1. bookVolume 42 (2021): Issue s1 (March 2021)
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
01 Mar 2013
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
access type Open Access

Uncivility, racism, and populism: Discourses and interactive practices in anti- & post-democratic communication

Published Online: 03 Mar 2021
Page range: 3 - 15
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
01 Mar 2013
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
Introduction

This Special Issue of Nordicom Review discusses interactive practices of articulating and communicating uncivility in the context of recent wider anti- and post-democratic change. We consider that change as a cross-national phenomenon that has been taking place in the Nordic countries, Europe, and indeed elsewhere since the late 1990s and early 2000s, and one that has significantly accelerated with the global rise of the “anxious politics” (Albertson & Gadarian, 2015) of right-wing populism and the far-right (Moffitt, 2016; Mudde, 2019) in recent decades. While our collection joins an ongoing and growing body of research on both un- and incivility – which we describe and to some extent disentangle conceptually in detail below – it carries a few pronounced aims which characterise its contribution to the wider research on mediated and political communication in the context of a crisis of liberal democracy and the rise of nativism and far-right populism.

First, the current collection of articles explores in-depth and makes explicit the inherent connection between uncivility, racism, and populism. As we show in a number of contributions, these three phenomena draw a significant level of legitimacy from one another despite being somewhat different in nature. While uncivility remains an increasingly prevalent form of articulation in public discourse and communication and in the wider political action, racism – standing here as a synonym of wider politics of exclusion – remains one of the key ideologies brought to the mainstream on the back of such uncivil, exclusionary discourse and practice. Indeed, both uncivility and racism have been very significantly enabled and reinstated in the public mindset due to the recently prevalent populist-political thinking and actions which yield fertile ground for their articulation and acceptance – and their long-term normalisation – in the wider society. We hence recognise that uncivility and racism could – and have – become commonplace only in the wider context of the recently omnipresent anti- and post-democratic actions more widely defined as populism – albeit not without an obviously inflationary understanding of the term (see Moffitt, 2020; Revelli, 2019) – along with its wider calls for exclusionary nationalism and other aspects of (right-wing) nativism as the central ideological tenets. Therefore, we contend that the articulations of uncivility, racism, and (more widely) populism draw on a very similar set of strategies and genres. These, to be sure, are not treated here solely as specific formats of political action or ideological positioning but also, or perhaps predominantly, as discursive strategies and actions relying on similar trajectories of mediated and political communication in their calls for exclusively formed visions of society and community (Krzyżanowski & Wodak, 2009).

Secondly, our Special Issue aims to explicitly show that although the connection between uncivility, racism, and populism has often been seen as confined to the radical strands of the public sphere and political spectrum, it now stretches across a much wider continuum that includes areas traditionally viewed as mainstream. We explicate how the uncivility, racism, and populism connection operates within radical spaces and genres – especially those deployed by radical groups for whom exclusionary ideologies are central (see below); but, by the same token, we also highlight how the ongoing normalisation of the politics of exclusion enables uncivil, racist, and populist discourse to be recontextualised into – as well as anchored within – the mediated and political spaces of the mainstream that at least nominally were once viewed as largely civil in nature. As we show, in those nominally civil spaces of mediation and political action, we now frequently deal with so-called “borderline discourse” (Krzyżanowski & Ledin, 2017). The latter, while remaining seemingly civil in nature (via, e.g., rational argumentation, various forms of democratic legitimation, etc.) effectively puts forward the profoundly anti-democratic views and ideologies which, inter alia, solidify calls for discrimination and exclusion as the apparently “new” visions of politics and society. This process is, to be sure, hugely propelled by social and digital media which, though often used in combination with their traditional counterparts, may create interstitial spaces of mediation and re-mediation of racism (Titley, 2014).

Thirdly, our Special Issue has a significant comparative value inasmuch as it juxtaposes cases and analyses from the Nordic countries with those from other parts of Europe or even from the supranational level of EU politics. Through such comparisons, we want to agree with studies which show that various Nordic countries have often wrongly been perceived as exceptional or as less mired by right-wing exclusionary and discriminatory ideologies in the public domain (Rydgren & van der Meiden, 2019). Accordingly, we show how, where, and to what extent both the radically nested and mainstream-located connections between uncivility, racism, and populism exist in the Nordic countries, while also pointing to how the tendencies therein differ or remain similar to those observed in contexts elsewhere in Europe. But we also show that in the Nordic contexts – indeed, just like elsewhere – those are not only specific contexts or spaces that dictate the presence of the in-depth connection between uncivility, racism, and populism. On the contrary, we elaborate that the said linkage becomes dependent on specific, discursive “affordances” related to specific, stigmatised themes and “moral panics” (Cohen, 1972; Krzyżanowski, 2018b, 2020b) – such as, for example, immigration – which traditionally become defaults to be used as reasons for expressions of uncivility, racism, and populism.

Heeding the above aims, this Special Issue explores uncivility as a continuum of evolving communicative practices which extend across the entire political spectrum. We do not treat uncivility as a strictly pre-defined mode of social and political behaviour specific to certain groups (e.g., extremists) or as located strictly at the specific poles of the sociopolitical and ideological spectrum. We also see the exploration of phenomena related to articulation and communication of uncivility as the crucial factor in understanding the current upsurge and trajectories of racism and right-wing populism in the Nordic Countries and wider Europe – all covered by our contributions – but also no different to further contexts such as the US, Latin America, and Australasia (Moffitt, 2016; Mondon, 2013; Mudde & Rovira Kaltwasser, 2012; Wodak & Krzyżanowski, 2017). We particularly target the ongoing radicalisation of extreme and non-extreme modes of political action (e.g., via growing number of radical groups), but we also, as indicated above, explore the normalisation of the politics of exclusion in and by the political mainstream along with its endorsement of nationalism, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or Euroscepticism. We view the above processes as interconnected through various interactions and communicative practices within and beyond the on- and offline public spheres as well as in the traditional political realm and organisations satellite to politics.

