Panel Debate at the University of Oslo: Right-wing Populism, Methods and Goals

Panel Debate at the University of Oslo: Right-wing Populism, Methods and Goals



welcome all of you on stage allow me first to introduce the two newcomers with us we have green and Lee she's a professor in Media Studies at the parchment of media communication University of Oslo she teaches and focuses her research on media policy political communication and participatory media and Lia's within seven books of which three are published internationally katherine Tolleson she holds a PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics so we're almost having an alumna meeting here as I'm there from there as well she carries currently a researcher at the Civic Centre for research and extremism at the University of Oslo and her research focuses on nationalism migration and identity so this is probably in Norway right now the group of people that know most about this this issue these subjects so I think it will all be smarter and more enlightened after this discussion at least that's my ambition well as we as we are here actually speak right thing top lists are in power both in Hungary in Poland in Austria that will become a part of the government in Germany the Fe became the third largest party in France front national became the second largest party and mrs. strong support for right-wing populists in the Netherlands in Sweden here in Norway our version of these parties in government and of course best front what's your take on this are they progressing will we see more will they have more power in the years to come I would like to have start with you dr. PS key thank you are they progressing I think it's a two-part answer the first part of the answer is that others are regressing one of the things that we need to take into account certainly in Europe is that often the rise of right-wing populists s– coincides with the near annihilation of left parties on the political spectrum if I think of what happened to the Left Party in the Netherlands what happened to the Socialist Party in in France you know even in in in Germany they espied a so there-there is there's something here that we need to take into account which is that clearly the sort of Left parties whether they be socialist or Social Democratic are failing to offer the kinds of messages and solutions and the kind of protection I think that a lot of these that a lot of these voters want you know it's it's quite this is a relatively clear tendency and then I think that the second part of the answer is that you know yes they they are progressing in the sense that they have been very very good at broadening their appeal what I mentioned in my talk which was that you know they have now really rather diverse electorates and growingly diverse electorates not just they've moved from electorates on the right to electorates that you would have expected to vote potentially on the left but also they're increasingly broadening their appeal toward women they used to be much more male they're actually also broadening their the voter age profile so I think you know that yes yes I'm afraid they are progressing and they are offering culture and economic protectionism so I think that's key and I think we can divide it between also looking at major transformations in economy and demography so it's not just related to the crisis of displacement or the financial recession but the crisis of displacement and the red circle refugee crisis which accelerates this migration from muslim-majority countries provided a perfect storm for the populist radical right because it gave that impression that Europe is being flooded by non Europeans so that's when nativist populism really got its its moments but I agree this is not a new they have been around for a long time and we need to analyse them in relation to these longer major transformations in economy and demography as you see and I think the speech was a very good example on that Marwick that new media has been a part of their success and vie the right-wing populists handle that kind of communication so much better than traditional party stuff well this is really a different form of the far-right than we have previously seen in the United States because it is so young so many of the people participating in these online communities are teenagers or in their 20s and these are people who are very conversant at internet culture they're really familiar with the aesthetics of young people's internet culture of memes of videogames of humor slang irony and they are able to position these beliefs as somehow edgy and rebellious that if you've been told that diversity is good that being anti diversity allows you to put a stake in the ground of being rebellious and edgy which I think really appeals to a lot of young people as that sort of call to rebellious Ness so it's not it's it's almost like this is a movement that is coming up from the ground of people who spend most of their social life on the Internet they spend most of their time there and they're just really good at using the Internet to recruit other like-minded people and I think it sort of remains to be seen how this will translate to people beyond that particular strata of like Internet obsessed young people but I think that the the way that they're able to tailor their messages to more mainstream audiences is actually quite it's it's almost like a really good advertising agency or a really good like branding agency that can take a political message or and target it to different subgroups these young people are able to do very similar things and I think that's partly just because they understand the Internet in a very deep way that a lot of older or more traditional political actors don't Coon and they would you comment on that so I would point to the fact that social media for example Facebook and Twitter there there are certain characteristics or media logics in these platforms which are really converging a bit with a populist ideology in the sense that there is a preference for more fragmented arguments short messages tabloid messages personalization polarization and emerge emotional messages and also in social media the authentic voice the kind of gut feeling that you get a sense that the politician means what he or she says that they are spontaneous that they are not afraid of saying what they really mean that they are giving the real talk instead of the official talk things like that makes social media an arena that has been kind of an advantage for some populist politicians