Regulating Media, Populism in the liberal market


Des Freedman in “Populism and media policy failure” argues that media has failed in four ways and that populism continues to be given credence in an unregulated media market. Populist use media to transmits sentiment over fact, Freedman asserts, appealing to the political outsider to send a message. I argue that appealing to the ‘outsider’ is a method of creating and subsequently appealing to the proposed desires of the ‘common people’ that media has produced. This appeal to the ‘common’ is a tactic of Populists, a concept I explored last week.  As Freedman points out, media created with failed regulation has allowed for Populists to transmit sentiment over fact, often appealing to one group rather than the other. Alt-right alternative media carries a message to the ‘common’ people who are not represented by the elitist’s traditional news sources such as the New York Times.


The failing of policy regulation of the media industry include:


1.       Concentration of ownership

2.       Little to no regulation of social media

3.       Failure to protect the ‘fourth estate’ (investigative journalism)

4.       Failure to protect public service media.


These fallings have come to pass under a policy regime that has “vested interests that dominate at any one time; communications policy is a highly political, value-laden, interest-driven field of decision-making. Since the 1980s, this has generally followed ‘the logic of the marketplace’,” wrote Freedman. In this way the economy, specially the liberal marketplace, is a driving factor in shaping the conditions of the media industry allowing Populist to win out by way of market failure. The structuring of the liberal economy to reward the success of some at the loss of others keeps many on the margins. It is in appealing to the those placed on the margins and also those categorized by capitalism that media carries the message of Populists. This appeals to economic anxieties to further unit the ‘common’ under a banner of rhetoric. “one potential solution is regularly proposed,” wrote Freedman,  “an independent public service news media that is strong enough to defy the pressure of both government and market and to serve citizens without fear or favour.”


D. Freedman, “Populism and media policy failure” European Journal of Communication

33(6)(2018): 604-618

Des Freedman and How to Fix Media Policy – Andrew Devenish

In “Populism and media policy failure”, Des Freedman in my opinion correctly points out many issues which enable and support the growth of populist and far-right movements in the US and the UK. In particular, he cites “policy silences” and “policy failures” in four main areas where there has not been enough done by government policy to encourage a healthy environment for media and journalism. These four issues are the failure to tackle concentrated ownership, the failure to regulate tech companies, the failure to safeguard an effective fourth estate (investigative journalism), and failure to nurture independent public service media. In my opinion, Freedman’s analysis of the policy failures and silences in these four areas are spot-on and highlight real, important issues that help enable the growth of populist movements too much. However, Freedman’s solution to these problems leaves something to be desired.

Essentially, Freedman wants a total shift in the approach to media policy and calls this new approach a “redistributive” media policy. However, it’s unclear what this actually means. For instance, when Freedman correctly points out issues with commercial media (they go where profits can be found), and public service media (funding can complicate things and journalism can get too close to government), he doesn’t elaborate on how a “redistributive” policy would solve these problems. He is happy to say in his conclusion what problems would be solved by this new policy paradigm but neglects to explain how they would be solved. This paradigm would be “designed to cater to the needs above all of disaffected citizens” but it is once again unclear what that would entail. Would media companies be publicly owned, or commercial entities? How would these companies under this new paradigm operate to ensure that they properly serve the public’s interests? Perhaps it isn’t Freedman’s goal to make policy recommendations, but after he so astutely points out many areas where policy can be improved, his solutions are rather less satisfying.

#NousToutes and the limits of populism

In September 2019, protestors took to the streets of France using the hashtag #NousToutes (All of Us), to call attention to the domestic violence that women face in the country. Thousands have voiced concern about the rate of femicide – the killing of women by their partners, ex-partners or family. In France, the number of femicide deaths have reached 128 this year. Today the French government is expected to unveil new measures to combat domestic violence and protect the lives of women.

