Benjamin Krämer, Magdalena Klingler, A Bad Political Climate for Climate Research and Trouble for Gender Studies: Right-wing Populism as a Challenge to Science Communication in:

Benjamin Krämer, Christina Holtz-Bacha (Ed.)

Perspectives on Populism and the Media, page 253 - 272

Avenues for Research

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-5561-5, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-9739-2,

Series: International Studies on Populism, vol. 7

Bibliographic information
A Bad Political Climate for Climate Research and Trouble for Gender Studies: Right-wing Populism as a Challenge to Science Communication Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler Introduction: Why Populism, Gender, and Climate? Gender studies and climate research, it would seem, are two very different fields with different epistemological foundations, methodologies, formal objects, institutional structures, and habitus of researchers. Yet, there is a group of people who believe that these fields share several important commonalities, are even part of the same endeavor. Right-wing populists attack them for being, at best, unfruitful and blinded by similar ideologies. Even worse, they accuse both gender studies and climate research of being part of a conspiracy that seeks to undermine traditional ways of living. These populists also question whether the two fields represent true “science.” For example, in their 2017 party manifesto, the German AfD demands the nation’s exit from the Paris Agreement of 2015 and an end to so called “gender-ideology,” which they deem to be unconstitutional. Their criticism is ultimately directed towards the respective academic fields. Climate research is characterized as an uncertain endeavor, and the evidence for climate change is questioned. In addition, gender studies are discredited as dubious, not only being described as an instrument of so-called “genderideology” but also as being falsified by other research fields such as biology and evolutionary psychology (Alternative für Deutschland, 2017). When discussing right-wing populists’ attacks on climate change and gender studies, we are faced with the old problem that—apart from “research”—there is no single term to denote all academic activity systematically striving for knowledge independent of the object, method, and epistemological foundation. For instance, the English term “science” usually denotes the natural sciences and related fields. The German concept “Wissenschaft” is more inclusive; in addition to the natural sciences, it takes the humanities into account (Hansson, 2017). In order to cover fields that are as different as gender studies and climate change, we will use “science” in 1. 253 the broadest sense, including the natural and social sciences, engineering, as well as the humanities (see Schäfer, Kristiansen, & Bonfadelli, 2015). We consider right-wing populism to be one of the most important challenges for science communication today as the populist criticism is extremely fundamental and harsh, even including personal attacks on researchers. And while these attacks may seem to come from fringe groups, right-wing populist politicians and voters—sometimes in alliance with other actors and interests—may form a blocking minority or even—in some countries—a majority when it comes to research funding or political action in favor of climate protection and gender equality. Furthermore, right-wing populists’ views are not completely detached from the social mainstream even when they are clearly in the minority. Instead, there is a continuum between the two in terms of certain widespread constructions of gender or the insistence on resource-intensive lifestyles. For example, while general support for renewable energy is part of the political mainstream, right-wing populists are clearly opposed to such transformations and thus seem to be outside this mainstream (Lockwood, 2018). However, many politicians and citizens are reluctant to implement more radical measures against climate change. And while right-wing populists’ “antigenderism” may be particularly radical, many outside their base probably would not fully subscribe to the perspective of many approaches in gender studies. Ideology-Based Rejection of Science Before we start our analysis of ideological factors determining right-wing populists’ reactions to climate research (or climate change) and gender studies (or gender as a concept and its potential political implications), we will contextualize this discussion with regard to the literature on ideologybased rejection of science, in particular concerning these two fields. Despite the scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of climate change, several societal groups deny its existence. These people and groups are often referred to as climate change skeptics, and they can be further differentiated into subgroups (Rahmstorf, 2005). Among many other factors, existing research highlights the connection between climate skepticism and conservatism (Hamilton, 2011; McCright & Dunlap, 2010, 2011; Poortinga, Spence, Whitmarsh, Capstick, & Pidgeon, 2011), and sometimes right-wing populism (Gemenis, Katsanidou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012; Hamilton & Saito, 2015; Siri, 2015), which we define essentially as a conservative ideology itself (see below for a more detailed discussion). How- 2. Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 254 ever, a majority of studies that seek to explain climate skepticism treat ideology only as a variable that positions individuals on a continuum from the political left to the right or with regard to a few broad categories such as “conservative,” “liberal,” and so on. Moreover, studies show an overlap between right-wing populists and other conservative movements (Paternotte & Kuhar, 2017). In recent years, some authors have begun to point to right-wing populists’ ideology as an explanation for their climate skepticism (Lockwood, 2018). However, to date there has been little effort to explore this connection in much detail. Authors like Fraune and Knodt (2018) investigated the connection of the ideological core themes of right-wing populism with the opposition to new energy policies. Still, the similarities between right-wing populists’ attacks on several distinct scientific fields have not yet been taken into account. Such a perspective ultimately allows for more generalizable explanations. Therefore, right-wing populists’ attacks against gender studies will be discussed in the following chapter with regard to their ideological basis. Since the early 1990s, a campaign led mainly by the Catholic Church has attacked gender studies, claiming the field’s insights threaten the traditional family. While at the beginning the campaign was not very prominent, this changed with a general rise of right-wing populists in Europe connected to this movement (Berbuir, Lewandowsky, & Siri, 2014; Paternotte & Kuhar, 2017). The movement’s opposition to gender studies and related fields is captured by their use of concepts such as “anti-genderism” and “gender ideology.” These terms among others are used by right-wing populists to denote several related but distinct fields and phenomena such as gender studies, gender mainstreaming, and feminism (Hark & Villa, 2015). Despite the conceptual as well as structural differences, right-wing populists mostly consider them to be part of one homogenous movement (Kováts, 2018). Research to date has predominantly seen anti-gender campaigns as an alliance of conservative actors (Graff, 2014; Grzebalska, 2016; Lang, 2015); however, the specific role of right-wing populism fueling this ideology-based rejection of science has received comparatively little attention. In addition to the emergence of such ideological and strategic coalitions whose members and discourses are present in the traditional media and the public space from time to time (see, for example, on the issue of climate change, Boykoff, 2013; Gavin & Marshall, 2011), new networks of actors and channels have arisen online. Beyond the established intellectual and scientific fields, new hubs and celebrities of anti-genderist discourses and climate skepticism have risen to prominence. Some of the protagonists A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 255 have academic credentials but are usually not recognized in the fields of gender studies or climate research. Their prominence is mainly based on the success of their blogs, YouTube channels, or social media accounts; however, this can lead to appearances in the traditional media, on campuses, and on other platforms. In addition, this discourse is reproduced in myriads of posts and comments on social media by non-prominent users. All these alliances, as well as social and online networks, are of interest for academic research in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of right-wing populists’ anti-science sentiments. However, the scope of this chapter is to gain deeper insights into the ideological foundations of rightwing populists’ rejection of scientific fields. Thus, we will focus on the aspects of populists’ ideology underlying this hostility against gender studies and climate change. We seek to interpret these attacks based on an understanding of right-wing populism as an ideology with specific elements such as traditionalism and anti-elitism (which we will explicate in more detail below). Furthermore, we argue that right-wing populism implies an “epistemology” of its own, i.e., a conception of what constitutes knowledge (and what does not) as well as ideas about legitimate and “productive” activities that contribute to the welfare of the people as right-wing populists define it. After reconstructing the right-wing populist view of the two fields of research, we discuss the implications for these disciplines and their potential reactions. Populist Epistemology Is right-wing populism an anti-science, post-truth ideology as several authors (cf. Harsin, 2018; Stegemann & Ossewaarde, 2018; Verloo, 2018) seem to suggest? We would argue that it is more complicated than that because right-wing populists in their ultimately paradoxical criticism of science acknowledge certain aspects of scientific epistemology. We live in an era where truth matters more than ever, where many are obsessed with defining truth (Farkas & Shou, 2018). Certainly, the authority of institutions that have been considered arbiters of truth is contested. However, actors in different camps (including right-wing populists) insist on the veracity of what certain authorities consider to be facts (which does not exclude tactical lies that are being spread, for example, via social media for political gains, but it would be implausible to consider right-wing populists as pure opportunists, political cynics, skeptics, or nihilists and to reduce their communication to mere propaganda tactics). 2.1. Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 256 Epistemology constitutes the study of justified true beliefs (Steup, 2005) and thus of the foundations of what is considered knowledge. It appears that right-wing populists have adapted a number of seemingly incompatible practices for justifying their beliefs. For example, right-wing populists have a tendency towards a decomplexification of rather complex issues like environmental problems (Stegemann & Ossewaarde, 2018). This is also mirrored in their epistemology. Right-wing populists often appeal to common sense (Brown, 2014): truth is apparent, simple, concrete, and anecdotal, as well as natural and traditional (Priester, 2007). Some authors argue that this appeal to common sense is derived from populists’ more general appeal to the people (Rose, 2017). As the people are righteous and upstanding, they are more trustworthy than experts and institutions of knowledge production. Consequently, experiences of people and everydaylife knowledge is considered most legitimate (van Zoonen, 2012). Rose (2017) argues that this has epistemological consequences as seemingly undistorted and unmediated knowledge of the ordinary citizen is considered true knowledge: “to see is to know” (p. 314). Saurette and Gunster (2011) characterize this emphasis on tangible everyday-life knowledge in populist rhetoric as “epistemological populism.” In this sense, common people are actually more reliable than academic elites and more capable of recognizing the truth. This does not mean that right-wing populists put ordinary people’s voices at the center of their communication—they merely appeal to common sense and the allegedly shared perspective of the people in their often rather top-down approach. However, this forms only one aspect of right-wing populists’ epistemology. At the same time, they incorporate seemingly scientific knowledge, complex explanations, and empirical data in their knowledge base. These dimensions of right-wing populists’ epistemology constitute “counterknowledge” based on a counter-expertise that is intended to appear objective (Ylä-Antilla, 2018). Still, this counter-knowledge is rarely presented in the same form as knowledge from scientific fields. It is mostly informal and presented in blogs, videos, or printed magazines instead of imitating scientific publications (while certain radical right-wing think tanks also issue publications with an academic appearance, but mostly on other social and [meta-]political issues). Thus, in the discourse of right-wing populists, truth can be abstract, hidden, and even scientific. Not only are highly abstract social entities and developments postulated (such as “the people,” ethnicities, and cultures, as well as the social trends and sophisticated plots that right-wing populists assume exist around these entities). The “hard” natural sciences are also pitted against gender studies: the biological “fact” of two and only two A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 257 clearly distinguishable sexes, their mutual attraction, and their influence on the behavior of men and women are assumed to contradict the claims of gender studies and to render their entire perspective completely baseless. “Clear” and “precise” statements in the natural sciences are opposed to jargon—and even deliberately obfuscated but ultimately nonsensical talk—in the humanities and social sciences. By claiming that researchers only pursue their studies and make certain claims because of their selfinterest or their own ideological beliefs (Castanho Silva, Vegetti, & Littvay, 2017), right-wing populists even seem to acknowledge that science can be socially shaped and constructed. Finally, right-wing populists turn norms of science against science: if science is supposed to be based on organized skepticism, climate researchers cannot simply refer to a consensus and brush aside doubts; their findings must be constantly questioned. However, this worldview is ultimately asymmetrical: Truth reveals itself only to the unideological right-wing populist observers who identify certain research as part of a political conspiracy and the result of a closed belief system. This aspect will be treated in more detail in section 2.3. Still, if right-wing populists diagnose a socially determined false consciousness or accuse researchers of self-serving false claims, these conclusions are not open to the same type of methodical skepticism. They rest on a type of reasoning that, in turn, does not systematically reflect on its own social conditions and biases, such as cherry-picking those results of research that support one’s own claims and essentializing the seemingly self-evident nature of things. As Forchtner, Kroneder, and Wetzel (2018) found, right-wing climate change deniers often claim that they simply articulate obvious truths and sometimes even use irony to emphasize that the left is irrational, lacks common sense, and is incapable of recognizing the most obvious facts. Traditionalism In addition to right-wing populists’ general epistemology, several aspects of their ideology can be identified that foster their rejection of certain scientific fields. One relevant component of right-wing populists’ ideology is their traditionalism. Right-wing populism follows a tradition-based conception of the identity of the people. This traditionalism ranges between conventionalism and an appeal to the cultural roots of the people. It includes the nostalgic recalling of the more or less recent past, or of a longago golden age, that is not yet lost but is threatened by modernization processes as well as the growing complexities of daily life (Priester, 2007). Es- 2.2. Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 258 pecially in situations where the status quo seems threatened by elites, rightwing populists appeal to their cultural heritage and feel patronized (Priester, 2012). Furthermore, their conventionalism can be understood as the preservation of established and otherwise unquestioned habits and norms of everyday life. Consequently, right-wing populists advocate for sticking to traditions, the status quo, and the usual way of life. The traditionalism of right-wing populists is then associated with their ideologybased rejection of scientific fields like climate change and gender studies. One reason that right-wing populists’ traditionalism fuels their rejection of gender studies is that the latter aim at dissolving seemingly natural categories of biological gender (cf. Degele, 2003). Consequently, right-wing populists perceive gender studies as an attempt to corrode existing gender roles (Lang, 2015) as well as a manipulative attempt to destroy traditions and family values (Hankisky & Skoryk, 2014). According to Paternotte and Kuhar (2017), the war on gender contains a “nostalgia for a lost golden age, where everything was simple and genders were what they looked like” (p. 14). In order to protect traditional family values, right-wing populists denounce relationship models and family visions that deviate from the norm. Hence, they are willing to form alliances with other conservative and religious actors (Lesch, 2017). Interestingly, a paradox emerges in right-wing populists’ rejection of gender studies and related conceptions. This is especially the case in situations where right-wing populists’ traditionalism competes with other core ideological concepts like nationalism and anti-immigrationism (Mudde & Rovira Kaltwasser, 2017). Here, rightwing populists are willing to form alliances with otherwise adversarial groups like feminists. For example, in order to attack Muslim men, rightwing populists confederate themselves with feminist subgroups (Farris, 2017; Meret & Siim, 2013, de Lange & Mügge, 2015; Vieten, 2016). In addition, climate change research and respective policies are perceived by right-wing populists as a threat to existing traditions, societal norms, and values. Climate change is a global phenomenon demanding far-reaching and immediate changes in societal and individual behavior (Oreskes, 2004). Research has shown that climate change denial by conservative actors is determined by their resistance to the solutions proposed to combat the phenomenon (Campbell & Kay, 2014) and is thus a reaction against changing societal conditions (Krange, Kaltenborn, & Hultman, 2019). Consequently, right-wing populists may deny climate change due to structural reasons as large numbers of their supporters work in polluting industries (Lockwood, 2018). Bechtel, Genovese, and Scheve (2017) show that such employment-related interests significantly predict climate change related behavioral intentions. Those individuals who work in polluting in- A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 259 dustries are less likely to support environmental protection. Thus, rightwing populists may perceive environmental protection as an ultimate threat to their jobs and livelihoods. However, a recent study by Farstad (2017) shows that parties’ positions on climate change are best explained by their respective ideology, their ideological positions on issues like economics and their policy preferences. This again may hold true for right-wing populists as climate change is a global phenomenon threatening conventional ways of living. In order to combat its catastrophic consequences, calls are frequently expressed for individual adaptation resulting in changes in existing conventions and habits (see Gifford, 2011), making climate change prone to right-wing populists’ attacks. Their criticism is motivated by possible implications of the findings of climate research that are sometimes expressed by researchers themselves but sometimes are only spoken of in other arenas such as politics and journalism. If attacks on the epistemic foundations of climate research are sometimes, but not always, published in a more academic or intellectual style, the practical implications are more often addressed in a more polemical tone and in more informal messages. Right-wing populist communicators, including politicians, media personae, and ordinary citizens, then accuse climate scientists of politically motivated attacks on customary ways of living in social media posts, comments, speeches, interviews, and so on: These eco-Stalinist pseudo-scientists want to ban cars, steaks, and other perfectly normal and traditional parts of our everyday culture. While the reluctance to change behavior and the perceived economic consequences may in part explain right-wing populists’ climate change skepticism, more deeply rooted aspects of conventionalism and traditionalism also seem to fuel their opposition towards the field of climate research. As has been pointed out before, several studies show that a conservative ideology is a significant predictor of climate change denial. Furthermore, study results by Hamilton and Saito (2015) indicate that right-wing populist groups like Tea Party supporters are even less likely than Republicans to believe in anthropogenic climate change. Despite certain overlaps, there seem to be several differences between classical conservatism and rightwing populism regarding climate change perceptions. Thus, right-wing populists’ conservatism and traditionalism seem to make them even more prone to attacks against climate research. For example, right-wing populists’ opposition towards environmental protection varies according to the targets of protection plans. As study results indicate, right-wing populists are not hostile towards all aspects of environmental protection (Forchtner & Kølvraa, 2015; Forchtner et al., Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 260 2018). Based on their nationalism, an imagined homeland forms a relevant aspect of