but you follow up on that because of course all these tools are open for everyone so why haven't the other parties and what traditional parties been able to use the same channels so basically because traditional parties are precisely that there are parties and therefore they are more complexed in how they communicate and they have more complex structures more people are involved in communication they are they have all often more complex also ideologies because populist s' they don't have a coherent ideology often it's easier to give the fragmented messages it's easier to be tabloid and also it's easier to be personalized and personal and authentic for a populist politician in in this media environment as you explained the media environment is really important how it works the dynamic between new media and established media can I just of course well I think that one of the things that's also very interesting is that most mainstream political leaders would I would say that they would reluctantly lie right not because they're necessarily better people are more ethical people but they know that they're being watched with you know heightened scrutiny so they they're more much more afraid I think of being of being caught red-handed what's interesting about populist sand you know right-wing populist sin in particular but even left-wing populist somebody like Nora Luca main ocean whose leader of a far left populist party in France but if you if you look at somebody like gentleman Levin you know former leader of the of the foulness unit these people lied they lied on camera they changed their minds when they were caught out lying they'd say so what you know I mean it's quite reminiscent of actually what Trump did so what they have they know that they have an electoral base that is far more tolerant of this kind of behavior and not only tolerant of this kind of behavior but I think actually welcomes this kind of behavior in a sense of you know they're a bit of a maverick they don't have to care in the same way that you know all these scared mainstream politicians actually the lying and you know the the kind of the demeanor is something that plays into this personality so I think that one of the reasons that they haven't been as good is because in the mainstream parties is because they can't play that case the same way to a lifetime it's also essential icing and they even essentialized constituency so appealing to the little man and the ordinary authentic people we know that the electorate is very diverse but if you look about how they appear after the victory if this is a victory for ordinary men for ordinary women the authentic nation will never be forgotten again and at the same time they also essentialize migrants and minorities so it's this double form of essential isolation in the campaign's so it's not just that complexity gets reduced but it's also in in their communications only comment I just wanted to add that the new media platforms are always a bit alternative they are fighting against something and they are representing a participatory culture that makes people included in the public sphere makes new voices able to express themselves and all these are good things and the things that we want to be used for the positive good for democracy but the fact that things like this all always have a flip side that the accessibility the inclusiveness and the participatory platforms they always also have a negative side that invites the kind of strong forces that feels rightly or not forgotten by the mainstream media that now finally they have found their arenas and that they can express themselves and come across as the real people we tell the truth this is our truth and some of these people they really believe that they have the truth and that the mainstream liberal media are fake do you agree with that analysis I think that there's a sense that the the promise of social media I think was that it would allow for greater activist participation but I think what a lot of internet scholars failed to see was that that meant people across the political spectrum including people that we wouldn't necessarily agree with but I think that there is a sense that these actors are not necessarily disingenuous they're not necessarily just trying to spread false information they honestly believe in the conspiracies or the the theories about you know Hillary Clinton murdering someone like they really believe this is true and so they're motivated very strongly to get that information out to the public as a result can I ask you and me in in the old way and looked at some American examples if you were to talk about this for an American audience what would their would be the examples he videos from Norway well the Norwegian media system is very different from United States for sure but also from the UK and Europe Nordic media is very distinct and we have a different system more Universal ilysm less polarization more egalitarian media systems this means that we have to a large degree included political viewpoints and opinions outside of the political consensus into the public sphere and now they are in government so this is very different and the media are important for understanding this why the political system is different and the media system they are related but nevertheless we also have the Progress Party as an example of how populist politicians use social media with their messages and in in Norway also they the Progress Party use they use Facebook they use the mainstream social media where the people are they don't go the way through Twitter because Twitter is more elitist or more intellectual more yes more exclusive in a way so Facebook is for everyone and that's where you find the populist parties and they are more also engaged in dialogue with users they go in there they communicate and they have simple messages polarized messages and they use the anti media argument often they criticize mainstream media and put themselves the cross as the honest voice of common sense so it's much of the same rhetoric actually you know pointing out that we are talking about relatively different phenomena here right so it's true that the Progress Party use Facebook where as you know some of the people that you were talking about use very different sites and very different tools but I think that you know the Progress Party you know probably needs to be compared with the Tea Party you know rather than to be compared with you know some of the some of the characters that that you were talking about now what's interesting is