Contributions to this Special Issue address a variety of interactive and communicative practices of in- and uncivility. The collection comprises articles dealing with the analysis of uncivility in online/social media, traditional media, and other genres and channels of political communication – across both mainstream and non-mainstream, or alternative, spaces of articulation, mediation, and communication. The contributions draw on interdisciplinary approaches to concepts and models related to uncivility (including, e.g., civility & incivility, civic norms, normativity, politics & morality, racism & exclusion, and populism) against the background of systematic and empirical, nationally specific, and comparative examples of analysing uncivility in specific mediated and wider communicative practices.

From uncivility to racism and (right-wing) populism

Scholarly reflection on the notions of civility – and, per se, also un- and incivility – are not new, and many of the vital sociological classics have long been exploring the theoretical and conceptual, but also empirical, disparity existing between the two notions and the various trajectories of civil and uncivil political formation, organisation, and behaviour (see especially Elias, 1994; Shils, 1991, 1997). Particularly such notorious developments of the twentieth century as the rise of fascism and Nazism but also later, inter alia, McCarthyism in the US (Warner, 1966) – along with many other tragic occurrences across the globe in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – have all caused renewed scholarly interest in the civility–uncivility conundrum. The key question raised in this context was probably that about the apparently recurrent slide from civil ideas to uncivil politics which appeared in various contexts and at different moments of history (Finchelstein, 2017). The additional issue here has also been how and why – despite the widely praised pronouncement of adherence to liberal and civil values in modern societies – such slides were recurrently afforded by the “normalising transgression” (Kallis, 2020) enacted around different ideological projects by various social and political actors.

There are two tendencies – probably best defined as a broader and a narrower one – which appeared to be recurrent in the ways that civility and uncivility have been conceptualised and approached. The first broader conception, in most cases used earlier, has (at least originally) perceived wider politics and any form of political action – and their communication – as necessarily founded on ideas and virtues of civility. The second narrower, and somewhat later, conception perceives just one strand or area of public discourse as civil (and its counterpart as, necessarily, uncivil). In other words, according to Harcourt (2012: 349):

[In the first case,] civility meant the internal ordering of a polis, and in that sense, civility itself was just as “civil” as politics. [...] In its more common usage today, civility qualifies politics. It is a kind of politics, a type of political discourse that does not harm, injure, or offend fellow citizens [emphasis original].

While the two tendencies of looking at civility – and, per se, also uncivility – have often been combined, significantly different trajectories of their exploration have become evident in recent years giving rise to, respectively, a US-American tradition of research on incivility, on the one hand, and more Europe-based research on uncivility, on the other.

The first trend emerged in the US-based and predominantly US-oriented research in the 1990s and 2000s, mainly as a way of describing the then apparently new traits of political behaviour characterised, as many authors argued, by the ongoing decline of political correctness (Wilson, 1995) and the growing opposition, polarisation, and adversariness in public debates (Mason, 2018). These, it was often claimed, resulted in the advent of more general adversarial political and social attitudes and forms of behaviour which eventually started to have growing impact on voting preferences (Brooks & Geer, 2007). But, most importantly, they resulted in a more long-term political-cultural change wherein disagreements – often seen as inherent to the political process – came to be gradually replaced with the open “politics and communication of conflict” (Sydnor, 2019) that progressively made incivility or negativity into major traits of political and public discourse. Interestingly, scholars such as Soroka (2014) have shown in this context that incivility tends to be path-dependent in nature and that it often – indeed recurrently – comes into being in discourses on very specific political or economic issues.

However, a bulk of research on incivility initially still tended to assess it in a rather strictly normative manner, that is, as a set of violated norms seen vis-à-vis their “positive” counterpart of civility (Mutz, 2015). Hence, scholars mainly looked at why and how civility's key features – including “arguing, listening and the respect for the deliberative process” (Herbst, 2010: 13) – have come to be increasingly neglected, and why violating rather than obeying them started to bring more attention and often guaranteed political success. In this vein, many scholars also explored what exactly makes incivility a distinctive, new feature of public and political discourse – with some analyses arguing for the growth of impoliteness as the key indicator of uncivil behaviour (Theocharis et al., 2016) and others defining incivility from the point of view of its calls for various types of exclusion and intolerance (Rossini, 2019, 2020).

Some scholars – such as, very notably, Masullo Chen (2017) – pointed to the fact that such narrower conceptualising of (in)civility may be insufficient, and instead, a much more pronounced micro–macro take (see above) would be necessary to understand how narrower dynamics are related to wider factors underlying the growth of incivility in contemporary political and public life. Hence, calls were made to link specific instances and loci of discursive or interactive adversarial behaviour and related types of uncivil language to the exploration of a wider context showing why “our society seems to have lost its sense of civility” (Masullo Chen, 2017: 8). Particularly, appeals were made to put uncivil language in the complex context of “outrage politics” and “outrage industry” (Sobieraj & Berry, 2011; Berry & Sobieraj, 2014) that developed in recent years on the back of growing offline – and, in particular, online – “mediation opportunity structures” (Cammaerts, 2012; Ekman, 2018; Uldam, 2013) for nationalism, nativism, and wider populism. All of these culminated in the American context with the 2016 election of Donald Trump as the US president (yet with many other significant events marking a similar change across the globe). Only with such a micro–macro look one would be able to see that “concerns we have in today's politics – our concern about a coarsening of political language, a demonization of one's opponents, or refusal to engage with opposing points of view – are only a small piece of the problem” (Boatright, 2019: 3).

