The Politics of Fear. What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean (PDF

The Politics of Fear. What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean (PDF

rUTh WoDaK The poliTics of fear 00_Wodak_Prelims.indd 3 25-Aug-15 4:58:36 PM 1 POPULISM AND POLITICS: TRANSGRESSING NORMS AND TABOOS ‘For funda...

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The poliTics of fear

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‘For fundamentalist elites all over the world, fear is an effective antidote against the secularizing effects of communicative freedom.’ Matteo Stocchetti (2007, 229)

Analysing the Micro-Politics of Right-wing Populism Whenever I lecture about right-wing populism and right-wing populist rhetoric, people in the audience pose many questions, such as: Are not all politicians populists? Don’t other politicians sometimes construct scapegoats and use similar rhetorical tropes as do right-wing populist politicians? Don’t the so-called right-wing populist politicians all draw on the same plethora of linguistic, pragmatic or rhetorical devices as already used by Cicero and other rhetoricians from antique times? Such challenges raise the pertinent question of the novelty of this topic. What kind of new knowledge or which kind of explanations could anybody actually add to what we have long known about this complex phenomenon? Let me start with some brief answers to these and similar questions. Most importantly, right-wing populism does not only relate to the form of rhetoric but to its specific contents: such parties successfully construct fear and – related to the various real or imagined dangers – propose scapegoats that are blamed for threatening or actually damaging our societies, in Europe and beyond. Moreover, tendencies of renationalization across the EU and beyond can be observed; tendencies of creating ever new borders (and even walls), of linking the nation state and

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citizenship (naturalization) with nativist (frequently gendered and fundamentalist religious) body politics, lie at the core of right-wing populist ideologies. We thus seem to be experiencing a revival of the ‘Volk’ and the ‘Volkskörper’1 in the separatist rhetoric of right-wing populist parties, for example, in the Ukraine, Russia, Greece as well as Hungary. At the same time, very real walls of stone, brick and cement are also being constructed to keep the ‘Others’ out, who are defined as different and deviant. Body politics are therefore integrated with border politics. Of course, much research in the social sciences provides ample evidence for the current rise of right-wing populist movements and related political parties in most European Union (EU) member states and beyond.2 On the one hand, we observe neo-Nazi movements in the form of extreme far-right parties and horrific hate crimes such as that committed by Anders Breivik in July 2011 in Norway, from which all right-wing populist parties immediately distanced themselves publicly;3 on the other hand, a salient shift is occurring in the forms and styles of political rhetoric of ‘soft’ right-wing populist parties which could be labelled as ‘the Haiderization of politics’, a label relating to the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreich or FPÖ), Jörg Haider. Haider’s performance, style, rhetoric and ideologies have become the metonymic symbol of such parties’ success across Europe. Indeed, the FPÖ has paved the way for the dissemination of a new, frequently coded xenophobic, racist and antisemitic, exclusionary and anti-elitist politics since 1989 and the fall of the so-called Iron Curtain.4 Right-wing populist parties across Europe and beyond draw on and combine different political imaginaries5 and different traditions, evoke (and construct) different nationalist pasts in the form of identity narratives, and emphasize a range of different issues in everyday politics: some parties gain support via flaunting an ambivalent relationship with fascist and Nazi pasts (e.g. in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania and France); some parties, in contrast, focus primarily on a perceived threat from Islam (e.g. in the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland); some parties restrict their propaganda to a perceived danger to their national identities from ethnic minorities and migrants (e.g. in Hungary, Greece, Italy and the UK); and some parties primarily endorse a traditional Christian (fundamentalist) conservative-reactionary agenda (e.g. in the US).6 In their free-for-all rush for votes, most right-wing populist parties evidently pursue several such strategies at once, depending on the specific audience and context; thus, the above-mentioned distinctions are primarily of an analytic nature. In any case, I claim that: • all right-wing populist parties instrumentalize some kind of ethnic/religious/linguistic/ political minority as a scapegoat for most if not all current woes and subsequently construe the respective group as dangerous and a threat ‘to us’, to ‘our’ nation; this phenomenon manifests itself as a ‘politics of fear’; • all right-wing populist parties seem to endorse what can be recognized as the ‘arrogance of ignorance’; appeals to common-sense and anti-intellectualism mark a return to pre-modernist or pre-Enlightenment thinking. In this book I am concerned with the micro-politics of right-wing populist parties – how they actually produce and reproduce their ideologies and exclusionary agenda in everyday politics, in the media, in campaigning, in posters, slogans and speeches. Ultimately, I am concerned with how they succeed (or fail) in sustaining their electoral success. The dynamics of everyday performances frequently transcend careful analytic categorizations; boundaries between categories are blurred and flexible, open to change and ever new socio-economic developments. 2

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Populism and Politics: Transgressing Norms and Taboos

Below, I first elaborate on the many ways in which fear is continuously invoked and legitimized by right-wing populist parties; I then briefly trace the history of populist movements and present a working definition of right-wing populism that should help in understanding the impact of these political movements in the 21st century. Moreover, by way of example, I illustrate the typical politics of denial that characterizes much of right-wing populist rhetoric – the specific ways in which media scandals are provoked and then dominate the agenda, forcing all other important topics into the background. Indeed, instrumentalizing the media, both traditional and new, is part and parcel of the immediate success of such political movements. After discussing the example in Vignette 1, I identify some of the typical characteristics and rhetorical patterns of right-wing populist parties in a range of national contexts selected due to the distinctions made above, such as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

Right-wing Populism: Form and Content Returning to the questions raised above, we see that they are not difficult to answer: For example, the sociologist and media expert Dick Pels (2012, 31ff.) emphasizes that it would be dangerous to regard modern populism as void of serious content or to reduce the new right-wing populism to a ‘frivolity of form, pose and style’ and thus to downplay its outreach, its messages and resonance. Indeed, it would be, Pels continues, ‘erroneous to think there is no substance behind its political style. […] It is precisely through its dynamic mix of substance and style that populist politics has gained an electoral lead position in current media democracy’ (ibid., 32; see also Reisigl 2013, 159). Pels lists various important socio-political challenges that currently concern voters, especially during times of financial and environmental crises, and which are related to a multitude of fears, disaffection and pessimism: fear of losing one’s job; fear of ‘strangers’ (i.e. migrants); fear of losing national autonomy; fear of losing old traditions and values; fear of climate change; disappointment and even disgust with mainstream politics and corruption; anger about the growing gap between rich and poor; disaffection due to the lack of transparency of political decision making and so forth (Rydgren 2007). Thus, when analysing right-wing (or, indeed, left-wing) populist movements and their rhetoric, it is essential to recognize that their propaganda – realized as it is in many genres across relevant social domains – always combines and integrates form and content, targets specific audiences and adapts to specific contexts. Only by doing so are we able to deconstruct, understand and explain their messages, the resonance of their messages and their electoral success.