how these different spheres influence one another I think you know that you know and that comes across quite clearly from your presentation that actually there's a strategy of taking these ideas that are way out there you know and then you know making them trickle across if you like more and more and more mainstream sites but in terms of who's using what tools and and and what messages they're putting out I mean I think you know the populist throughout about you know to talk common sense your guys are not out to talk about common sense you're really talking about conspiracy yeah I think the use of more mainstream sites like I think your point that Twitter is used by journalists and elites is very true because I think that a lot of the media manipulation goes on on Twitter because journalists are often looking for story ideas on Twitter they're looking to see what's trending they're looking to see what people are talking about and that's sort of journalists like all over the world are using Twitter to talk to each other and keep up with what different people are doing your average American your average Norwegian is not using Twitter in that same way so Twitter is used to to seed stories to journalists or to try to influence the elites whereas other sites like Facebook are used more to like organize like a tea party rally or put out a flyer or spread like a news story from one of these fake news sources that's just like your your garden-variety pro-trump story because I fear the time is going fast and because we have of course we're talking about the methods they use we touched upon why are people attracted I think it's also worth discussed have a few conversation man and what do they actually want because if you see in in Europe in Poland and Hungary but actually you have right-wing populist parties in government we see that they are using their power to almost this month the the court system they are they are pushing down with free press civil society out of an ideology saying that we are the people and all we are the democracy is V govern and all this other things are just in the way of the of the will of the people so it's it's it's very quite scary to observe and I would like to hear your comments on and how do you think that ideology how important is that for this other movements in other countries maybe do it start on that I mean I think that different different parties want different things and different leaders want different things so one of the things for example that's quite striking is that somebody like their builders it's not that interested in governing right what he's interested is creating a bit of chaos and disruption and you know undermining and de legitimizing you know the other political parties bringing down governments you know it's almost a jet prop right he you know whereas somebody like Mahan you know pen is really interested in governing she's really interested in getting into into power she's not kidding she's not interested in just you know creating a bit of disruption and I think that one of the things that we see whether it's her who has failed for now and is in in a bad in bad shape the party's in bad shape right or whether we look at somebody like or Vaughn right I mean here what we see is a combination of things we want we see people who really want to get into power they don't just want to push other parties you know to espouse their views they want to be in power they want to create institutional change institutional change that actually creates other types of political change you know changes the laws changes the judicial system changes the immigration in the asylum the asylum system so you know we they they are vast you know they have different motivations but I think the ones that are and again I put the Progress Party slightly you know in a slightly different category here because interestingly enough they're the only ones who haven't self-destructed right when they've when they've come into power now let's see what happens we'll see what happens in Austria you know when you know they probably have to govern together or the if' day but so far the Progress Party are the only ones who've actually you know in a sense come to terms with what it means to be a party in government and not actually call into question the fundamentals of the system in other places they are calling into question the fundamentals of the system they do want institutional change Hungary's a good case study because you see an authoritarian populist in power and also the attack on the checks and balances on democracy and there's also this United in it nostalgia for the good old day so rejecting the progressive values of the European Union regress and rejecting the progressive values of the Labour Party and going back to the heteronormative family as the unit for the nation and you see the same relational isolation processes in Poland we see this thickening of the nationalism which is really focused on the nuclear family as the basis for for for the nation yeah anyone else comment on that I would say in terms of the media they want a voice and they want definition power they want also to fight intellectual rhetoric and the complex rest of it they they want to have the kind of simple arguments and come across well describes Trump you know his idea that you can just build a wall like you said or drain the swamp like those are very simplistic arguments and Trump himself has no political experience like he's a very ineffective politician he's not been able to get any of his policies or his propositions through and he's also met with enormous waves of resistance from the rest of the in population so I think that the alt right or the far right are really defined in opposition to establishment institutions in general so I think that their goal is to really undermine a lot of the traditions of liberal democracy in the United States like the Free Press like a functioning like voting right like all of these things that we sort of take for granted they've been trying to undermine things like the US Census like all of these institutions that we thought were you know we're very functional parts of of American civil society so I think that in many ways it's more about tearing anything down than building anything up I'm not sure that they have coherent propositions about like the way that the world should look it's really more that they know that they don't want it to look the way that it is now address so they're excited about the impact on migration or on the culture and way of life and you