The second trend of the European research on uncivility has developed somewhat parallel to the above American scholarship yet has, quite interestingly, taken a somewhat converse route. It started from the more macro-level considerations of civility and uncivility before only later looking at specific types of uncivil discourses and practices as those characterising contemporary forms of political participation, mobilisation, and wider political – or sometimes even post-political – action.

The recent European scholarship has certainly been spawned by the scholarship on so-called uncivil society, widely spotted throughout the 1990s and 2000s as, to some extent, a distinctively European phenomenon. It grew out of various forms of disappointment in the fact that political participation not only gives rise to civil society – as a culmination of ideals of bottom-up political mobilisation – but also results in what is seen as a “paradox of political participation” (Eder, 2014). The latter has mainly been seen as the often simultaneous rise of various uncivil movements which organise in order to promote anti-liberal rather than liberal or civil values while explicitly fostering nativist exclusionary ideas and ideologies (for earlier takes on similar processes, see, for example, Whitehead, 1997). The volume by Kopecký and Mudde (2003) has surely been one of the key works in this trend. Contextualised by the sociopolitical transformations in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the work spotted the ongoing development of various ways of organising but also the expression of so-called contentious politics that – while sharing many of the structural traits of civil society – clearly stood in favour of illiberal politics and ideas rather than the liberal-democratic order. But probably the main work which explains the structural logic as well as the discursive nature of uncivil society has been that by Carlo Ruzza (2009), who examined uncivil society movements and their relation to institutionalised right-wing politics in contemporary Italy. He saw uncivil society as primarily “groups which have a self-professed antidemocratic and exclusionary political identity” (Ruzza, 2009: 88) and 1) act against – rather than for – the benefit of liberal-democratic principles of an open society and 2) are, even if unofficially, often closely linked to political parties and groups rather than being voluntary bottom-up organisations that are effectively a “voice” of civil society. Ruzza therefore made it clear that the “non-modern or anti-modern conception of life” (2009: 91) held by uncivil society aligns closely with different right-wing ideologies, and that uncivil society is therefore highly dangerous to contemporary European societies in which right-wing populism has spread as a “contagion” in recent years (Rydgren, 2003; Rydgren & van der Meiden, 2019).

To date, the works above has been among the key inspirations for more recent scholarship which, to some extent, brings together a wider European focus on uncivility – as a description of trends in political mobilisation – with the more US-specific focus on incivility – as a description of discursive-political behaviour. The vital work linking those trends in an empirically oriented fashion has been the study by Krzyżanowski and Ledin (2017), which looked at how the online uncivil society discourse effectively normalises strong – including racist – discriminatory views against immigration. In their study, Krzyżanowski and Ledin introduced the widely followed concept of borderline discourse, which originated in uncivil online spaces and eventually became normalised as a wider discursive pattern of mainstream media and politics. That discourse – explored at length also in several contributions to this Special Issue – characteristically includes a combination of unmitigated radical statements with civil, quasi-academic, and politically correct language, all used in combination to “pre-legitimise” (Krzyżanowski, 2014) the effectively uncivil, radical, and extremist positions and ideologies and to make them look like rational and acceptable elements of increasingly exclusionary and nativist – and often outright racist – “new” common sense. Other works which also looked specifically at uncivil society discourse (see especially Ekman, 2018, 2019, for the analyses of radical-right organisations online) equally explored the relation between anti-refugee mobilisation, uncivil engagement, and social media networks. Of particular relevance is the work by Ekman (2019), who, analysing radical- and far-right uncivil society online, elaborated on its normalising effect with regard to so-called ambient racism (see also Sharma, 2018) which operates at both micro (interactive) and macro (wider-discursive) levels of online communication and spans from mundane statements to wider arguments which, once circulated online, eventually have a spill-over effect onto wider public spheres. The platform logic of online communication proves particularly useful for the spread of racist statements and contents online (see also Alvares & Dahlgren, 2016; Laaksonen et al., 2020) but also offline (including, e.g., the traditional media; Horsti & Nikunen, 2013).

While the research described above considers uncivil society and the radicalised strands of the on- and offline public sphere as a loci of uncivil and racist discourse in the wider context of right-wing populism, recent European scholarship has also been preoccupied with the wider uncivility and racism connection expressly within the context of the normalisation or mainstreaming of the radical-right (see Krzyżanowski, 2020a, for a theoretical and conceptual overview). In a number of works published in this trend to date, scholars have argued that while various instances of uncivil discourse – often used as a carrier of racism and other exclusionary and nativist ideologies favoured by the far right – tended to originate in alternative media or the uncivil society domain, they have been more than very eagerly picked up by mainstream political and media actors in recent years, thus catering to a wider spread of far-right ideologies and related discursive strategies. Some scholars working in this trend have often explored a rather unilateral “move to the right” (Wodak, 2015) in – particularly – the political discourse domain. But others have shown that normalisation of racism (Krzyżanowski, 2018a, 2020b) takes place in a multidirectional way, often by means of a somewhat reciprocal process of “mainstreaming the far right” and “radicalising the mainstream” (Mondon & Winter, 2020) in the wider sense. It has also been pointed out that, at a more micro level, this process is accompanied by way of continuous production of the aforementioned “borderline discourse” (Krzyżanowski & Ledin, 2017) in various contexts notwithstanding the media (Farkas & Neumayer, 2020).

By the same token, scholars have also continued to show that uncivility and racism might persist to connect within the discourses that traditionally have been used as vehicles for their normalisation and appropriation. Titley (2019, 2020a, 2020b) has, for example, shown in his works that “free speech” continues to be one such central shell for the uncivility–racism combination and that its seemingly value-neutral role is indeed often desired in the radical- and far-right use of the concept, helping in denying accusations of racism and radicalism. Similarly, Cammaerts (2020) has argued how the connection which is central here persists across arguments on religion, nativism, (white) supremacy, and in conspiracy theories – all considered by the author as the “nodal points” of neo-fascism hugely propelled by the current wave of radical-right and right-wing populism across the globe.

Outline of the Special Issue

Many of the key traits and voices in the research and scholarship described above echo very clearly across the contributions to our Special Issue. This is not only through the fact that our contributors address the focal uncivility–racism–populism connection as such in different formats – and do so while recognising its differentiated, context-specific character in different national contexts and beyond. They also look across different spaces, discourses, and genres of communication in which the said connection is enacted and discursively articulated, whilst effectively solidifying and normalising extreme- and far-right thinking as part and parcel of right-wing populist politics and far-right ideologies. Hence, while our collection links many of the currents and trends in contemporary research, it also wishes to develop them further, while also explicating discourse and tendencies in the Nordic countries and indeed, the wider Europe.

Opening the Special Issue – as well as a set of articles devoted specifically to the in/un-civility–racism–populism connections in the Nordic countries – Tina Askanius provides an excellent case study of the media narratives of the neo-Nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) and situates this particular movement within the broader landscape of violent extremism in Sweden today. In her article, “‘I just want to be the friendly face of national socialism’: The turn to civility in the cultural expressions of neo-Nazism in Sweden”, Askanius draws on a qualitative content analysis informed by narrative inquiry, and examines various cultural expressions of neo-Nazi ideology in NRM's extensive repertoire of online media. The study brings to centre stage the role of popular culture and entertainment in the construction of a meaningful narrative of community and belonging built around neo-Nazism in Sweden today. The analysis demonstrates how NRM, with their efforts to boost the culture and entertainment end of their media repertoire, seeks to add to the ordinariness of neo-Nazi discourse by effectively normalising it through banalisation and defusing its underlying ideologies. Further, the analysis of the convergence between different genres, styles, and content into new borderline discourses illustrates how contemporary extreme-right movements complicate the traditional binaries with which scholars operate, such as fascist–liberal, totalitarian–democratic, and mainstream–extremist. Askanius hence turns to the cultural expressions of neo-Nazi propaganda in order to understand how NRM seeks to construct palpable and distinctly Nordic narratives around national socialism suitable for contemporary audiences. She argues that this surge in cultural content – and with it a shift towards “softer” aesthetics, form, and style – is part of a broader project of normalisation at the heart of NRM's media strategies and those of contemporary far-right populist parties and ultranationalist movements more generally.

In their following article, “Recontextualising the news: How antisemitic discourses are constructed in extreme far-right alternative media”, Birgitte Haanshus and Karolina Ihlbæk explore how extreme far-right alternative media sites use content from professional mainstream media to convey uncivil news with an antisemitic message. The article covers the vital aspect of normalisation processes – that is, it not only looks at the usual vectors of mainstreaming extreme discourses and positions into the mainstream, but treats them instead as reciprocal and remaining interactive. Haanshus and Ihlbæk present a critical discourse analysis of 231 news items published on the Norwegian radical website Frihetskamp between 2011–2018, focusing specifically on news items originating from established national and international news sources. They explore how news is recontextualised to portray both overt and covert antisemitic discourses and identify four expressly antisemitic, stereotypical representations that are reinforced through the selection and adjustment of news: Jews as powerful, as intolerant and anti-liberal, as exploiters of victimhood, and as inferior. These conspiratorial and exclusionary ideas – often visibly recontextualised from historical Nazi propaganda – are thus reproduced by linking them to contemporary societal and political contexts and the current news agenda. Haanshus and Ihlbæk argue that the kind of recontextualised, uncivil news as those in focus of their study are difficult to define as such in the wider, digital public sphere. This is due to the deployed logic of recontextualisation processes, whereby a news story originally published on what can be described as a civil arena (established media) is republished on an uncivil arena (far-right alternative media) and thus becomes ideologically repositioned. Consequently, seemingly civil news items are manipulated into uncivil news, that is, news published on uncivil arenas with the purpose of implicitly or explicitly conveying hateful discourses about particular groups in society.

In the following article within the Nordic contexts, “Who are you, the people? Constructing the people in MV-lehti's refugee coverage”, Salla Tuomola highlights that one of the cornerstones of right-wing populist websites is the challenge they pose to traditional, mainstream media as far as addressing and giving voice to the people. Focusing specifically on Finland, Tuomola looks at one of the best known of such web-sites, MV-lehti, which claims to exist to voice public interests and concerns. Tuomola investigates, therefore, how MV-lehti constructs the people in texts, especially in its refugee coverage. Drawing on various inspirations from critical discourse analysis of right-wing populist rhetoric, the study shows that, on MV-lehti, the people are chiefly constructed as a strongly politicised concept, thus reflecting ideas of ethnonationalism and anti-democratic values. The connection between uncivility, racism, and populism appears to be central therein. Tuomola shows that in the course of constructing the in-group (natives) as opposed to the out-group (refugees and more widely migrants), the central binary opposition is underpinned by racist arguments calling for systematic exclusion and subordination of the out-group, who are stigmatised with regard to cultural norms, values, traditions, and lifestyles, but also physical appearance and ethnicity. Uncivility, at the same time, occurs in an expressly right-wing populist style of the discourse wherein attention to values and provocations with regard to challenging politeness and political correctness – as well as choosing simplicity over complexity – are all mobilised whilst eagerly discarding expert knowledge in favour or legitmising “first-hand experience”.