Right-wing Populism: Creating Scapegoats ‘Populism simplifies complex developments by looking for a culprit’, states the political scientist Anton Pelinka (2013, 8). He argues that: [a]s the enemy – the foreigner, the foreign culture – has already succeeded in breaking into the fortress of the nation state, someone must be responsible. The élites are the secondary ‘defining others’, responsible for the liberal democratic policies of accepting cultural diversity. The populist answer to the complexities of a more and more pluralistic society is not multiculturalism. […] right-wing populism sees multiculturalism as a recipe to denationalize one’s (own) nation, to deconstruct one’s (own) people. (ibid.) 3

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Right-wing populist parties seem to offer simple and clear-cut answers to all the fears and challenges mentioned above, for example by constructing scapegoats and enemies – ‘Others’ which are to blame for our current woes – by frequently tapping into traditional collective stereotypes and images of the enemy. The latter depend, I further claim, on the respective historical traditions in specific national, regional and even local contexts: sometimes, the scapegoats are Jews, sometimes Muslims, sometimes Roma or other minorities, sometimes capitalists, socialists, career women, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the EU, the United Nations, the US or Communists, the governing parties, the elites, the media and so forth. ‘They’ are foreigners, defined by ‘race’, religion or language. ‘They’ are elites not only within the respective country, but also on the European stage (‘Brussels’) and global level (‘Financial Capital’). Important fissures and divides within a society, such as class, caste, religion, gender and so forth, are neglected in focusing on such ‘Others’ or are interpreted as the result of ‘elitist conspiracies’. The discursive strategies of ‘victim–perpetrator reversal’, ‘scapegoating’ and the ‘construction of conspiracy theories’ therefore belong to the necessary ‘toolkit’ of right-wing populist rhetoric. In short, anybody can potentially be constructed as dangerous ‘Other’, should it become expedient for specific strategic and manipulative purposes. Pelinka recently observed a shift in the construction of the ‘Other’ and particularly emphasizes that contemporary populism does not so much mobilize against the (perceived) enemy above but more against the (perceived) enemy from abroad. Populism has become more and more ethno-nationalistic. Populist anti-élitism today is directed against those who seem to be responsible for Europeanization and globalization, and especially for mass migration, against élites who have opened the doors to foreign influence and to foreigners. […] And, of course, the tendency to see individuals (politicians – the ‘classe politica’, or intellectuals – ‘the chattering classes’) as responsible for modernizing trends is beyond any realistic and empirically sound analysis of the trend which tends to put an end to the nation state. (2013, 9) It is therefore important that we attempt to understand and explain how right-wing populist parties continuously construct fear in order to address the collective common-ground as well as their reasons and (rhetorical and communicative) means. This is necessary in order to understand why and how right-wing populist parties are achieving ever more success across Europe and beyond, especially in recent national and European elections. This is the main question that I attempt to answer throughout this book, by exploring and systematically analysing a range of different socio-political contexts, histories and empirical examples.

Creating Fear: Legitimizing a Politics of Exclusion Obviously, the phenomena of right-wing extremism and right-wing populism are not new. And neither is their focus on fear. Indeed, David Altheide in his book Creating Fear (2002) very convincingly presents the ways in which scenarios of danger have been constructed ubiquitously in US media and politics for many years. He argues that fear has become a dominant public perspective. Fear begins with things we fear, but over time, with enough repetition and expanded use, it becomes a way of looking at life. 4

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Therefore, it is not ‘fear of crime’, for instance, that is so interesting to me, but rather how fear has emerged as a framework for developing identities and for engaging in social life. Fear is one of the perspectives that citizens share today; while liberals and conservatives may differ in their object of fear, all sides express many fears and point to ‘blameworthy’ sources – often each other! The fear ‘market’ has also spawned an extensive cottage industry that promotes new fears and an expanding array of ‘victims’. (2002, 3) Altheide goes on to emphasize that a large number of social scientists and experts are now marketing ‘their self-help books, courses, research funds and expertise’ which address anxieties related to the ‘self’ (2002, 3). Best (2001, 6) substantiates Altheide’s arguments and claims that the media produce and reproduce fear and, simultaneously, sell solutions related to moral assumptions to a quite passive audience in the US. Of course, such threats and dangers easily refer to scenarios and horror stories created during the Cold War and continued after 9/11 (e.g. Stocchetti 2007; Stone 2002). In the US (and elsewhere), these debates are frequently instrumental in legitimizing proposals for either more gun control or less gun control – a conflict which has found its way into European debates as well; of course, the horrific ‘Breivik incident’ lends itself to such debates. Right-wing populist parties successfully create fear and legitimize their policy proposals (usually related to restricting immigration and so forth; see Wodak and Boukala 2014, 2015) with an appeal to the necessities of security. As will be elaborated later, such arguments became eminent after the end of the Cold War in 1989 and were, of course, forcefully invigorated after 9/11. Each crisis contributes to such scenarios, as can be observed with respect to the financial crisis and the Euro-crisis (Angouri and Wodak 2014; Stråth and Wodak 2009). In such crisis situations, both politics and media tend to reduce complex historical processes to snap-shots which allow constructing and triggering Manichean dichotomies – friends and foes, perpetrators and victims, and so forth. As argued by Murray Edelman in his seminal book The Symbolic Uses of Politics (1967), crises are promoted to serve the interests of political leaders and other interest groups who will most certainly benefit from such definitions (e.g. Altheide 2002, 12). We are therefore confronted by a contingency of factors that serve to facilitate dichotomist perspectives, create scapegoats and play into the hands of right-wing populist parties: traditional and new threat scenarios, real and exaggerated crises as well as related horror and moral narratives, real and exaggerated security issues, media reporting that reproduces fear scenarios, and political parties which instrumentalize all these factors to legitimize exclusionary policies. It is evident that all of these factors are related to each other: that they are, in fact, interdependent. This contingency is best understood by recalling the relevant observations made by Berger and Luckmann: Legitimation as a process is best described as a ‘second-order’ objectivation of meaning as it produces new meanings that serve to integrate the meanings already attached to disparate institutional processes. The function of legitimation is to make objectively available and subjectively plausible the ‘first-order’ objectivations that have been institutionalized. (1966, 110–111) Moreover, the authors emphasize that [t]he problem of legitimation inevitably arises when the objectivations of the (now historic) institutional order are to be transmitted to a new generation […] when the unity 5

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of history and biography is broken. In order to restore it, and thus to make intelligible both aspects of it, there must be ‘explanations’ and justifications of the salient elements of the institutional tradition. Legitimation is this process of ‘explaining’ and justifying. Legitimation justifies the institutional order by giving a normative dignity to its practical imperatives. It is important to understand that legitimation has a cognitive as well as a normative element. In other words, legitimation is not just a matter of ‘values’. It always implies ‘knowledge’ as well. (1966, 110–111)

Right-wing Populism: Crisis and Rising Unemployment Following the above definition of legitimation, Van Leeuwen and Wodak (1999) introduced a framework for analysing the language of legitimation with four major categories: authorization, moral evaluation, rationalization and mythopoesis. Authorization is legitimation by referring to authority, be that a person, tradition, custom or law. Moral evaluation means legitimation by reference to value systems. Rationalization is legitimation by reference to knowledge claims or arguments. Mythopoesis is legitimation achieved by narratives; these are often small stories or fragments of narrative structures about the past or future. These main types involve a number of sub-types and are also frequently connected. Thus, to understand the specific dynamics of legitimation in particular contexts, such as the financial crisis of 2008 for example, it is important to focus on the typical patterns and characteristics of these discursive strategies in context. Indeed, it is of interest to understand what kind of arguments are put forward and resonate with the public; for example, when legitimizing further austerity measures, governments tend to justify new cuts with necessity or responsibility – arbitrary cuts are then essentialized as necessary in order to protect the nation state and its people (Sayer 2015). When analysing rightwing populist rhetoric, we usually detect legitimization by moral evaluation and mythopoesis: the use of specific moral stances and exemplary reformulated historical narratives (myths) to legitimize ‘Othering’ and typically implement ever more restrictive immigration measures. Accordingly, Dettke states that [n]ationalist and radical right parties have emerged everywhere in Europe. East and West, and once nationalist radical right wing parties become a stronger force also on the European level, it will be more difficult to preserve the legitimacy and authority of European institutions. (2014, 10) More specifically, Dettke (ibid.) argues that the collapse of the Soviet empire has allowed long-suppressed national aspirations and goals to find their outlet in radical ethno-nationalist parties and movements, whereas in Southern Europe youth unemployment has become a – or perhaps the – salient problem, with more than one quarter (or even half) of the younger generation facing unemployment. In the spring of 2014, youth unemployment in Greece stood at 62.5 per cent, in Spain at 56.4 per cent, in Portugal at 42.5 per cent, and in Italy at 40.5 per cent;7 youth unemployment therefore might in fact unleash a new wave of xenophobia, chauvinism and radicalism. These phenomena frequently remind us of the collective experiences of the 20th century and the staggering economic crisis of the 1930s. However, the analogy 6

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does not account for the impact of neo-liberal policies since the 1970s and 1980s, the disastrous effect of privatization of many domains of our societies and the deregulation of the financial sector as well as the resulting austerity policies to combat the financial crisis since 2008. As Sayer convincingly argues in his comprehensive analysis of the impact of neo-liberal austerity policies as response to the financial crisis, [a]usterity policies fall most heavily on those at the bottom while the top 10%, and particularly the top 1%, are protected … How ridiculous that the answer to our economic problems is seen as wasting more of our most important asset – people. (2015, 1) The rise and success of right-wing populist parties can certainly also be explained as reaction to such policies, as uniting the modernization losers, the people ‘who are left behind’ (Mileti and Plomb 2007, 25). Oesch (2008) elaborates in great detail, while comparing five right-wing populist parties (the Austrian FPÖ, the Belgium VlB, the French FN, the Norwegian FrP and the Swiss SVP [see glossary for more information on these parties]), why many workers who traditionally voted for left-wing parties have recently tended to switch to right-wing populist parties. His results (while investigating preferences of male workers) illustrate well that fear-mongering has been successful in many instances, albeit in different ways: in the FPÖ and SVP, negative attitudes towards immigrants and fear of losing one’s jobs dominate. Also, fear of negative influence on ‘one’s culture’ is important. In Belgium, however, dissatisfaction with the government and the state of the Belgian democracy as well as cultural protectionism seem to be the primary motifs for voting for the VlB. The same holds true in Norway. In France, however, all three factors – dissatisfaction, fear of wage dumping, fear of the culture being undermined by immigration – prove salient (2007, 366–8). As the socio-cultural fears are also influencing other segments of society, old cleavages prove to be more and more obsolete and values are perceived as more important than social class and traditional class struggles (Marsdal 2013).

The Concept of Populism Right-wing Populism: A First Definition Right-wing populism can be defined as a political ideology that rejects existing political consensus and usually combines laissez-faire liberalism and anti-elitism. It is considered populism because of its appeal to the ‘common man/woman’ as opposed to the elites; this appeal to a quasi-homogenous demos is regarded as salient for such movements (see Betz and Immerfall 1998, 4–5). As Betz rightly argues, their [the ‘elites’] inability to restore the sense of security and prosperity, which steady material and social advances in the post-war period had led their citizens to expect from their leaders, has become a major cause of voter alienation and cynicism. […] It is within this context of growing public pessimism, anxiety, and disaffection that the rise and success of radical right-wing populism in Western Europe finds at least a partial explanation. (1994, 41) 7

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Mudde and Kaltwasser elaborate this definition further and emphasize that populism (both left-wing and right-wing) ‘considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite”’ (2012, 8). Moreover, they claim that populism always perceives ‘politics to be an expression of the volonté générale of the people’ (ibid.). This makes antagonism and the Manichean division into good and bad, friends and foes, we and ‘the other’ salient characteristics of populism. Mudde and Kaltwasser conclude their conceptual analysis by arguing that three core concepts necessarily belong to any serious definition of populism: the people, the elite and the general will; and its two direct opposites – elitism and pluralism (ibid., 9).8 When tracing the history of the concept of ‘populism’, we quickly discover that the word ‘populism’ stems from the Latin word populus, which means ‘people’ in English (in the sense of ‘folk’, ‘nation’, as in ‘The Roman People’ (populus Romanus) or the German ‘Volk’, not in the sense of ‘multiple individual persons’, e.g. Musolff 2010):9 ‘populism’ espouses ‘government by the people as a whole’. This stands in contrast to elitism, aristocracy or plutocracy, each of which define an ideology that implies government by a small, privileged, specifically selected group above the masses (i.e. selected by birth, wealth, election, education and so forth). Populism has been a prominent political phenomenon throughout history. The Populares, for example, were an unofficial faction in the Roman senate whose supporters were well known for their populist agenda. Some of these senators, such as Tiberius Gracchus, Gaius Marius, Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, were very prominent. They all eventually employed referenda to bypass the Roman Senate and appeal directly to the people (NB women, slaves and foreigners were not permitted to vote).

Populism in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Historical Developments and National Differences Populism as a modern phenomenon with a more direct impact on politics emerges in different forms, beginning with the 19th century. Such movements – from the so-called ‘Agrarian populism’ in the North American West to ‘Peronism’ in Argentina – all aimed for a better, ‘real’ democracy (e.g. Canovan 1981; Pelinka 2013). Although populism in the US and Europe currently tends to be associated mostly (but not only) with right-wing parties, the central meaning of populism – that democracy should reflect the ‘pure and undiluted’ will of the people – implies that it can accommodate ideologies of both the traditional right and left. However, while leaders of populist movements in recent decades have claimed to be on either the left or the right of the political spectrum, there are also many populists who reject such dichotomist categorizations and claim to be neither ‘left wing’, ‘centrist’ nor ‘right wing’ (e.g. Betz 1994; Canovan 1981). In this way, one can in theory claim that populism supports popular sovereignty and majority rule; moreover, populists usually accept representation by someone of ‘the people’, but not of ‘the elite’ (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2012, 17). Of course, it is the populists who define – quite arbitrarily and depending on their interests – who should belong to which group. Left-wing and right-wing populist parties differ in important aspects, namely in that the latter are inwards looking, thus primarily nationalist/chauvinist, referring to a nativist body politics, while left-wing populist parties are traditionally oriented towards internationalism or post-nationalism. Pelinka (2013, 5) defines the beginning of populism as a form of protest against the overwhelming power of specific privileged elites in the 19th century: economic elites like the ‘trusts’ in the US; social elites like the dominant aristocracies; political elites 8