Prior to the unveiling of these new measures it is worth considering how a populist movement might seek out change from the state. Populism as Cas Mudde a scholar of the European far right has framed it, divides populations into “two homogeneous and antagonistic groups”. There is a criticism of the ‘elites’ who have used ‘corrupt’ means to deprive the ‘ordinary’ people meaningful recognition by the state. The popular belief that the allocation of resources serves the ‘elites’ and forgets the rest, evokes calls to deliver for “the people,” “the real people,” and “the silent majority” as political scientist Jan-Werner Müller has argued. It is also important to note that while populism is often associated with the alt-right, it exists on both the left and right side of the political spectrum.
Unlike a populist movement, the #NousToutes does not evoke the ‘common’ or ‘ordinary’ terminology used by populists to rally people to their cause. Instead, women are critical of the state while remaining outside the ‘common’ folk. Women challenging the structural norms that permit abusive partners to kill their spouses are undermining, in much needed ways, the day to day business of the French state.

#NousToutes unites a caucus of people that would otherwise not have come together under the pretense of shared domestic threats. #NousToutes calls out the state and those in positions of power for turning a blind eye to the horrific consequences of structural norms. In many ways, these are components of populism. Yet, #NousToutes is not a populist movement as those who band together remain outside the ‘common’ French people.
While #NousToutes much like the ‘common’ people call to renegotiate their position in France they remain Othered. The Other is a group that does not get to renegotiate their position within the state but must rely on pre-established rules of the ‘common’ people to do so. A reliance on the pre-established rules to achieve new ends is homonormativity for French women. Gender scholar Lisa Duggan termed homonormativity to refer to “a mainstreamed gay discourse that attempts to expand rather than dismantle heteronormativity by internalizing a conceptualization of LGBT identity that constructs legitimacy and rights along established lines”. In France, women of #NousToutes must advocate for change within the heteronormative structure established by the ‘common’ folks. Professor of Ethnic Studies Fatima El-Tayeb argued that this offers the Other “protection” within the heteronormative structure and acceptance as a part of the ‘common’, at the exclusion of diverse groups such as refugee women to France.

For the structural changes desired by women of the #NousToutes movement to be achieved within the current heteronormative system in France the ‘common’ must embrace their objective as well. Thus, social change driven by the Other goes only as far as the ‘common’ folk will allow. Following the study of Anti-gender campaigns by social scientists David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, support by ‘common’ folk may be hard to obtain. In their review of common opposition in Europe to structural changes that would combat domestic abuse they noted that there were fears of the Other extending their reach beyond what the ‘common’ folk were willing to tolerate. Such as the institutionalization of sexual and reproductive rights, international recognition of abortion, additional attacks on traditional motherhood.

With populist movements leaving no room for the Other, those like the women of the #NousToutes movement and other minority groups are left unacknowledged by both ‘elites’ and the ‘common’ folk. To minority groups, the ‘common’ folks are elite, and the ‘elites’ are even further out of reach. In France, populism can no longer deliver for women at the margins and it is perhaps time to think about what new forms populism will take; a neo-populist agenda may reposition minorities in the heteronormative structure within and outside France.

The Populist Tactic

Populism is a political tactic, not an ideology. Unlike liberalism or authoritarianism that rallies people under a set of beliefs, there is no moral or philosophical ideology that rests exclusively within the populist camp. As David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar have written, “populism has no side and cannot be easily mapped onto the left-right divide”.

Populism as Cas Mudde a scholar of the European far right has framed it, divides populations into “two homogeneous and antagonistic groups”. There is a criticism of the ‘elites’ who have used ‘corrupt’ means to deprive the ‘ordinary’ people meaningful recognition by the state. The popular belief that the allocation of resources serves the ‘elites’ and forgets the rest, evokes calls to deliver for “the people,” “the real people,” and “the silent majority” as political scientist Jan-Werner Müller has argued.

Unlike Müller, I do not suggest that populism is utilized to attack liberal order. Instead, it is a tactic to critically examine the structural shortcomings of the state. Following the introduction of legislation in Spain favouring same sex marriage, ‘ordinary’ people gathered in protest of ‘elites’ moving in a direction that disregards their structural realities. Paternotte and Kuhar suggested that without motherhood and fatherhood there is an undermining of “the anthropological basis of the family,” creating what I argue are points of fragmentation in the public trust of the state. Trust is fragmented when the structural foundations of homogenous groups of people are called into question.