Closing the set of articles devoted to the Nordic countries, Mattias Ekman and Michał Krzyżanowski undertake a critical discourse analysis of Swedish quality newspaper editorials. In their article, “A populist turn? News editorials and the recent discursive shift on immigration in Sweden”, Ekman and Krzyżanowski focus on the evolving framing of immigration since the recent European “refugee crisis”. Positioned within the ongoing discursive shifts in the Swedish public sphere and the growth of discursive uncivility in its mainstream arenas, the analysis highlights how xenophobic and racist discourses once propagated by the far- and radical-right gradually penetrate into the studied broadsheet media. Ekman and Krzyżanowski argue that both the examined editorials and the genre more widely have the tendency to normalise the once radical perceptions of immigration. This takes place by incorporating various discursive strategies embedded in wider argumentative frames of demographic consequences, Islam and Islamisation, or threat and integration. All of these enable the construction of claims against immigration, now apparently prevalent also in the examined strands of the Swedish “quality” press. As the analysis shows, by incorporating both micro and macro discursive elements associated with the far and populist right, the mainstream discourse of editorials normalises and legitimises them. This opens up increased manoeuvring room for far-right political actors, and for far-right politics at large, all of which thus become a prominent and legitimate voice. Ekman and Krzyżanowski show how this process pushes the boundaries of publicly acceptable language and ultimately defines Swedish public discourse on immigration within both the political and wider public spheres.

Opening the next set of articles addressing international cases – which allow the further consideration of the above Nordic examples in a wider, comparative pan-European perspective – is Per-Erik Nilsson, in “‘The new extreme right’: Uncivility, irony, and displacement in the French ‘re-information sphere’”. Departing from the premise that contemporary France is a prolific arena for post-fascist actors, parties, and movements, Nilsson highlights that self-proclaimed alternative news forums and publishing houses serve as forums for information and mobilisation, through various strategies, to resist an alleged onslaught by the enemies of the nation and its people: multiculturalism, feminism, political correctness, political corruption, and civilisational decay. In his article, Nilsson explores uncivility as a discursive logic within the French post-fascist media-ecology, with a focus on conspicuous usage of irony and discursive displacement. More specifically, Nilsson discusses how sardonic irony is employed as an uncivil discursive strategy to navigate the legal boundaries of free speech and how discursive displacement, coupled with irony, is used as an affective identificatory technique in post-fascist discourse. Concluding his study, Nilsson makes a vital call for not using uncivility and civility as normative analytical categories, but focusing instead on their emic usage in post-fascist social and political communication – online and offline. This is arguably the key to understanding how contemporary post-fascist discourse – in France as elsewhere – slips into the realm of liberal-democratic discourse and presents itself as a viable alternative among all the others in the political marketplace.

In the following article “Unpacking uncivil society: Incivility and intolerance in the 2018 Irish abortion referendum discussions on Twitter”, Dayei Oh, Suzanne Elayan, Martin Sykora, and John Downey contend that in the era of rising populist sentiment, deep social and political polarisations, and a growing crisis of online harms, numerous scholars share concern about the impact of such uncivil populist forces on the health of liberal democracy. Oh and her colleagues argue, however, that one should first normatively distinguish between incivility and intolerance – as indeed has already been proposed in the in- and uncivility scholarship (see above) – as, the authors contend, the core problem of uncivil society is intolerance rather than incivility. To this aim, Oh and colleagues empirically analyse incivility and intolerance during the 2018 Irish abortion referendum and the related discussions on Twitter. They conduct a content analysis and qualitative textual analysis of 3,000 tweets posted between April and June 2018. The results show that despite selecting a highly emotive and polarised issue, incivility and intolerance do not dominate the Twittersphere. Furthermore, the gender and political position of users were found to be associated with use of incivility and intolerance, which also visibly increased as the referendum approached.

Last but certainly not least, in an article that provides a take on the supranational EU level, “The institutionalisation of populist political discourse and conservative uncivil society in the Europeran Union: From the margins to the mainstream?”, Carlo Ruzza – one of the pioneers of research on uncivil society in Europe – analyses populist political discourse in European conservative uncivil society. Ruzza examines the ideational features of conservative civil society groups at the EU level and compares them to those of progressive groups. Through a frame analysis of the textual materials of these two types of organisations, Ruzza examines the reactions to the success of populist formations in several European member states as well as at the EU level. He shows the contrasts between progressive and conservative association discourses on key concepts, such as EU-regulated anti-discrimination policies, views on EU fundamental rights, and the overarching functions of civil society, its composition, and mechanisms of legitimation. In the analysis, Ruzza argues that the long-established EU ethos of fostering progressive civil society is undergoing a redefinition, which impacts EU strategies. He posits that in a changing political climate, EU institutions are less interested in some of the contributions progressive civil society offers, such as contributions to public deliberation, governance, and the legitimacy of the EU. Progressive civil society thus reacts to the threat of a loss of standing and attempts to retain its historical centrality, legitimacy, and access; in contrast, conservative civil society groups seek to establish themselves in a political environment that was previously off-limits to them. Ruzza contends that the best way to frame the contrast between rival images of civil society is through a movement–counter-movement dynamic. Therein, populist discourses and views compete with and contrast inclusionary anti-discrimination non-populist ones. Ruzza argues that political and discursive competition between these two camps characterises the current state of the field of civil society.

Albertson, B., & Gadarian, S. K. (2015). Anxious politics: Democratic citizenship in a threatening world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139963107 AlbertsonB. GadarianS. K. 2015 Anxious politics: Democratic citizenship in a threatening world Cambridge Cambridge University Press https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139963107 Search in Google Scholar

Alvares, C., & Dahlgren, P. (2016). Populism, extremism and media: Mapping an uncertain terrain. European Journal of Communication, 31(1), 46–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323115614485 AlvaresC. DahlgrenP. 2016 Populism, extremism and media: Mapping an uncertain terrain European Journal of Communication 31 1 46 57 https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323115614485 Search in Google Scholar

Berry, J. M., & Sobieraj, S. (2014). The outrage industry: Political opinion media and the new incivility. Oxford: Oxford University Press. BerryJ. M. SobierajS. 2014 The outrage industry: Political opinion media and the new incivility Oxford Oxford University Press Search in Google Scholar