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like elected representatives who were perceived not to care enough for the interests of ‘the people’. As Pelinka convincingly argues (ibid.), the intellectual and analytical weakness of populist democracy always seems to be rooted in the inherent hegemonic assumption that such a homogenous people exist. Who is included in and who is excluded from the demos is thus not related to social and cultural developments but seen as a very simplistic dogma, a quasi-discrete definition that ignores social differentiation, distinctions and fragmentations (Laclau 2005). National as well as ethnic and racialized identities are discursively constructed to create an imaginary of nativist (essentialized) and quasi-natural borders between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. Differences (of any kind) within ‘the people’ are therefore denied. Populists create a demos which exists above and beyond the divides and diversities of social class and religion, gender and generation. Populism was also exceedingly influential in South American nation states. For example, in Argentina in the 1940s, a local brand of fascist populism termed ‘Peronism’ emerged, named after its leader Juan Perón. Its roots lie in the intellectual fascist movement of the 1920s and 1930s that delegitimized democracy in Argentina (Blamires 2006, 26). More recently, South American leaders such as former President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela endorsed a more leftwing populism. Moreover, recent research on populist politics and policies in South America (e.g. Peru and Venezuela) provides ample evidence that we are dealing with an ‘inclusive populism’ in these contexts, whereas right-wing populism in Europe manifests itself as an exclusionary force. Accordingly, Roberts justifiably claims that Chavez’s self-proclaimed ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ was authentic, and it provided a textbook illustration of the ways in which populism’s inclusionary dynamic can expand opportunities for democratic participation at the same time that its majoritarian logic restricts institutional spaces for effective democratic contestation. (2012, 138) There have also been several versions of populist parties in the US, some inspired by the Populist Party of the 1890s, the party of the early US populist movement in which millions of farmers and other working people successfully enacted their anti-trust agenda (Pelinka 2013, 3, 15). Other early populist political parties in the US included the Greenback Party, the Progressive Party of 1912 led by Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party of 1924 led by Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and the Share Our Wealth movement of Huey Long in 1933–1935. Populism continues to be an important force in modern US politics, especially in the 1992 and 1996 third-party presidential campaigns of billionaire Ross Perot and in the so-called ‘Tea-Party’ since Barack Obama’s first term in 2008 (Schweitzer 2012). Ralph Nader’s 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns also endorsed a strong populist programme. Of course, any strict comparison between earlier populist movements and those of today is impossible because of significant changes in the so-called interests of the common people as well as socio-political changes and local and global developments. In one of the most recent examples of populist movements in 2012 and 2013, participants of the left-wing populist Occupy movement chose the widely popular slogan ‘We are the 99 per cent’. The Occupy leadership used the elliptic and metonymic label ‘the 1 per cent’ to refer to the 1 per cent of Americans who are regarded as the wealthiest citizens; the 1 per cent that is commonly said and statistically proved to possess more than 50 per cent of the country’s wealth (Sayer 2015). The Occupy movement emphasized that this 1 per cent was responsible for huge economic instability and 9

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inequality. Lowndes and Warren (2011) thus maintained that Occupy was the ‘first major populist movement on the US left since the 1930s’.10 Finally, it is important to mention Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the People of Freedom Party and former Prime Minister of Italy for almost 10 years. When Berlusconi entered politics with his party Forza Italia in 1994, he established a new kind of populism which focused on the media’s total control via ownership and censorship (Ruzza and Balbo 2013) – I label this form of populism Berlusconisation. Berlusconi and his allies have won three elections (1994, 2001 and 2008), the latter with his new right-wing party People of Freedom. In 2009 Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, blogger and activist, founded the so-called Five Star Movement. This party advocates direct democracy and free access to the Internet, and strongly condemns corruption. The movement’s programme also contains elements of right-wing populism and American-style libertarianism. The party is considered populist, ecologist and Eurosceptic. Grillo is a highly successful performer and speaker, and comes across as authentic, close to the people and anti-elitist (Molé 2013). In the 2013 Italian election the Five Star Movement – to the surprise of all media and observers – gained 25.5 per cent of votes, winning 109 deputies and 54 senators (Fella and Ruzza 2013; Fusi 2014). Explanations range from deep disappointment with all parties of the establishment, anger about austerity measures, anti-Berlusconi vote, Euro-scepticism and protest to enthusiastic support for new creative forms of politics.

Populism and Fascism Some researchers have argued that populist elements have always also appealed to and appeared in far-right authoritarian or fascist movements.11 For example, conspiracy theories combined with scapegoating as employed by various populist movements can create ‘a seedbed for fascism’ (Rupert 1997, 96). Certainly, national socialist populism interacted with and facilitated fascism in interwar Germany and Austria (Posch et al. 2013). Along the same vein, Schmitt maintains that the Führer-state represented the ‘people’s will’ more efficiently and more truthfully than the liberal parliamentarianism of Weimar or Westminster (e.g. Pelinka 2013, 5). Thus, the national-socialist Führer or the fascist Duce continuously emphasized and thus legitimized (via mythopoesis) that they acted on behalf of the people, as saviours, sent as messenger by some mythical (frequently religious) persona. In practice, this meant that the people should applaud the actions of the leader and, in so doing, legitimize them (Schmitt 2007, 80–96). Legitimation qua authority also played a decisive role in these ideologies – in German, this specific discursive strategy is labelled the Sendebotentrick (see Maas 1985). Post-war, the terminology changed to Robin Hood, the commoner who saves the ‘common man and woman on the street’. The topos of saviour occurs widely in right-wing populist rhetoric and refers to a simple argumentation scheme such as: ‘If danger is to be expected because of X and if A has saved us in the past, then A will be able to save us again’ (Wodak and Forchtner 2014). Thus, ever since the end of World War II, revisionist ideologies have circulated and been adopted by neo-Nazi or right-wing extremist parties such as the FPÖ, the French Front National (FN), the Sweden-Democrats and the British National Party (BNP) (e.g. Beauzamy 2013a; Oje and Mral 2013; Richardson 2013a, 2013b; Wodak and Richardson 2013). While resemblances to older, well-known ideologies can be identified in many of the ‘new’ right-wing discourses (Mammone 2009), Betz (1996) rightly points to the fact that right-wing populism differs from those other trends as it does not convey a coherent narrative and ideology but rather proposes a mixed, often 10

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contradictory array of beliefs, stereotypes, attitudes and related programmes which aim to address and mobilize a range of equally contradictory segments of the electorate. Below, in Vignette 1, I illustrate some typical discursive and rhetorical strategies employed by right-wing populist parties in their attempt to dominate the political agenda and media reporting, and thus to determine the hegemonic discourse, by briefly analysing a television interview with the current leader of the FPÖ, HC Strache. This vignette will reappear at various points throughout this book: in Chapters 2 and 3, some of the pertinent theoretical dimensions will be elaborated in more detail. In Chapters 5, 6 and 7, I will point to salient elements of visual rhetoric and argumentation (i.e. multimodality) which are prominent in the example discussed below. There, I will also analyse various television interviews and debates between right-wing populist politicians and television moderators. In the last chapter of this book, I discuss the implications of such hegemonic politics of denial as propagated by right-wing populist parties and their protagonists.

‘Anything goes!’: Setting the Agenda via Provocation and Scandalization Right-wing Populism: Taking Advantage of the Media Currently, we are witnessing the development of a ‘media-democracy’ across Europe and beyond, in which the individual, media-savvy performance of politics seems to become more important than the political process (Grande 2000; Wodak 2010; Stögner and Wodak 2014). Accordingly, politics is reduced to a few slogans thought comprehensible to the public at large. This development can be recognized also in the fact that contemporary politics does not only rely on the media as ‘the most important source of information and vehicle of communication between the governors and the governed’ (Strömbäck 2008, 230). The media have also contributed to the transformation of politics through more and continuous emphasis on ‘frontstage performances’ (Goffman 1959; Wodak 2011a). As argued by Forchtner et al. (2013), the manifold patterns of media communication and the clever and ubiquitous appropriation of media agenda and frames employed in the recent success of populist-right parties cannot be dismissed or marginalized as a mere coincidence. Furthermore, the disproportionate success of some of these parties, Ellinas (2009) goes on to suggest, can probably be explained by the excessive exposure that these parties receive in the media, despite their lack of what used to be regarded as required organizational and political structures (ibid.). As Bos et al. (2010, 3) illustrate, successful right-wing populist leaders have actually managed to achieve a delicate balance between, on the one hand, appearing unusual and populist, or anti-establishment, and on the other, authoritative and legitimate; thus they counter the elites but do not oppose the liberal democratic system per se. Frequently, this is achieved by scandalization (Wodak 2013a, 2013b) or by what Albertazzi labels ‘dramatization’, that is, ‘the need to generate tension in order to build up support for the party […] by denouncing the tragedies that would befall the community if it were to be deprived of its defences’ (2007, 335). Scandalization also implies manifold references to the allegedly charismatic leaders of such parties, who construct themselves as knowledgeable, saviours, problem solvers and crisis managers, which may lead voters to have more confidence in the effectiveness of the politics of the populist right-wing (see Chapter 6). 11