 In France in 2012, the near two years of protests that ensued following attempts to broaden the definition of a ‘traditional family’ known as “Manif pour tous” is a clear result of ‘the people’ losing trust in the states ability to deliver for them. It is important to note that prior to the “Manif pour tous” ‘the people’ in France were a different political group however, following the start of the movement those that would not regularly align formulated the artificially homogenous group. In such a process Ina Schmidt has written that “whole groups of people … are scared of the future and have their fears channeled by strong leaders into a certain direction.”  The process of codifying ‘the people’ is the populist tactic with populists themselves rallying more and more to a caucus of persons ready to renegotiate their position within the state. The powerful tactic of populism creates a political stalking-horse o be picked up and taken in the direction of any cause occupying any theoretical space on either side of the  left – right divide.



Challenges in Preserving a Myth

By: Julia Aguiar

While mass migration in Europe is often put in the language of crisis and of the now, it is hardly a new phenomena. Indeed, we can track the migration of people throughout Europe alongside the creation of national borders back to the Middle Ages. In the contemporary context, mass migration has taken on a different shape as anxieties towards Islam have sprung. The myth of European autonomy and whiteness begin to falter not only as migration from the east continues throughout Europe but as these migrants become more established and vocal in their experiences. Moreover, as these readings call us to take a more intersectional approach, we must also consider how the meeting of gender, sexuality, and migration threaten the myth of European identity.

Migrants of colour are often placed outside of conceptions of nationhood and citizenship. This is true still for the children of migrants despite the fact that their birth is often the one that their parents migrated to. Ultimately, the very existence of the children of migrants challenges the country’s myth of whiteness. Moreover, as Nilüfer Göle writes in her article, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam,” muslim women in particular contest the ideal of secularism in European Public Spheres through the practice of veiling. However, as Göle demonstrates as much as veiling is viewed as a symbol of oppression by mainstream society, muslim women associate veiling with professional opportunity and other ideas that do not jive with the European ideal to other and victimize them. As much as European countries like to put migrants in opposition to ideals of secularism, the hybrid existence and experiences of second and third generation migrants as well as the way that the practices of Islam changes with migration as exemplified through the experience of muslim women, demonstrate that the myths of nationhood are becoming tenuous.

The intersection of sexuality and migration in the experience of Queer migrants in several European countries challenges the ideals that neoliberal cities like to project. In her case study of Amsterdam, Fatima El-Tayeb makes clear the marginalization that Queer migrants face if they do not meet certain neoliberal criteria like having a coming out narrative. It becomes clear that to be freely Queer is something that is often relegated to white, middle class men. Importantly, this has not gone unchallenged as demonstrated by the work of the Strange Fruit collective.

Cracks in the myth of European identity have always been present. As migrants further establish themselves and make their, often intersectional, experiences known, these cracks will only grow deeper.

Europe and the Other


When Corneliu Zelea Codreanu formed the Romanian Fascist movement in 1927 under the guise of the Legion of Archangel Michael it indoctrinated a generation of young Romanian men into a space that they took ownership over. The process codified a ‘mens club’ that would articulate the rules of a new Romanian man while satisfying the need for belonging; a new nation, as Roger Griffin has argued, was birthed through these ‘new’ men. The movements for newness have a long history of supporting Fascist regimes throughout Europe and have been used to attract those left vulnerable to uncertainty to an ultra-nationalist cause.

Groups of people have been defined by who they are not; incorporating histories across times and spaces into re-remembered ideals that constitute the public memory, take root in the discourse of the public domain, and crystalize the identity of European states and folks positioned within them.  As Fatima El-Tayeb wrote, “through the process of civilizing the East, the West defines itself, creating an internal coherence impossible to achieve without the external Other”. Those who exist outside the tangible population and are not ‘proper Europeans,’ as El-Tayeb termed them, and the existence of the so called ‘not proper’ Europeans gives credence to a uniformed European-ness.

Those on the periphery of the mass population are forced to internalize the established rules of the ‘new’ order or exist beyond it. In context of sexuality, this is what Lisa Duggan calls homonormativity: “internalizing a conceptualization of LGBT identity that constructs legitimacy and rights along established lines, challenging neither the exclusion of those who do not or cannot play by the rules”. In context of race, it is an invitation for individuals of color to be one of ‘them’ however, as educator Gloria Wekker described whether those of color opt in or do not ‘they’ are never one of ‘them’.

Normativity is a privilege of white liberals submitting to western doctrine and not only ignoring but taking aim at the Others who remain on the periphery. El-Tayeb, notes that white gay men can often be part of the established ‘new order’ order through participation in the ‘creative’ economy. Yet their participation is accepting that those groups beyond the ‘proper’ population, such as Muslims, are an active opposition to the established order. As white gay men align with liberal western doctrine, they sanction the use of homophobia as a theoretical attack against those on the periphery i.e. Muslim populations.

Those on the periphery are “pulled between two paradoxical civilizations, as Nilüfer Göle wrote building on the work of Samuel Huntington. While modernity is reserved for the west the Others are placed in an artificial chronotype: an alternative positioning of time and space. Confronting this positionality may revel how hollow the alliances that gave rise to ‘new men’ and ‘new’ order really are and reposition diverse gay or Muslim or Othered groups from the periphery.


Comparing the Holocaust to Everything

In analyzing how we treat Europe’s refugee crisis, Dan Stone makes the argument that our actions and the lens we view such things through is heavily influence by World War II and the Holocaust specifically. Stone says that the world never properly came to terms with the Holocaust, and so now it colours the way we think about all kinds of different crises. For example, we might not pay attention to something as much as we should if we deem it ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone invokes a 1945 quote from Alan Moorehead that warns that the “danger of indifference” will always be present, bringing up many tragedies that happened over the course of the war which Europeans didn’t care to hear about, unlike the Holocaust, which was huge news. There is a paradox here in how we treat crises or tragedies. For example, we have a tendency to analyze tragedies in regard to how they compare to the Holocaust, which either leads to an incorrect likening of some tragedy to the Holocaust, or if we do not liken some tragedy to the Holocaust, it is downplayed and minimized because it is ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone says that it is correct that Europe’s current refugee crisis is not like the Holocaust, but once we begin to insist upon that idea, there is the danger that we don’t respond seriously enough to the problem. For Stone, this seems to stem from the idea that the Cold War was not comprised of the postwar period, and that the postwar period could not happen until the end of the Cold War, so we are only now grappling with the consequences of World War II and the Holocaust, as we try to compare them with every new crisis. However, Stone does not provide any solutions to this problem which he, in my opinion correctly, identifies. How can we properly analyze and take notice of tragedies that went unnoticed by Europeans in World War II and accurately and appropriately respond to the current refugee crisis?

Fascism’s Facelift

Fascism in Europe has been associated with the tyranny of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. Indeed, Fascism in these context’s as George Moose has argued “satisfied a deep need” in the public consciences “fostering a sense of belonging”. However, the need that gave rise to the WWII -era fascist regimes emerged as a product of “the crisis of the 1920s and 30s,” as Roger Griffin has termed it. A crisis that emerged under the loss of trust in the states institutional capacity to deliver for its base. Of course, the base favoured by the Third Reich, the Aryan race, is most distinct in memories of the past but each fascist regime has appealed to a similar base to drive its message.

Following the second World War, the appeal for a ‘new order’ did not bring the sense of belonging that George Moose referred to. As Griffin noted “The generalised sense of imminent socio-cultural breakdown and the prospects of renewal in a ‘new order’ had evaporated.” In a post-WWII era the crisis that had motivated thousands to the Fascist cause had disappeared leaving Fascism in a new theoretical space and in need of a new face – or facelift.

The Nouvelle Droite that originated in France in 1968 reinforces the thoughts of French art critic and journalist Maurice Bardèche who stated, “that neither fascism nor racism will do us the favour of returning in such a way that we can recognise them easily.” The state needed a way to engage in the international space once the fascist dream, that I have previously written about here, was achieved. Projecting the ideals of the state’s ‘new order’ to the world gave way for Fascism post – fascist formation: ultra-nationalism. However not the “‘palingenetic ultranationalism’ which results is profoundly anti-rational and mythic in its thrust, seeking to inspire revolutionary action rather than static contemplation,” that Griffin referred but one protecting the state against all else. The stance of protectionism allowed ultra-nationalist states to engage in a post-WWII international space while remaining unbroken from the historical lineage tied to the interwar – fascist regimes.