Boatright, R. (2019). Introduction: A crisis of civility? In R. G. Boatright, T. J. Shaffer, S. Sobieraj, D. G. Young. (Eds), A crisis of civility? Political discourse and its discontents (pp. 1–6). New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351051989 BoatrightR. 2019 Introduction: A crisis of civility? In BoatrightR. G. ShafferT. J. SobierajS. YoungD. G. (Eds), A crisis of civility? Political discourse and its discontents 1 6 New York Routledge https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351051989 Search in Google Scholar

Brooks, D. J., & Geer, J. G. (2007). Beyond negativity: The effects of incivility on the electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 51(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00233.x BrooksD. J. GeerJ. G. 2007 Beyond negativity: The effects of incivility on the electorate American Journal of Political Science 51 1 1 16 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00233.x Search in Google Scholar

Cammaerts, B. (2012). Protest logics and the mediation opportunity structure. European Journal of Communication, 27(2), 117–134. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323112441007 CammaertsB. 2012 Protest logics and the mediation opportunity structure European Journal of Communication 27 2 117 134 https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323112441007 Search in Google Scholar

Cammaerts, B. (2020). The neo-fascist discourse and its normalisation through mediation. Journal of Multi-cultural Discourses, 15(3), 241–256. https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2020.1743296 CammaertsB. 2020 The neo-fascist discourse and its normalisation through mediation Journal of Multi-cultural Discourses 15 3 241 256 https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2020.1743296 Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, S. (1972). Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers. London: Routledge. CohenS. 1972 Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers London Routledge Search in Google Scholar

Eder, K. (2014). The paradox of political participation: Theorizing uncivil society. Partecipazione e Conflitto, 7(3), 551–575. https://doi.org/10.1285/i20356609v7i3p551 EderK. 2014 The paradox of political participation: Theorizing uncivil society Partecipazione e Conflitto 7 3 551 575 https://doi.org/10.1285/i20356609v7i3p551 Search in Google Scholar

Ekman, M. (2018). Anti-refugee mobilization in social media: The case of Soldiers of Odin. Social Media + Society, (January–March), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305118764431 EkmanM. 2018 Anti-refugee mobilization in social media: The case of Soldiers of Odin Social Media + Society January–March 1 11 https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305118764431 Search in Google Scholar

Ekman, M. (2019). Anti-immigration and racist discourse in social media. European Journal of Communication, 34(6), 606–618. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323119886151 EkmanM. 2019 Anti-immigration and racist discourse in social media European Journal of Communication 34 6 606 618 https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323119886151 Search in Google Scholar

Elias, N. (1994). The civilizing process. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. EliasN. 1994 The civilizing process Oxford Wiley-Blackwell Search in Google Scholar

Farkas, J., & Neumayer, C. (2020). Mimicking news: How the credibility of an established tabloid is used when disseminating racism. Nordicom Review, 41(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.2478/nor-2020-0001 FarkasJ. NeumayerC. 2020 Mimicking news: How the credibility of an established tabloid is used when disseminating racism Nordicom Review 41 1 1 17 https://doi.org/10.2478/nor-2020-0001 Search in Google Scholar

Finchelstein, F. (2017). From fascism to populism in history. Oakland, California: University of California Press. FinchelsteinF. 2017 From fascism to populism in history Oakland, California University of California Press Search in Google Scholar

Harcourt, B. (2012). The politics of incivility. Arizona Law Review, 54(2), 345–374. HarcourtB. 2012 The politics of incivility Arizona Law Review 54 2 345 374 Search in Google Scholar

Herbst, S. (2010). Rude democracy: Civility and incivility in American politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. HerbstS. 2010 Rude democracy: Civility and incivility in American politics Philadelphia Temple University Press Search in Google Scholar

Horsti, K., & Nikunen, K. (2013). The ethics of hospitality in changing journalism: A response to the rise of the anti-immigrant movement in Finnish media publicity. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(4), 489–504. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549413491718 HorstiK. NikunenK. 2013 The ethics of hospitality in changing journalism: A response to the rise of the anti-immigrant movement in Finnish media publicity European Journal of Cultural Studies 16 4 489 504 https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549413491718 Search in Google Scholar

Kallis, A. (2020, October 19). ‘Counter-spurt’ but not ‘de-civilization’: Fascism, (un)civility, taboo, and the ‘civilizing process’. Journal of Political Ideologies, 1–20. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2020.1825278 KallisA. 2020 October 19 ‘Counter-spurt’ but not ‘de-civilization’: Fascism, (un)civility, taboo, and the ‘civilizing process’ Journal of Political Ideologies 1 20 Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2020.1825278 Search in Google Scholar