right-wing actors’ ideology that can ultimately foster conservation behavior. Right-wing populists attach value to certain places and landscapes as they form the local basis and symbols of “the people’s” identity. Taggart (2000) refers to this (imaginative) locality as the “heartland” implied in right-wing populist worldviews. Consequently, right-wing actors including populists differentiate between local and global conservation. Thus, these actors often support local conservation initiatives while rejecting global climate change as a phenomenon (Forchtner & Kølvraa, 2015; Forchtner et al., 2018). This result, however, is of little surprise as rightwing populism is per se a nationalist ideology; therefore, national interests are at the core of their worldview, while supranational institutions and policies in general are perceived as a weakening of the respective nations and a threat to their traditions and sovereignty (Zaslove, 2008). Anti-Elitism and Conspiracy Theories Anti-elitism is another central aspect of right-wing populists’ ideology. It implies that corrupt and malicious elites are suppressing the righteous people and are hindering the implementation of the general will (Mudde & Rovira Kaltwasser, 2017; Taggart, 2000). Furthermore, these elites, including groups like environmentalists and feminists, are seen as capturing the political process with corruption and special interests (Taggart, 2000). Consequently, this anti-elitism is a relevant component of right-wing populists’ anti-genderism and climate change denial. Two explanation are possible. First, science and the scientific community are perceived by rightwing populists as being part of the elitist circles that control society. Scientists as well as science in general are thus perceived as part of the elitist structures in society that oppress the ordinary citizen. Second, both gender studies and climate change can be connected to predominantly liberal and left-wing societal groups (e.g., feminist groups, environmental nongovernmental organizations) even if many researchers emphasize the separation between science and activism (while right-wing populists tend to deny that the separation is actually upheld). Thus, right-wing populists can interpret demands that they ascribe to the scientific fields as coming from special interests occupying the political process. In line with this, several authors note that gender studies are perceived by right-wing populists as part of an agenda of liberal elites manipulating members of the public (Harsin, 2018; Korolczuk & Graff, 2018; Paternotte & Kuhar, 2017). For example, right-wing populists perceive gender pol- 2.3. A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 261 icies as ideologies imposed by gender studies and implemented by global elites and supranational institutions like the European Union, ultimately posing a potential threat to Western societies (Korolczuk & Graff, 2018). Likewise, belief in climate change and support for climate protection can be interpreted by right-wing populists as an elitist phenomenon. Studies investigating the roots of climate change skepticism more generally show that climate skeptics criticize an elite that, according to them, is willing to sacrifice people’s livelihoods as well as their actual lives over abstract scientific findings on climate change (Anshelm & Hultman, 2014). In addition, those who believe in climate change are often depicted by their opponents as a religious and cult-like group, identifying belief in climate change as the special interest of fanatical groups of people imposing their beliefs and will on ordinary citizens (Jaspal, Nerlich, & van Vuuren, 2016; Nerlich, 2010). Consequently, Lockwood (2018) argues that right-wing populists also perceive climate change scientists as a minority group whose special interests capture the political process. In line with this, right-wing populists’ worldviews are often associated with conspiracy theories. As has been pointed out before, conspiracy theories of right-wing populists can be defined as counter-knowledge par excellence that forms a substantial part of their theory of knowledge (Yla-Antilla, 2018). Castanho Silva et al. (2017) found that holding a populist worldview is associated with several sub-facets involving conspiracy theories. This can be explained by the compatibility of populists’ vision of controlling elites with the structural aspects of conspiracy theories more broadly (cf. Campion-Vincent, 2007). Furthermore, holding a general conspiracist ideation is linked to climate change denial (Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013a; Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013b). Especially in the context of climate change, several conspiracy theories exist that can thus be utilized by right-wing populists. Following the argumentation of these theories, climate change is a conspiracy by scientists to gain money and power with the aim of changing society (Douglas & Sutton, 2015; Nerlich, 2010; Soentgen & Bilandzic, 2014). In line with this, a study by Forchtner et al. (2018) found that right-wing actors accuse climate change accepting actors of intentionally inventing a catastrophe for financial motives and as part of (left-wing) conspiracies. Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 262 An Ideology of Productivity The relationship between populism in general—and right-wing populism in particular—and economic policies is a complex issue that cannot be discussed here. However, as already noted above, previous literature has found that climate skepticism can be explained by perceived costs of solutions, perceived threat to jobs in certain industries and, on the ideological level, by economic liberalism (Campbell & Kay, 2014; Cann & Raymond, 2018; Lewandowsky et al., 2013a, b). Thus, along with climate change skepticism challenging the epistemic basis of the phenomenon, we have already mentioned a version of climate change skepticism that rejects on an economic basis the solutions and policies associated with climate change prevention (Capstick & Pidgeon, 2014). Not all right-wing populists are strictly economically liberal, although they mostly support the general principles of a capitalist economy. Some favor a certain level of social protection against market forces and against foreign competition and do not clearly position themselves on the classical economic left-right axis (Rydgren, 2007). Furthermore, we would argue that, independently of their position with regard to economic liberalism and the welfare state, rightwing populist parties may entertain other more fundamental conceptions of worthwhile activities, productivity, and merit (that may then explain the adherence of some right-wing populists to economic liberalism while also being compatible with other policies). Unlike other forms of populism that aim to represent the economically disadvantaged as such, rightwing populism tends to blame and exclude individuals and groups of people whom it considers an economic burden because they do not contribute to the wealth of the people, or they illegitimately compete for social benefits that they do not deserve. This often implies the idea that ordinary (native) people are hard-working and honest (and therefore deserve a certain solidarity), while elites are unproductive and parasitic outgroups threatening the productivity and competitiveness of the nation (Betz, 1993; Guardino & Snyder, 2012). Measures for climate protection and regulations in favor of gender equality (or any research on inequality)—in particular if they are implemented unilaterally—may be seen as just another elite project that threatens the wealth of one’s nation and redistributes this wealth to underserving minorities. We may also speculate that this conception of productivity and competition in right-wing populism also has a certain stereotypically male connotation. If men are associated with production and woman with reproduction (Lang, 2015), then everything that has to do with gender can be associated with a loss of virility and productivity and with unjustified 2.4. A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 263 privileges for less qualified and productive women in fields where they should have a “natural” disadvantage. And any form of research like gender studies or climate research that, in the view of right-wing populists, does not lead to technological advances or to other increases in productivity is considered useless if not counterproductive. For example, when Viktor Orbán’s government decided to phase out programs in gender studies, they not only criticized the discipline for being ideological and unscientific, but also claimed that there are no relevant occupations in the labor market for graduates. Conclusion: Reactions in the Scientific Fields Right-wing populists consider gender studies and climate research to be unproductive, even parasitic, elite projects that are contrary to common sense and—at the same time—unscientific. They believe that this elite conspiracy undermines the traditional way of living, and they see it as more political than many researchers would define it. Activities in the two disciplines are defined not so much as activism but as a top-down attempt to fundamentally change society. Thus, right-wing populists appeal to the status quo and present power structures in a way that is largely antithetical to the perspective of the majority of scholars: the populists criticize the rule of politically correct, feminist, etc., liberals or leftists in place of a patriarchal system; they focus on the powerful interests of the renewable energy industry and of climate researchers themselves instead of on a system that is still very much dependent on fossil fuels and dominated by corresponding interests and actors or by structural conservatism and path dependencies. The main aim of our contribution has not been to outline any strategies of how researchers should communicate and react to the attacks from right-wing populists but to understand the ideological basis for this questioning and these denunciations, which is key in combating phenomena like climate change skepticism (Hobson & Niemeyer, 2013). However, we will shortly reflect on the general possibilities and the different potentials of the two fields to address these attacks. Traditionally, scientists have been advised to customize their messages to the specific worldviews of different skeptical target groups and to use existing beliefs as a starting point to argue against views that are incompatible with established scientific findings (a “jiu-jitsu strategy”; Hornsey & Fielding, 2017). However, respective targeting strategies in general as well as in the context of right-wing populism have to be designed extremely 3. Benjamin Krämer & Magdalena Klingler 264 carefully in order to avoid intensifying societal polarization (Hine et al., 2014) by normalizing, legitimizing, or even implicitly confirming parts of the worldview. Some have argued that right-wing populists’ rejection of climate research and gender studies is mainly a strategy used to introduce new audiences to other right-wing populist issues and ideological elements (e.g., immigration and nativism; Forchtner et al., 2018; Lang, 2015; Grzebalska, 2016, 2017) and to form alliances with different groups of