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Of course, politics, media and business have always, to some degree, been interdependent.12 The aforementioned changes have recently led to a further blurring of the boundaries between entertainment and information as well as between private and public domains, between marketing, advertising and campaigning, between politicians and celebrities and so forth (Higgins 2008; Street 2010); a blurring of boundaries, in other words, that used to be seen as vital and essential to the structure of modern, democratic societies. Wodak (2011a, 157) has described this process as the fictionalization of politics, that is, ‘the blurring of boundaries in politics between the real and the fictional, the informative and the entertaining’ that creates a reality for the viewer which appears ordered and manageable – and thus presents a deceptively simple illusion in contrast to the very real complexity and pluralism of present-day societies. Moreover, Hay (2007) contends that public discontent with contemporary politics (on which the rise of populist parties partly rests) has led not to a decrease but to an increase in what is expected of politicians; most parties have responded to these increased expectations by reducing an increasingly complex world to media-savvy personalities and their simplistic slogans. Criticism directed at mainstream programmes and content is routinely responded to by admitting that ‘things have not been communicated well’ or even ‘not sold well’ in the diction of the parties themselves and by asserting that the only thing that needs to be improved is communication (by implication via the media) (Hansson 2015). Although Karvonen (2010) stresses major differences in the amounts and modes of personalization and performativity across EU member states, the case of the FPÖ is a telling example of this tendency. Current analyses also stress the transformation of discourses and performances of political action and their representation in contemporary Europe in terms of the celebrity culture in the political field.13 For example, beginning in the early 1990s, the Austrian politician Jörg Haider changed the character of the political game in significant ways (Krzyżanowski and Wodak 2009). The former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Mancini 2011; Semino and Koller 2009) exemplified this new type of political leader in Italy. The way the tension between extraordinariness and being ‘one of us’ (i.e. being ‘authentic’) was cleverly managed by Haider on frontstage and further developed by his successor, HC Strache (as he is branded), in many different publics and genres, from television interviews to snippets caught on video while dancing in a disco, from pamphlets and manifestos to posters and comic booklets, all of which are accessible on HC Strache’s homepage14 and disseminated via Facebook15 (see Chapter 6). Media democracies and the hybridity of political and everyday practices imply an increase in quasi-informality and ‘democratisation’, arguably also in ‘politics as usual’ (Wodak 2011a). Indeed, following Alexander (2006), the symbolic dimension of ‘doing politics’ must be understood as central to all efforts of a politician’s performance, in the media, at election rallies, in parliament, at press conferences and so forth (Forchtner et al. 2013). While Alexander is certainly not the first scholar to emphasize the symbolic dimension of politics, his approach reaches further than both Edelman (1967) and Goffman (1959) in their focus on the symbolic dimensions of frontstage performance.16 Alexander not only stresses the need to create a collective representation which is attractive to, and resonates with, the audience in election campaigns (and beyond), he also emphasizes that these performances must hook into the background culture, symbols, narratives and myths of the respective society in order to be successful. In other words, if such symbolic practices are supposed to resonate, they have to draw on and mobilize a common cultural structure, via appeals to common knowledge of epistemic communities, to the endoxa by using presuppositions, insinuations and other pragmatic devices as well as specific argumentation schemes. The details of the linguistic, rhetorical and argumentative analysis of right-wing populist text and talk will be examined in Chapter 3. Vignette 1 serves as an introduction to the analysis of the micro-politics of right-wing populist politics of denial, as typically performed in media debates and interviews. 12

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On 18 August 2012, the leader of the FPÖ, HC Strache, posted a caricature on Facebook (Image 1.1) which recontextualized an American caricature from 1962 (Image 1.2) into a caricature which obviously alluded to antisemitic caricatures from the Nazi era that were published daily in the 1930s in the infamous German newspaper Der Stürmer. After the – predictable – scandal had erupted over explicit antisemitic features of the caricature, most newspapers in Austria and Germany published editorials and news reports about this incident; Strache was also interviewed on television on 20 August 2012;17 he first denied having altered the original caricature; he then denied that the stars visible on the cufflinks of the banker were Stars of David; and finally he categorically denied any resemblances to antisemitic caricatures.

Image 1.1  Caricature posted by HC Strache on Facebook, 18 August 2012

Image 1.2  American caricature, 1962 The explicit differences between Images 1.1 and 1.2 are easy to detect: the nose of the sweating and greedily eating banker had been changed to a crooked, so-called ‘Jewish nose’ and the cufflinks had been decorated with the Star of David. These two changes both insinuate, (Continued) 13

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(Continued) and resonate with, images of the Nazi past, with the stereotypical image of ‘the ugly Jewish banker’ who exploits the poor (metonymically embodied by the image of a poor worker from the 1960s) and patronises the government that tries to ingratiate itself with the powerful and rich Jew by serving him an opulent meal and pouring wine. Image 1.3 shows this in detail.

Image 1.3  Details of the ‘greedy banker’ By making these changes and posting the altered caricature with an extended comment (see Image 1.1), Strache utilized the theme of the financial crisis in at least three ways: first, to accuse the government of wrong policies and of submitting to the EU; second, to create a scapegoat that can be blamed for current woes by triggering traditional anti­ semitic stereotypes of world conspiracy and powerful Jewish bankers and capitalists; and third, to provoke a scandal and thus attract media attention and set the news agenda. The caricature is accompanied by a text panel on the right that explains the caricature in some detail and accuses the government of selling out to EU policies and foreign punters. This insinuates some other well-known anti-Jewish stereotypes: the world conspiracy and the Jewish capitalist. I will return to this text and its role in the scandal below. The ‘Facebook incident’, as I like to refer to the lengthy scandal surrounding the posting of the antisemitic caricature, will be employed to demonstrate several aims throughout this book: it introduces readers to the typical rhetorical strategies of provocation, calculated ambivalence and denial; it emphasizes the power of digital media in their use of traditional genres and the rapid spiral of scandalization; moreover, this example illustrates the importance of an in-depth and context-sensitive, multi-layered analysis when trying to understand and explain the dynamics of right-wing populist propaganda and manipulation. The dialogue below is taken from the beginning of a television interview from 22 August 2012 (i.e. four days after the caricature was posted) on ORF II (ZIB 2; Austrian Broadcasting Company, daily news programme at 10 p.m.), and illustrates perfectly the politics of denial propagated by HC Strache (AW is Armin Wolf, anchor-man on the main Austrian news programme ZIB II; HCS is Strache).18


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Text 1.1 [1]

AW  Now, last week you managed once again to make it into international


AW   headlines, and you did it by using this caricature, which you posted HCS   Hmhm


AW  on your Facebook page. HCS           Hmhm


AW  a respected German weekly newspaper, refers to this as ‘antisemitic


AW  provocation’, the Spiegel refers to is as ‘a picture, just as in times of NS-


AW  propaganda’, and even the BBC reported on it. Are you


AW  proud of that? HCS      No. This is absolute nonsense! I got


AW                        You did HCS  this, um, caricature, um, shared by a user

The Zeit,

After asking HC Strache whether he is now ‘proud’ of being discussed in so many serious newspapers and radio stations across Europe (Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, the BBC), Strache utters his first denial (lines 7–9), an act-denial:19 ‘No, this is absolute nonsense, I got this caricature shared by a user.’ Anchor-man Armin Wolf immediately falsifies this claim and shows that Strache actually posted this caricature himself by pointing to a print-out of the relevant Facebook page (line 9). Strache then concedes that he first said something wrong and starts – by way of justification – to explain the caricature as illustrating the unfair and unjust redistribution of money taken away from the Austrian people. Here, Wolf interrupts in line 16 and qualifies the bankers as Jews (‘who are Jews in your caricature’). At this point, the second round of denials starts and Strache says (lines 16–19):

Text 1.2 [16]

HCS  No, no, they are not, AW           What then?


