Chatbot politicians: artificial intelligence and “next level” populism

Is it already time to discuss the possible manifestations of artificial intelligence populism? What would populism look like in the form of AI? Let’s discover it together with Silvija Vuković, who engaged in a conversation with Leader Lars, the chatbot who represents the instances of a new experiment: the Synthetic Party.

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The stigmatization effect of radical right parties

Are populist radical right parties stigmatized? And if so, is this stigmatization consistent over time? Testing these questions in a country where the populist radical right has been traditionally stigmatized, this article illustrates that the Sweden Democrats face indeed a strong stigma among the Swedish electorate. This stigmatization persists even now that an official cordon sanitaire no longer exists, or it is at least questioned. Through experiments realized in 2011 and 2018 the authors describe the degree of stigmatization of the populist radical right in Sweden and its evolution over time.

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Interview #57 — The strategic use of Populism

What is a populist party? How do we recognize populist politicians? And even more importantly: if every political discourse can contain populism, does it still make sense to distinguish between populist and non-populist actors? In this interview, Magdalena Breyer explains that political actors – both populist as well as mainstream ones – can make use of a populist rhetoric in a strategic way. For example, both mainstream and populist parties are substantially more populist when in opposition. On the other hand, mainstream parties who lose votes don’t really become more populist. Moreover, Magdalena shows that in Austria the populist parties FPÖ and BZÖ substantially decreased their degree of populism when in government.

On a different note, the tour of presentations of The Populist Interviews continues. After three amazing events in the Netherlands, soon there will be an online even, a podcast, an Italian mini-tour, a presentation in Switzerland, and much more.

Check all the news and updates here, and enjoy the read!

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Interview #56 — Populism and Collective Nostalgia in Turkey

In this interview, Ezgi Elçi talks about the populist use of the past. Collective nostalgia is about yearning for a time before a fall or a decline in society: populists often instrumentalize this feeling to generate an opposition between the pure people versus immoral elites. Unexpectedly, though, the nostalgia of populists is more about the future than the past. The elites allegedly betrayed the country in the past, but what really matters is to build a new society which, clearly, needs new (populist) elites.

We then move to discuss the case of Turkey, and how Erdogan’s party (AKP) exploits Ottoman nostalgia to legitimize contemporary policies: the secular elites are blamed because they cut ties between the people and the glorious Ottoman Empire, thus mobilizing mostly Islamic masses. We then talk about nostalgia in the UK, Hungary, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and the the links between nostalgia and populism.

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Interview #55 — The Empire Strikes Back: Brexit and Nostalgia

In this interview, Francesca Melhuish claims that nostalgia played a crucial role on both sides of the Brexit referendum.

To better understand British Euroscepticism, and the different factors that made the Leave campaign succeed, Melhuish looks at colonial as well as imperial nostalgia, but also at the role of ‘anti-nostalgic’ nostalgia. Moreover, we discuss the role of Dominic Cummings, the idealization of the past in times of crisis, Captain Tom, Winston Churchill, ethno-nationalism, and much more.

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Populism, illiberalism and the anti-gender fight

In this article, Anna Gwiazda explains how Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, is using LBTQ+ people in general, and transgender people in particular, to create divisions from which to gain politically. She explains how Kaczyński is following the steps of another populist radical right leader such as Orbán, who demonized sexual and gender minorities in Hungary to mobilize his voters and divide the opposition.

Under the conservative flag of nation, family, tradition’, and using a populist discourse to portray the LGBTQ+ community as an internal enemy, it is possible to propose and implement abortion bans, fight feminism or the so-called ‘gender ideology’ (just another name for anything that does not fit the conservative, traditional, and Catholic idea of family and gender roles).

Showing what rising illiberalism and democratic backsliding can do to women and LGBTQ+ people, Anna Gwiazda presents her work on these topics and confronts us with a dramatic situation but also suggests that this is not necessarily good news for PiS on the long run. Will the Polish citizens follow the party or prefer different, less conservative options at the 2023 elections? Will PiS find itself isolated on its own side of the cultural divide that it decided to erect?

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Who is a populist?

In this article, Jakob Schwörer discusses demonizing practices of mainstream parties towards the populist radical right on social media and how the term “populism” itself is used as a form of negative campaigning in political competition. In particular, he rejects Chantal Mouffe’s thesis that mainstream parties are highly engaged in demonizing populist radical right parties and sheds light on the use of the term populism in political campaigning.   

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Interview #54 — Radical Right Between Stigma and Normalization

Individuals with radical-right ideas who feel comfortable voting for radical-right parties, might not feel comfortable publicly disclosing their support. What are the causes and consequences of this mechanism?

In this interview, Vicente Valentim discusses the ongoing normalization of previously stigmatized radical-right parties. With a focus on social norms and their evolution over time, we discuss how radical-right parties break these norms, and try to understand how the perception of what is acceptable and what is stigmatized in a certain social group changes across time and space.

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The worldwide expansion of populism in power

What do populists do once in power? In what do they differ from traditional authoritrian leaders? In this article, Wojciech Sadurski answers these questions while introducing his new book “A Pandemic of Populists” (Cambridge University Press). First, all populist leaders in power, he claims, share some common characteristics: they use aggressive language about their opponents, and often demonize their enemies. The narratives they develop often draw on conspiracy theories, and their discourse deploys familiar tropes that brings it close to fascism (anti-Semitism, religious bigotry, antipathy to rationalism and Enlightenment, xenophobia). Moreover, formal institutions are viewed by populist leaders as irritants, unnecessarily throwing obstacles on the path of implementing the leadership’s will. Finally, populist regimes rely on a thoroughly corrupt symbiosis of political power with the economy.

But isn’t this just traditional authortiarianism? No, argues Sadurski, because populist regimes respect at least one civil right of their citizens: that of participating in free, fair and regular elections. Indeed, populists are unlikely to fundamentally abolish free and fair elections because their whole legitimacy relies upon the claim to represent the People. But what sort of democracy do you have if there are no checks and balances which prevent the accumulation of all powers in the hands of one person?

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Interview #53 – Euroscepticism and the radical right

In this interview, Marta Lorimer discusses the relationship between far right parties and Euroscepticism, explaining that although some of them have even advocated leaving the EU or the Eurozone, they cannot be defined as ‘naturally’ Eurosceptic, but rather Euro-ambivalent. Looking at Movimento Sociale Italiano and Rassemblement National, it becomes clear that far right parties might even advocate for more Europe, or at least a different one, and that their positions evolve over time.

Moreover, far right parties can even use their opposition to the EU as a powerful tool for legitimation which allows them to retain the support of their existing electoral base while attracting new voters by presenting them a ‘softer’ and less nationalist face. At the same time, Lorimer stresses that the reason why far right parties currently do not support the EU (and support Europe) has more to do with nationalism than with populism. 

Concerning the potential for ‘nationalist internationals’, Lorimer claims that they can only work when there is alignment between the national and the international interest, which is why it is unlikely that populist radical right parties will be able to form an alliance strong enough to take over the EU. Finally, we talk about the tools that the EU can use to defend its key values—such as rule of law—and the challenge posed by cases like Hungary and Poland.

The Populism Interviews.indd

Some of you might have noticed that the last interview (on Romanian populism) was published a year ago, which is by far the longest gap between interviews since this blog exists. There is a good reason for this long wait: a book of 30 interviews to amazing scholars will be published by Routledge in September! It will be titled ‘The Populism Interviews: A Dialogue with Leading Experts‘ and it will look like this…

While waiting for the book, enjoy this new interview with Marta Lorimer!

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