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The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean

The European political landscape has been changing gradually from left to right wing since the end of the Cold War. Particularly in the last decades, the people have turned towards right wing populist parties (RWPPs, henceforth), which have diminished the votes of mainstream political parties almost all over the continent. The electoral breakthrough of RWPPs across Europe was made possible by the casting of at least 30 million votes according to some calculations, in a trend that has gained great momentum over the past five years.Right wing parties have gained enough leverage to be pivotal in some countries. The steady surging of RWPPs and the transformation they are causing has drawn the attention of many academics from different disciplines and has greatly increased the number of studies on this matter.

The European political landscape has been changing gradually from left to right wing since the end of the Cold War. Particularly in the last decades, the people have turned towards right wing populist parties (RWPPs, henceforth), which have diminished the votes of mainstream political parties almost all over the continent. The electoral breakthrough of RWPPs across Europe was made possible by the casting of at least 30 million votes according to some calculations, in a trend that has gained great momentum over the past five years.1 Right wing parties have gained enough leverage to be pivotal in some countries. The steady surging of RWPPs and the transformation they are causing has drawn the attention of many academics from different disciplines and has greatly increased the number of studies on this matter.

Ruth Wodak, Emeritus Distinguished Professor and Chair in Discourse Studies at Lancaster University, examines the discourse and communication strategies of these parties in her book The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean. She traces how the discourses and strategies of these parties persuade people to vote for them, and why they are quite successful. She mainly argues that these parties pump fear into the community, which consequently changes voting behavior. RWPPs intimidate people by arguing that under the current migration policies they will lose their welfare and their job, their culture will change, gender roles will change, and they will disappear if it goes on like this. These parties profit from conditions like the global financial crisis, migration flow to Europe, the negative effects of the Arab Spring, and the rise of fundamentalist religious movements. The fear RWPPs monger serves to construct a positive ‘us’ against the negative ‘others,’ which ultimately destroys the community.

Wodak draws upon her influential work, the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), which has become indisp

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