HCS  Mister Wolf. And, um, with all due respect, I have (Continued)


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(Continued) [18]

HCS  many Israeli, but also Jewish friends, who


HCS  have, um, seen this caricature, and not one of them can recognise antisemitism

Via a well-known disclaimer (‘I have many Israeli, Jewish friends’), Strache denies that the caricature should or even could be read as antisemitic, a typical intention-denial: the fallacious argument (post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy) is obvious: if his many Jewish friends do not classify the caricature as antisemitic, it cannot be antisemitic. Such disclaimers are widely used to prove that an utterance cannot be categorized as racist, sexist or antisemitic because ‘Turkish, Arabic, female or Jewish friends’ share the speaker’s or writers’ opinions. Moreover, the justification implies that if one has Jewish friends, then one is incapable of saying something antisemitic (see Wodak et al. 1990 for the analysis of similar fallacious argumentative moves). After this unsuccessful denial, Wolf points to the Stars of David on the cufflinks and asks who might have put them there if not Strache himself. In his third attempt to deny wrongdoing and antisemitic stereotypes, Strache refuses to recognize the Star of David on the cufflinks (lines 23, 24) and starts a counter-attack with an ad-hominem argument: he claims that Wolf obviously cannot see well, his glasses are probably not strong enough; even if one would magnify the cufflinks, Strache further claims, no Star of David would be visible. Wolf then shows a Star of David he has brought with him to the studio and asks Strache if he can spot any similarity (line 32); Strache denies again and states that the picture on the cufflinks is blurred and that there is no star but actually something like a diamond. After this fifth (act) denial, he refers to his ‘Jewish friends’ again who, Stra­che claims, believe that somebody is intentionally conspiring against him. In this way, Strache accuses the media and the public of conspiring against him by quoting his ‘Jewish friends’ – another typical justification strategy: claiming victimhood via victim–perpetrator reversal. Wolf continues his line of questioning and asks Strache why he apparently finds it impossible to simply apologize for posting such a caricature and why he would rather use a strategy of victim–perpetrator reversal instead of an apology. Strache answers by repeating his denials: there is no Star of David; the caricature is not antisemitic (this staccato-like question–answer sequence continues for several minutes).

Text 1.3 [20]

AW      Mister Strache … HCS  in this. If          you see something else in this,


HCS  um, then, um, you have to ask yourself the question, why do you want to see


AW      Because you have three Stars of David here. Because you put three HCS  something else in this, because there is no antisemitism


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AW  Stars of David here, or someone put them there … HCS               That is incorrect, Mister Wolf.


AW  No? You do not see three Stars of David here. HCS  Well …            No, maybe you should have the


AW                  Yes HCS  strength of your glasses checked,    if you magnify this picture,


AW  Yes                Really?   Okay. We did HCS    you can see no Stars of David.    Yeah.


AW  magnify the picture, Mister Strache.           We did HCS                 I can show you, too, yes.


AW  magnify the picture     and you cannot see any Stars of David here? HCS   Exactly.        Yes. Yes.           No,


AW           Mister Strache, you don’t see any Stars of David? HCS  there are no Stars of David to be seen, because …


AW             Mister Strache, I also brought you HCS  No! There are no Stars of David to be seen here.


AW  a Star of David for comparison.             And HCS  Yes.…      and this picture …   That is one! Yeah? No, that is


AW  there are not three Stars of David here? HCS  one.              No, that’s a star with continuous


AW  Good. HCS  lines, there is no way you can see that with that blurry picture.

In line 74, Wolf shifts to the meta-level and frames the entire discussion as a provocation strategy intentionally triggered by Strache to attract media attention. This interpretation is, not surprisingly, again denied by Strache (a goal-denial). The interview continues with other questions about Strache’s programme for the autumn 2012. (Continued)


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Text 1.4 [70]

HCS  regarding that nose, I have already seen worse caricatures of my own


HCS  there we, I can only think of Mister Sinowatz or as a


HCS  neighbour, as a political neighbour, um, Mister Khol, or possibly


HCS  Mister Konrad as a comparison, but certainly not what you


AW  Well.            Mister Strache, is it possible that you are HCS     are trying to create here.


AW  in reality quite pleased with the situation?       Well, HCS                   No, I am not pleased at all!


AW  well, you have once again created a lapse to provoke, the HCS            Quite the contrary.    Yes, yes.


AW  outrage is enormous, um, not only in Austria, but also internationally,


AW  and you can once again present yourself as the poor and the persecuted, now


AW  you are the victim, suddenly, and can enjoy the headlines. HCS                         Yes, yes.

After the interview, many commentators accused Armin Wolf of having been too ‘strict’ on Strache; some newspapers like the widely read tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung wrote that the line of questioning had been unfair and not acceptable for this kind of interview genre; others equated the interview style with a tribunal or an interrogation.20 These media comments show that Strache had obviously been quite successful in constructing himself as victim on the one hand and as a saviour of the Austrian people on the other hand, by telling the Austrians the ‘truth’ about the economic crisis, by discovering the causes of the crisis (allegedly, the ‘Jewish banker’) and by thus providing a scapegoat that everybody could blame for the crisis. However, simultaneously, the state prosecutor started to investigate whether the Facebook incident could be persecuted as hate incitement. In April 2013, the court decided that Strache’s posting could not be regarded as a case of hate incitement – I will come back to this verdict in the final chapter of the book as the outcome of this investigation cannot be regarded as unique or exceptional. In fact, it is quite typical for the ways in which courts of


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law deal with right-wing populist discriminatory and exclusionary rhetoric. In short, the lack of legal consequences seems to confirm that ‘anything goes’. By systematically employing genres such as caricatures and comic books to convey xenophobic and antisemitic messages, right-wing populist parties cleverly play with the fictionalization of politics and frequently argue that no discriminatory message was intended as such genres play with humour and are inherently ironic or even sarcastic (Wodak and Forchtner 2014). The blurring of boundaries between fiction and reality, caricature and image, or between comic book plot and historical narrative is one of many ways of staging the strategy of calculated ambivalence, thus simultaneously addressing multiple audiences with – frequently contradictory – messages (Wodak 2013b; Engel and Wodak 2013; Wodak and Reisigl 2002). Facebook potentially adds to this strategy at least in one way: denying having posted the incriminatory content oneself and using the (seeming) anonymity of the Internet.

The Right-wing Populist Perpetuum Mobile Of course, as already mentioned above, the rise of right-wing populist movements in recent years would not have been possible without massive media support, inadvertent as it may have been in many cases. This does not imply that all newspapers share the same positions, although naturally some tabloids do. For example, the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), Jörg Haider, frequently appeared on the cover of weekly magazines such as News or Profil, thereby ensuring higher sales for these publications but at the same time adding to his visibility in the public sphere. The Austrian tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung, similar to the Sun or the Daily Mail but with a larger outreach in relation to the country’s population (approx. three million Sunday readers in a country of eight million), campaigned for Haider both explicitly and implicitly: headlines, editorials, images and letters to the editor were all streamlined to provide support. Right-wing populist politicians, as illustrated by Vignette 1, intentionally provoke scandals by violating publicly accepted norms (Köhler and Wodak 2011; Wodak 2013a, 2013b). In this way, the media are forced into a ‘no-win’ situation: if they do not report a scandalous racist remark or insinuation, such as Strache’s caricature, they might be perceived as endorsing it. If they do write about it, they explicitly reproduce the prejudicial utterance, thereby further disseminating it. If they critically interview the politician, they give him/her more face time and an opportunity for perpetrator–victim reversal. This triggers a predictable dynamic which allows right-wing populist parties to set the agenda and distract the media (and the public) from other important news. This dynamic consists of several stages which I refer to as ‘The right-wing populist perpetuum mobile’: this implies that such parties and politicians have developed discursive and rhetorical strategies which combine incompatible phenomena, make false claims sound innocent, allow denying the obvious, say the ‘unsayable’, and transcend the limits of the permissible. Usually, they get away without being sanctioned and, even if they have to apologize, they do so in a calculated and ambivalent way (see Chapter 3). Rarely do they have to resign and, even if they do, some of them seem to ‘bounce back’ quite quickly. The specific dynamic is easily deconstructed: • First, scandal (e.g. the posting of the antisemitic caricature) is intentionally provoked by the FPÖ. • Once evidence for the inherently racist meaning is produced by the opposition, the offensive meaning of the image is immediately denied (intention and goal denials);


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• then the scandal is redefined and equated with entirely different phenomena (by redefining and reformulating the meaning of concepts or by employing analogies and metaphors, or by constructing contrasts or arguing via topoi of history). In Vignette 1, the FPÖ employed the discursive strategy of calculated ambivalence and succeeded in conveying a double-message – readers could either share the opinion that any similarity with an antisemitic caricature was utterly coincidental, or they could share the antisemitic meanings insinuated by the crooked nose and the particular cufflinks. • This strategy allows, as a further step, the respective politician to claim victimhood as he or she is accused of racism or antisemitism by the opposition and some media. • The event is then dramatized and exaggerated, that is, the FPÖ/Strache claims to have been wrongly accused of having posted a racist or antisemitic slogan. • Furthermore, the politician could emphasize the right of freedom of speech for himself as a justificatory strategy: ‘Why can one not utter critique?’, or ‘One must be permitted to criticize Turks, Roma, Muslims, Jews …!’ or ‘We dare say what everybody thinks’ and so forth. Such utterances immediately shift the frame and trigger another debate – unrelated to the original scandal – about freedom of speech and political correctness, and thus serve as a distraction and allow evasion of the primary scandalous issue. • Moreover, the accusation is instrumentalized for the construction of a conspiracy: somebody must be ‘pulling the strings’ against the original culprit of the scandal, and scapegoats (foreigners, liberal intellectuals, the Jewish Community, the opposition, etc.) are quickly discovered. • Once the thus accused finally have a chance to present substantial counter-evidence, a new scandal is launched. • A ‘quasi-apology’ might follow in case ‘misunderstandings’ should have occurred, an apology based on a condition that is presented as unlikely, even surreal: by apologizing for other people’s misunderstanding (rather than for one’s own ambiguity), the apology is rendered a farce; and the entire process begins afresh with a new scandalous utterance, again an instance of calculated ambivalence. This pattern illustrates how right-wing populist parties cleverly manage to set the agenda and frame media debates; other political parties and politicians as well as the media are, in turn, forced to react and respond continuously to ever new provocations. Few opportunities remain to present other frames, values and counterarguments, or any other relevant agenda. As a consequence, mainstream politics moves more and more to the right and the public becomes disillusioned, de-politicized and ‘tired’ of ever new scandals; hence, right-wing populist rhetoric necessarily becomes ever more explicit and extreme and continuously attracts further attention.

Constructing a ‘Politics of Fear’ After having presented a typical example of the ‘politics of denial’, it is worth summarizing the various characteristics of right-wing populist parties introduced in this chapter. I propose nine features, which are, I claim, common to most if not all right-wing populist parties (see also Wodak 2013a; Reisigl 2013) and which will be discussed in the following chapters in greater detail.21 20

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• Right-wing populism is based on a generalized claim to represent ‘THE people’ in the sense of a homogenised ideal based on nativist ideologies, thus on traditional body politics. The construction of these groups is contingent on many historical, national and socio-political factors. This dogma is accompanied by a revisionist view of history. The rhetoric of exclusion has become part and parcel of a much more general discourse about strangers within and outside the ‘body’, that is, the nation state. Such minorities include the Roma and the Jews on the one hand and migrants on the other, following the overall motto: ‘We’ (i.e. the Occident or Christian Europe) have to defend ‘Ourselves’ against ‘Them’ (i.e. the ‘Orient’: Roma, Jews, Muslims). Right-wing populist movements are based on a specific understanding of the ‘demos/people’, thus denying complexity within society. These parties continuously construct themselves as the ‘saviours of the Occident’ who defend the man/woman on the street against both ‘those up there’ and ‘the Barbarians’ who might take away ‘Austrian (British, Dutch, Belgian, Italian) jobs from Austrian (British, Dutch, Belgian, Italian) workers’ and who ‘do not want to integrate and adapt to our culture’. Similar slogans employing parallel scenarios abound. • Right-wing populism22 employs a political style that can relate to various ideologies, not just to one. We encounter left-wing and right-wing populist parties; the difference relates to the political imaginaries they put forward as well as to the parties’ structures and recruitment patterns. • Right-wing populism cuts across the traditional left/right divide and constructs new social divides, frequently related to many, sometimes legitimate and justified, fears about globalization and the subsequent rise of nationalism and chauvinism, the failure of current mainstream parties to address acute social problems, like the financial crisis and so forth. • Right-wing populist parties’ success depends on performance strategies in modern media democracies. This implies extensive use of the media (press and television, new media such as comics, homepages, websites, Facebook, Twitter and so forth). Moreover, right-wing populist politicians are usually well trained as media personalities, and have frequently transformed a ‘thug-like’ appearance into that of a ‘slick’ mainstream politician: they appear youthful, handsome, fit and well dressed. In short, they assume the habitus of serious but young, involved and approachable statesmen and stateswomen. This image transformation is not always successful. Mainstream parties in particular often find it difficult to adopt similar strategies (as they do with the use of new media). • The personalization and commodification of current politics and politicians lead to a focus on ‘charismatic’ leaders; right-wing populist parties usually have a hierarchical structure with (male) leaders who exploit modern trends of the political profession to perfection.23 Recently, female leaders have also come to the fore (in France, Denmark, Norway and the US). • Leading populist politicians employ frontstage performance techniques that are linked to popular celebrity culture (well-known from tabloids and sensationalist media reporting): They oscillate between self-presentations as a Robin Hood-like figure (i.e. saviour of ‘the man and woman in the street’, ‘defender of the common people’) and self-presentations as ‘rich, famous and/or attractive’ (i.e. an ‘idol’ to aspire to), frequently leading to a ‘softer’ image, adapted to mainstream values, but only on frontstage. Hence, such politicians carefully prepare their appearance 21

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and performances for different audiences; their rhetoric and programmatic proposals are heavily context-dependent. This implies a specific selection of meeting places (beer tents, pubs, stages, market places, discos, and the so-called ‘tea-parties’ in the US), the clothes they wear (from suits to casual leather jackets, T-shirts or folklore dress), their selection of spin-doctors and accompanying ‘performers’ on stage, the music, posters and logos on display and so forth. • Right-wing populism usually correlates with anti-intellectualism and, as a result, with what I term arrogance of ignorance. Appeals to common-sense and traditional (conservative) values linked to aggressive exclusionary rhetoric are, for example, particularly apparent in some parts of the US Tea Party movement, performed and instrumentalized almost ‘perfectly’ by politicians such as Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. • Linked to anti-Muslim rhetoric and campaigns, right-wing populist parties currently endorse pseudo-emancipatory gender policies which, on second view, are extremely contradictory; in this vein, the US Republicans claim, for example, to support a so-called ‘right-wing feminism’ (‘frontier-feminism’), which links feminist values to traditional family values and campaigns against pro-choice movements. Thus, on the one hand, traditional family values are emphasized (which position women primarily as mothers, caring for children and their families); on the other hand, although ‘freedom for women’ is propagated, this refers solely to Muslim women, who are depicted as wearing headscarves or burqas not by choice but by oppression. Gender becomes instrumentalized and linked to rhetoric of exclusion, for example, the exclusion of Turkish migrants. The so-called ‘freedom’ of women is contrasted with fundamentalist Islam, which presupposes that every woman wearing a headscarf is at the same time suppressed and potentially dangerous in terms of terrorism. The theme of security is thus easily linked to the so-called ‘freedom of women’ by what is perceived as their common ‘root of evil’. • There is a distinct difference between populist styles and rhetoric in opposition and in government. Few right-wing populist parties maintain their strength or survive if elected into government because they lack the necessary experience, programmes, strategies and skills. In the Netherlands, for example, the extreme right lost immediately once they formed part of the second chamber in the Dutch government (2002–2006) after the assassination of Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002.

Endnotes   1 These terms were primarily used in the 19th and 20th centuries to describe the ‘people’ from a racist and biological/biologistic perspective, i.e. nativist. Ultimately, these terms were salient in national-socialist ideology and propaganda and directed primarily against so-called ‘parasites’ who were allegedly threatening the ‘host-body’, i.e. Jews, Slavs, homosexuals and Roma (see Musolff, 2010, for an extensive discussion and discoursehistorical analysis of these terms and related metaphors of body-politic).   2 See Feldman and Jackson (2013), Gingrich and Banks (2006), Harrison and Bruter (2011), Mudde and Kaltwasser (2012), Sir Peter Ustinov Institut et al. (2013), Wilson and Hainsworth (2012), Wodak et al. (2013).


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Populism and Politics: Transgressing Norms and Taboos

  3 For example, accessed 3 May 2013.   4 See e.g. Krzyżanowski and Wodak (2009), Matouschek et al. (1995), Pelinka and Wodak (2002), Reisigl (2013), Wodak and Pelinka (2002) for more details. It is important to emphasize at this point that right-wing populist parties have appeared and gained much support in the former Eastern Bloc countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania (Dettke 2014). Unlike their counterparts in ‘the West’, they find it less difficult to promote explicit xenophobic, antisemitic and antiziganist messages (see Chapters 2, 4 and 8). They also draw on traditional antisemitic beliefs shared widely across the population, but these differ in their quality and explicitness from antisemitic resentments in the UK or France, e.g. where opinions about hegemonic Israeli politics are always integrated into debates about Jews (thus sometimes also insinuating world-conspiracy themes) (see Kovács 2013; Mãdroane 2013).   5 Political imaginaries are defined as being in a ‘landscape of power as a space of political action signified in visual and iconographic practices and objects as well as in the literarytextual field that depicts the political scene, its structure, and its stakes’ (Bob Jessop, personal communication, 10 February 2010).   6 See the Glossary for important facts related to all right-wing populist parties.   7 See   8 Recent studies define and frequently analyse populism in terms of metaphors such as a ‘virus’, ‘syndrome’ or ‘modern problem’ (Taggart 2000; Taguieff 1984) or characterize populism as ‘anti-democratic’, ‘anti-parliamentary’ or as a ‘dangerous excess’ (Mény and Surel 2002). These accounts do not, however, directly contribute to a differentiated analysis of this complex phenomenon.   9 See also Latin popularis, referring to the ‘people’ (Latin populus; in French populaire, 18th century, which led to the German populär – which differs in meaning from ‘populist’) (Kluge 1999, 641). 10 See 11 See De Cleen (2012), Fieschi (2004), Wodak and Richardson (2013) as well as Richardson and Wodak (2009a, 2009b). 12 See Bourdieu (1999, 2005), Chouliaraki and Morsing (2010). 13 See Corner and Pels (2003), Forchtner et al. (2013), Street (2004), Wodak (2010, 2011a) as well as Wodak and Forchtner (2014) for more details on the fictionalization of politics. 14 See, accessed 2 May 2013. 15 See Horaczek and Reiterer (2009), Köhler and Wodak (2011), Reisigl (2013), Scharsach (2012), Wodak (2013a, 2013b), Wodak and Köhler (2010) and Wodak and Reisigl (2014) for recent detailed studies and research on the FPÖ and HC Strache. 16 See Wodak (2011a, 14ff, 32ff, 190ff) for a summary and integrated model of frontstage and backstage political communication where I draw primarily on identity theories, Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and capitals, Goffman’s metaphor of theatre and performance, and Lave and Wenger’s approach to communities of practice. 17 See, accessed 12 March 2015. 18 The transcription here follows rudimentary transcription rules developed for conversations. Such a transcription allows following the dynamic of the conversation and presents all voices as they interact, overlap and interrupt each other. This is a simplified presentation of the full transcript, which follows the HIAT rules for transcriptions.


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The Politics of Fear

19 See Chapter 3 for an extensive discussion of denials, justification strategies and disclaimers (van Dijk 1992). 20 See The Kleine Zeitung commented on how Strache had succeeded in presenting himself as victim:; other politicians were angry about Strache’s attacks on his former mentor Jörg Haider and so forth:,763710. In any case, the interview (and the provocation via the Facebook incident) proved to be agenda-setting (all links accessed 5 May 2013). 21 Reisigl (2013, 145–6) lists five relevant dimensions that coincide with some of the nine aspects listed above – but he does not yet consider the important and constitutive role of ‘(gendered) body politics’ in enough detail (see Chapters 4 and 7 in this volume). He proposes two dimensions as overriding all other aspects: the use of synecdoche and the use of the topos of ‘people’, i.e. the argumentum ad populum. De Cleen (2013) emphasizes four dimensions, where populism marks one of the four, the others being nationalism, authoritarianism and conservatism. There are, of course, other taxonomies as well. I will come to a more detailed discussion of a range of theoretical approaches in Chapter 2. 22 I prefer the term ‘right-wing populism’ to both ‘radical’ and ‘extreme right-wing populism’, as these superlatives are a question of relative scale and perception. 23 Silvio Berlusconi is an obvious case in point, due to his ownership of almost all the relevant Italian media.


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