know when trumpet refers them as Hillary Clinton as deplorable Zoar lunatics whatever that's that's also a rejection of their legitimate sometimes concerns so I think that's key to really manage to address the concerns on all these voters you have tried to put up a list of what to do how should we come to this [Laughter] there's a number of things that are really important one is that you know I always say we don't have to listen necessarily but we have to hear and to do that we need to engage much more effectively than we have done I think you know if one of the things that the Macomb campaign shows us in France is that actually you know you can run a campaign and engage with people's concerns and actually turn up in the places where they are particularly angry and you can actually engage and have the argument rather than think that you know you really have to keep all this at arm's length you know George Bernard Shaw said that you should never wrestle with a pig because you get dirty and the pig enjoys it right and I think I mean I think it's it's a great soundbite but I actually think that we need to wrestle right I think that we need to roll up the sleeves and and and I think that you know one of the reasons that Macomb was effective was that despite the fact that you know former banker elite etc etc actually you know he was he did the thing which is exactly against an an elitist stance he went out he had the argument he faced off with the the voters who were angry with the people who were threatening to actually vote for marine lepen and and with marine lepen and you know if any of you had saw any clips of the French debate between Macomb and Mahela Penn she lost that night the pig lost right so sometimes it's worth wrestling with them what do you think what should we should be done I mean I think that this is a complicated problem with a lot of complicated solutions in the US there's a lot of focus on social media companies role in this but I think we also need to look at the mainstream media in the US as role and the pressures on journalists on the economic pressures the lack of local media in many places the lack of a strong publicly funded media in the United States and a lot of the more sensational claims that are floating around are floating around not only in social media but they do exist in mainstream media like Fox News as well and I think until there's media reform like media landscape or form in the US I think that we're going to continue to see manipulation of the media by a variety of different groups so my recommendations a lot of them would be around media reform I do believe that we need to meet a lot of these disenfranchised young people where they are understand their concerns beyond just you know whatever they're spewing online like what is it missing in their life or what are the the problems that they're having like the US doesn't have much of a social safety net we don't have much help with student loans or mental health issues or other things that are of great concern to young people and I think these problems need to be addressed structurally and systematically rather seeing a quick-fix by just kicking people off of Facebook in Indian little baby are you know you have to admit if you're always going to be a little bit behind usually and also we are just now in the middle of a big transformation in which media we're also getting sites like documented and then restart do you see the same development in Norway as we see in the US or is it something that could be done to stop it well I don't think we will repeat the same pattern because the long tradition of Norwegian media system is very different as I said and it's it wouldn't be as the u.s. system with even though the Internet is global social media are global but they are always connected to the local public sphere the local media system so we we see some changes but they are also important continuities and the level of trust is still higher in Norway than compared to the US for example in the media but of course we we need to be aware of this and we need to rethink also how we embrace a new fragmented areas and and we need to protect editorial media and and part of the Norwegian tradition for for how to sustain democratic good media and the press hmm what do you think what should be done to take voters seriously in address their concern about the impact on or the first change on their lives and in particular migration and I also think at the same time to strengthen critical thinking and strengthen also the values of democracy and be able to debunk myths and conspiratorial thinking about minorities in particular things that we need to really take seriously is that across the countries that we've studied education levels correlate positively with people supporting the values of various forms of liberal democracy and conscience conscious of where we're sitting here today you know we used to think of education traditionally we think of education as something that prepares you for a good professional life we need to start thinking also of making sure that people have as much education and as long as possible because it acts as a vaccine to have a healthy democratic life a healthy political life this is where we need to spend more money when I see that you know in the UK we have raised university raised university fees you know where we're cutting subsidies for teachers and teacher training and so on and so forth this is this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing because if there's one thing we know is education inoculates you against this kind of politics [Applause] this must be some university people in the audience survey if you have to you have this sum up but I'd like to just a short a question to all of you should we be worried yes yes short answer you want me to say yes but I say no okay why because we have seen new media before we have been afraid before when new media arrives when a new political voices arrived we are of course it's trembling fair arises but I see that there are also hope and of course it's it's more from my perspective as a norwegian scholar it's easier to say no yes context your that was a social anthropologist that's very good our time is out so we will take that positive slightly gloomy outlook with us what is for sure the phenomenon is not going away so all strong believers in liberal democracies need to engage so thank you to the panel and thank you for everybody who came and I hope to see you all next year

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