actors (Farris, 2017; de Lange & Mügge, 2015; Paternotte & Kuhar, 2017). If this were the case, the answer would be to reveal this strategy instead of addressing the seemingly deep-seated convictions concerning gender and climate. However, right-wing populists’ climate skepticism and anti-genderism as well as the delegitimization of climate research and gender studies should not be reduced to a mere tactic. It is always difficult to judge the sincerity and strength of convictions, but our analysis of ideological factors driving right-wing populists’ anti-science rhetoric indicate that the rejection of certain types of scientific practice and knowledge is probably based on ideology and thus connected to the core of right-wing populism. Still, it can be an important strategy to undermine the actual—or the not too unlikely—alliances by communicating with other groups that may form coalitions with right-wing populists or entertain similar beliefs on gender and the climate but that are more moderate in their discursive strategies and more open to real dialogue. If the aim is not only the containment of right-wing populism as a political force, in particular with regard to ecological and gender issues, or as a discriminatory practice but also to change right-wing populist worldviews, this is a challenging task that is not at the core of science communication. However, a small subgroup of right-wing populists, maybe with an academic background, may be open to arguments concerning, for example, the nature of the evidence for climate change, the biological complexity of sex, or the cultural and historical variability of conceptions of gender. The ability of the two fields discussed here not only to immediately respond to attacks but also to reflect on the underlying reasons and on the implications of the criticism probably depends on their own epistemological and social foundations. The established epistemology of the natural sciences separates the social context and practices of the production of knowledge from what is considered the actual methods of inquiry and from the documentation of the methodology and findings. Those with a “science war” mentality would even claim that the social analysis of science introduces a dangerous relativism or produces mere nonsense (on the science wars, see, for example, the contributions in Ashman & Baringer, 2001; A bad political climate for climate research and trouble for gender studies 265 Ross, 1996). Other natural scientists accept this type of analysis as a distinct perspective that does not question the validity of research in the natural sciences. Still, these disciplines themselves, including climate research, do not provide a conceptual framework that would directly lead to an understanding of right-wing populist criticism nor to counterstrategies against such attacks. Even if researchers acknowledge the necessity of science communication and political involvement, these are external to the logic of their fields. Based on their own logic, they can only repeat the claim that there is a consensus that is fact-based and refer to what, by their own standards, counts as evidence. Gender studies, in contrast, can and did make the opposition to their concepts and practices an object of research and systematically discussed strategies to counter such attacks. At least some of the heterogeneous theoretical frameworks in the field allow for such (self‑)reflexivity. The structure of some approaches is similar to or even inspired by theories that can, within themselves, understand and explain opposition to themselves or their practical or political applications. However, the criticism still poses a number of challenges because the field is directly confronted with other, mostly scientistic epistemologies and with its sometimes ambivalent relationship with activism (Pető, 2016). 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This volume assembles a wide range of perspectives on populism and the media, bringing together various disciplinary and theoretical approaches, authors and examples from different continents and a wide range of topical issues. The chapters discuss the contexts of populist communication, communication by populist actors, different types of populist messages (populist communication in traditional and new media, populist criticism of the media, populist discourses related to different topics, etc.), the effects and consequences of populist communication, populist media policy and anti-populist discourses. The contributions synthesise existing research on this subject, propose new approaches to it or present new findings on the relationship between populism and the media. With contibutions by Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz


Der Band vereint ein breites Spektrum von Perspektiven auf das Thema Populismus und Medien. Er bringt verschiedene fachliche und theoretische Ansätze, Beitragende und Beispiele von mehreren Kontinenten und ein breites Spektrum aktueller Themen und Herausforderungen zusammen. Die Kapitel behandeln den Kontext populistischer Kommunikation, Kommunikation durch populistische Akteure, verschiedene Typen populistischer Botschaften (populistische Kommunikation in traditionellen und neuen Medien, populistische Medienkritik, populistische Diskurse zu verschiedenen Themen), Wirkungen und Konsequenzen populistischer Kommunikation, populistische Medienpolitik, aber auch antipopulistische Diskurse. Die Beiträge systematisieren vorhandene Forschung, schlagen neue Ansätze vor oder präsentieren neue Befunde zum Verhältnis von Populismus und Medien. Mit Beiträgen von Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz