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Right Wing Populism in the West: Social Media Discourse and Echo Chambers

The commentary examines the roots of electoral shifts towards right wing populist parties and groups in the West. It shows how legitimate economic grievances of lower classes have been strategically appropriated by political elites to project xenophobic discourses and how globalist-capitalist parties capitalize on such sentiments. It discusses the British Brexit vote as a quintessential example of strategic misplacement of migration issue as the main problem to disguise the democratic deficit of a hyper-normalized neoliberal economic order. The commentary also examines the links between technological design of Social Media technologies and the notion of post-politics era.

Right Wing Populism in the West Social Media Discourse and
Three far-right political figures (L to R: Geert Wilders, the Netherlands; Frauke Petry, Germany; Marine Le Pen, France) give a press conference in Koblenz, Germany, on January 21, 2017. | AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO PFEIL


Nativist/nationalist discourses have been on the rise in the European sphere in recent decades. Wodak and colleagues in their large scale edited volume bring together a variety of Western/European case studies of right wing populist parties/movements and discourses and warn against the rising trends of such views in Europe.1 These studies range from discussing the theoretical foundations and conceptualization of the nature of populist rhetoric to explaining the unprecedented changes in the working class electorates and their economic grievances in several European countries. In the years following the publication of the book, a new wave of right wing populist parties and groups across Europe have made significant inroads in popular support, be it in the form of entering the structure of governments or making significant gains in their vote shares. Most of these populist discourses are characterized in terms of their vociferous claims to being anti-establishment, anti-elitist and anti-globalization. These calls are made within a Western context where economic globalization and global capitalist movement have been the order of the day in politics within the last decades.

Within a populist frame, the Leave campaign managed to reduce the British EU referendum debates into predominately a matter of social and cultural changes and perceptions of immigration albeit within an intentional truncated manner

The right wing populism discourses are characterized in a set of common and recurring discursive strategies, albeit in varying degrees of intensity and scale. Firstly, there is the call for a swift and radical shift from a globalization rationale towards a national and nativist politics. This discursive strategy criticizes the normalized economic politics in the West i.e. economic liberalism, free movem

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