Kopecký, P., & Mudde, C. (Eds.). (2003). Uncivil society? Contentious politics in post-communist Europe. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203988787 KopeckýP. MuddeC. (Eds.). 2003 Uncivil society? Contentious politics in post-communist Europe London Routledge https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203988787 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. (2014). Values, imaginaries and templates of journalistic practice: A critical discourse analysis. Social Semiotics, 24(3), 345–365. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2014.930607 KrzyżanowskiM. 2014 Values, imaginaries and templates of journalistic practice: A critical discourse analysis Social Semiotics 24 3 345 365 https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2014.930607 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. (2018a). Discursive shifts in ethno-nationalist politics: On politicization and mediatization of the “refugee crisis” in Poland. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 16(1–2), 76–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/15562948.2017.1317897 KrzyżanowskiM. 2018a Discursive shifts in ethno-nationalist politics: On politicization and mediatization of the “refugee crisis” in Poland Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 16 1–2 76 96 https://doi.org/10.1080/15562948.2017.1317897 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. (2018b). “We are a small country that has done enormously lot”: The ‘refugee crisis’ and the hybrid discourse of politicizing immigration in Sweden. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 16(1–2), 97–117. https://doi.org/10.1080/15562948.2017.1317895 KrzyżanowskiM. 2018b “We are a small country that has done enormously lot”: The ‘refugee crisis’ and the hybrid discourse of politicizing immigration in Sweden Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 16 1–2 97 117 https://doi.org/10.1080/15562948.2017.1317895 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. (2020a). Discursive shifts and the normalisation of racism: Imaginaries of immigration, moral panics and the discourse of contemporary right-wing populism. Social Semiotics, 30(4), 503–527. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2020.1766199 KrzyżanowskiM. 2020a Discursive shifts and the normalisation of racism: Imaginaries of immigration, moral panics and the discourse of contemporary right-wing populism Social Semiotics 30 4 503 527 https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2020.1766199 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M. (2020b). Normalization and the discursive construction of “new” norms and “new” normality: Discourse in the paradoxes of populism and neoliberalism. Social Semiotics, 30(4), 431–448. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2020.1766193 KrzyżanowskiM. 2020b Normalization and the discursive construction of “new” norms and “new” normality: Discourse in the paradoxes of populism and neoliberalism Social Semiotics 30 4 431 448 https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2020.1766193 Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M., & Ledin, P. (2017). Uncivility on the web: Populism in/and the borderline discourses of exclusion. Journal of Language and Politics, 16(4), 566–581. https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.17028.krz KrzyżanowskiM. LedinP. 2017 Uncivility on the web: Populism in/and the borderline discourses of exclusion Journal of Language and Politics 16 4 566 581 https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.17028.krz Search in Google Scholar

Krzyżanowski, M., & Wodak, R. (2009). The politics of exclusion: Debating migration in Austria. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. KrzyżanowskiM. WodakR. 2009 The politics of exclusion: Debating migration in Austria New Brunswick, New Jersey Transaction Publishers Search in Google Scholar

Laaksonen, S.-M., Pantti, M., & Titley, G. (2020). Broadcasting the movement and branding political micro-celebrities: Finnish anti-immigration video practices on YouTube. Journal of Communication, 70(2), 171–194. https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqz051 LaaksonenS.-M. PanttiM. TitleyG. 2020 Broadcasting the movement and branding political micro-celebrities: Finnish anti-immigration video practices on YouTube Journal of Communication 70 2 171 194 https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqz051 Search in Google Scholar

Mason, L. (2018). Uncivil agreement: How politics became our identity. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. MasonL. 2018 Uncivil agreement: How politics became our identity Chicago, Illinois University of Chicago Press Search in Google Scholar

Masullo Chen, G. M. (2017). Online incivility and public debate: Nasty talk. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56273-5 Masullo ChenG. M. 2017 Online incivility and public debate: Nasty talk Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56273-5 Search in Google Scholar

Moffitt, B. (2016). The global rise of populism: Performance, political style, and representation. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=25175 MoffittB. 2016 The global rise of populism: Performance, political style, and representation Stanford, California Stanford University Press http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=25175 Search in Google Scholar

Moffitt, B. (2020). Populism. Cambridge: Polity. MoffittB. 2020 Populism Cambridge Polity Search in Google Scholar

Mondon, A. (2013). The mainstreaming of the extreme right in France and Australia: A populist hegemony? Aldershot, England: Ashgate. MondonA. 2013 The mainstreaming of the extreme right in France and Australia: A populist hegemony? Aldershot, England Ashgate Search in Google Scholar

Mondon, A., & Winter, A. (2020). Reactionary democracy: How racism and the populist far right became mainstream. London: Verso. MondonA. WinterA. 2020 Reactionary democracy: How racism and the populist far right became mainstream London Verso Search in Google Scholar

Mudde, C. (2019). The far right today. Cambridge: Polity. MuddeC. 2019 The far right today Cambridge Polity Search in Google Scholar

Mudde, C., & Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (Eds.). (2012). Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or corrective for democracy? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139152365 MuddeC. Rovira KaltwasserC. (Eds.). 2012 Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or corrective for democracy? Cambridge Cambridge University Press https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139152365 Search in Google Scholar

Mutz, D. C. (2015). In-your-face politics: The consequences of uncivil media. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. MutzD. C. 2015 In-your-face politics: The consequences of uncivil media Princeton, New Jersey Princeton University Press Search in Google Scholar

Revelli, M. (2019). The new populism: Democracy stares into the abyss (David Broder, Trans.). London: Verso. RevelliM. 2019 The new populism: Democracy stares into the abyss BroderDavid Trans. London Verso Search in Google Scholar

Rossini, P. (2019). Disentangling civil and intolerant discourse in online political talk. In R. G. Boatright, T. J. Shaffer, S. Sobieraj, D. G. Young. (Eds), A crisis of civility? Political discourse and its discontents (pp. 142–158). New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351051989 RossiniP. 2019 Disentangling civil and intolerant discourse in online political talk In BoatrightR. G. ShafferT. J. SobierajS. YoungD. G. (Eds), A crisis of civility? Political discourse and its discontents 142 158 New York Routledge https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351051989 Search in Google Scholar

Rossini, P. (2020, May 26). Beyond incivility: Understanding patterns of uncivil and intolerant discourse in online political talk. Communication Research, 1–27. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650220921314 RossiniP. 2020 May 26 Beyond incivility: Understanding patterns of uncivil and intolerant discourse in online political talk Communication Research 1 27 Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650220921314 Search in Google Scholar

Ruzza, C. (2009). Populism and Euroscepticism: Towards uncivil society? Policy & Society, 28(1), 87–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polsoc.2009.02.007 RuzzaC. 2009 Populism and Euroscepticism: Towards uncivil society? Policy & Society 28 1 87 98 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polsoc.2009.02.007 Search in Google Scholar