Transnationalism and the Nouvelle Droite

I found this week’s readings as very informative for understanding how right wing movements developed between the end of the second world war and today. Bar-On’s Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite, explains the French Nouvelle Droite role in establishing some of the core tactics and content used by today’s European populist and right-wing groups. One of the primary features of the ND was their view that Liberalism, Socialism, multiculturalism, and democracy were homogenizing ideologies that were destroying the cultural, regional, and national roots of Europe (206). This to me was the precursor for populist and right wings movements of today, use of identity politics. without the establishment of this idea, the “othering” tactics of populist movements would be lacking. Bar-On also touches on the idea that the ND was transnationally focused. According to him, the ND utilized the idea of the ‘Gramscianism of the right’, which focused the ND’s to influence European civil society rather than governments. Personally, I find this very interesting from a European integration perspective, on the one hand, the EU (which was undergoing its development at the time) focused on influencing governments rather than the public, relying on ‘permissive consensus’ of the public. On the other hand, the ND set out to influence civil society, thus bringing down some of the nationalist barriers that fascist and nationalist parties relied on. What is interesting here is that both the EU and right wing movements have been successful in targeting their areas, yet both lack traction in the other. By this I mean, right wing movements have been able to gain enough support at the public level, but have struggled to win at a national level. The EU has had the opposite problem, they have achieved some success integrating at the national level yet have lacked civil society support. Nonetheless, it is interesting that both the EU and the right-wing movements have integrated Europe in their own ways.

This week’s readings have turned some of the concepts I once took as fact, on its head. The first is put forward by Bar-On when he brings up the “now widespread strategy of inversion, of turning universalist, multicultural anti-racism into a form of racism, was picked up from the ND” (207).  This turning on its head of liberal values is actually quite ingenious. While the ND was able to trans-nationally influence the content of other groups in Europe, they also struggled. Such is the case of Portugal, where according to Marchi, the Portuguese intellectuals and right-wing groups seemed to be “influenced less by the content and more by the methods of the French ND”(243). This is not too surprising, as cultural context within different states will vary and thus require right wing groups to adapt their message accordingly. Marchi also argues that the ND was unsuccessful in cultivating a pan-European identity within in Portugal. Again I find this a bit harsh, as building pan-European identities has always been a daunting task for any group, including large institutions like the EU.

Neo-Fascism: Second Verse, Same as the First

What is the lesson of the New Right? Of Neo-Fascism and of new conservative movements? And how do they differ from plain, good ol’ regular Fascism?

Answer this and you’ll have solved the greatest political concern modern liberals have been facing since Neo-Fascism’s resurgence in 1968.

Interestingly, “why” is the simple part to answer. 1968 was a tumultuous year in Europe especially, and was the culmination of a trend towards anti-establishment thought and belief across multiple nations, especially centered on universities. Fascists and the far-right was suffering from a lack of appeal, and as radical thinkers began to align with varying ideologies, Marxist thought had a tendency to swallow up other anti-establishment believers.

At the same time, the established far-right was shaken when seeing how potent the effects of communist thinking had become in the West. So trying to redefine the right, trying to change the narrative of the far-right and of neo-fascists, was important if the movement was to remain, and more importantly to grow at all.

But what can we learn? Perhaps the lessons lie in the way that Fascism and by extension other extreme-right ideologies are able to fluctuate, shift in ideology and to remain powerful despite changes. As one form of Fascism falls in popularity, it is the innate ability of Fascism to change its face, manifest itself pragmatically in other forms.

Perhaps too we must recognize the power of a common cause. Far-right groups may no often get along with each other based on major doctrinal differences, but given a large enough, potent enough common enemy, groups tend to coalesce into a unified resistance. From the Carlists and Francoists in Spain, to neo-fascists in postwar Europe, this trend remains a powerful one.

But all of this speculation is difficult to truly give full credence to. Fascism itself is so hard to pinpoint that it is difficult to truly say what neo-fascism has done differently. In many ways, the attempts by the New Right to modernize and regain popular support is not too different from the shift to Fascism from older forms of right-wing thought.

So… here we are again. Trying to classify something that shifts by its very nature. To say it’s difficult is… an understatement.