Critics of Israel and its Zionist viewpoint get condemned internationally due to the Holocaust and most people generally making similar conflations about regular Jewish people and Israeli Zionists (A huge difference between the two), this confusion by people has granted Israel a kind of metaphorical shield they can employ against critics (but its the conflation that has created this shield for Zionists), Charlie Hebdo has criticized Zionism but has to do so (very) carefully to avoid the automatic Anti-Semite label. As to the target on back, I’d say the metaphorical shield that Israel has, has made the choice of caricaturing of Christian institutions and Islamic-Extremists safer targets than Israel.

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