Rydgren, J. (2003). The populist challenge: Political protest and ethno-nationalist mobilization in France. New York: Berghahn Books. RydgrenJ. 2003 The populist challenge: Political protest and ethno-nationalist mobilization in France New York Berghahn Books Search in Google Scholar

Rydgren, J., & van der Meiden, S. (2019). The radical right and the end of Swedish exceptionalism. European Political Science, 18, 439–455. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-018-0159-6 RydgrenJ. van der MeidenS. 2019 The radical right and the end of Swedish exceptionalism European Political Science 18 439 455 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-018-0159-6 Search in Google Scholar

Sharma, S. (2018, 24–28 May). Affect and the attention economy of online racism [Conference presentation]. 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Prague, Czech Republic. SharmaS. 2018 24–28 May Affect and the attention economy of online racism [Conference presentation]. 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association Prague, Czech Republic Search in Google Scholar

Shils, E. (1991). The virtue of civil society. Government and Opposition, 26(1), 3–20. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.1991.tb01120.x ShilsE. 1991 The virtue of civil society Government and Opposition 26 1 3 20 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.1991.tb01120.x Search in Google Scholar

Shils, E. (1997). The virtue of civility: Selected essays on liberalism, tradition, and civil society (Steven Grosby, Ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. ShilsE. 1997 The virtue of civility: Selected essays on liberalism, tradition, and civil society GrosbySteven Ed. Indianapolis Liberty Fund Search in Google Scholar

Sobieraj, S., & Berry, J. M. (2011). From incivility to outrage: Political discourse in blogs, talk radio, and cable news. Political Communication, 28, 19–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2010.542360 SobierajS. BerryJ. M. 2011 From incivility to outrage: Political discourse in blogs, talk radio, and cable news Political Communication 28 19 41 https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2010.542360 Search in Google Scholar

Soroka, S. N. (2014). Negativity in democratic politics: Causes and consequences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107477971 SorokaS. N. 2014 Negativity in democratic politics: Causes and consequences Cambridge Cambridge University Press https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107477971 Search in Google Scholar

Sydnor, E. (2019). Disrespectful democracy: The psychology of political incivility. New York: Columbia University Press. SydnorE. 2019 Disrespectful democracy: The psychology of political incivility New York Columbia University Press Search in Google Scholar

Theocharis, Y., Barberá, P., Fazekas, Z., Popa, S. A., & Parnet, O. (2016). A bad workman blames his tweets: The consequences of citizens’ uncivil Twitter use when interacting with party candidates. Journal of Communication, 66(6), 1007–1031. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12259 TheocharisY. BarberáP. FazekasZ. PopaS. A. ParnetO. 2016 A bad workman blames his tweets: The consequences of citizens’ uncivil Twitter use when interacting with party candidates Journal of Communication 66 6 1007 1031 https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12259 Search in Google Scholar

Titley, G. (2014). No apologies for cross-posting: European trans-media space and the digital circuitries of racism. Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture, 5(1), 41–55. https://doi.org/10.1386/cjmc.5.1.41_1 TitleyG. 2014 No apologies for cross-posting: European trans-media space and the digital circuitries of racism Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture 5 1 41 55 https://doi.org/10.1386/cjmc.5.1.41_1 Search in Google Scholar

Titley, G. (2019). Racism and media. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529714791 TitleyG. 2019 Racism and media London Sage http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529714791 Search in Google Scholar

Titley, G. (2020a). The distribution of nationalist and racist discourse. Journal of Multicultural Discourses, 15(3), 257–266. https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2020.1780245 TitleyG. 2020a The distribution of nationalist and racist discourse Journal of Multicultural Discourses 15 3 257 266 https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2020.1780245 Search in Google Scholar

Titley, G. (2020b). Is free speech racist? Cambridge: Polity. TitleyG. 2020b Is free speech racist? Cambridge Polity Search in Google Scholar

Uldam, J. (2013). Activism and the online mediation opportunity structure: Attempts to impact global climate change policies? Policy & Internet, 5, 56–75. https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.22 UldamJ. 2013 Activism and the online mediation opportunity structure: Attempts to impact global climate change policies? Policy & Internet 5 56 75 https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.22 Search in Google Scholar

Warner, R. S. (1966). The civil order: The sociological politics of Edward Shils. Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 11, 82–97. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42889014 WarnerR. S. 1966 The civil order: The sociological politics of Edward Shils Berkeley Journal of Sociology 11 82 97 https://www.jstor.org/stable/42889014 Search in Google Scholar

Whitehead, L. (1997). Bowling in the Bronx: The uncivil interstices between civil and political society. Democratization, 4(1), 94–114. https://doi.org/10.1080/13510349708403504 WhiteheadL. 1997 Bowling in the Bronx: The uncivil interstices between civil and political society Democratization 4 1 94 114 https://doi.org/10.1080/13510349708403504 Search in Google Scholar

Wilson, J. K. (1995). The myth of political correctness: The conservative attack on higher education. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. WilsonJ. K. 1995 The myth of political correctness: The conservative attack on higher education Durham, North Carolina Duke University Press Search in Google Scholar

Wodak, R. (2015). The politics of fear: What right-wing populist discourses mean. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446270073 WodakR. 2015 The politics of fear: What right-wing populist discourses mean London Sage http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446270073 Search in Google Scholar

Wodak, R., & Krzyżanowski, M. (Eds.). (2017). Right-wing populism in Europe & USA: Contesting politics & discourse beyond ‘Orbanism’ and ‘Trumpism’. Special Issue of Journal of Language and Politics, 16(4). https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.16.417042.krz WodakR. KrzyżanowskiM. (Eds.). 2017 Right-wing populism in Europe & USA: Contesting politics & discourse beyond ‘Orbanism’ and ‘Trumpism’ Special Issue of Journal of Language and Politics 16 4 https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.16.417042.krz Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo