Nayla Fawzi, Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism in:

Benjamin Krämer, Christina Holtz-Bacha (Ed.)

Perspectives on Populism and the Media, page 39 - 56

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
Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism Nayla Fawzi The relationship between populism and the media can be described as rather paradoxical. On the one hand, the media are often cited as a relevant factor in the rise of populism in modern democracies. They provide favorable opportunity structures for populist actors and cover them and their issues comprehensively. A populist logic that includes provocative and negative statements and often focuses on a charismatic leader is highly compatible with the logic of news production (Esser, Stępińska, & Hopmann, 2017; Mazzoleni, 2014). On the other hand, we can observe very harsh and fundamental media criticism by populist actors. US President Donald Trump constantly condemns the media for being biased and accuses them of reporting “fake news” and being “the enemy of the people.” In Germany, politicians from the populist Alternative for Germany party repeatedly criticize the media. Supporters of the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) movement have titled the mainstream media as the “lying press” and violently attacked journalists during their demonstrations. And Hungarian prime minister Victor Orbán has restricted freedom of the press. In sum, these examples illustrate a huge effort by populist actors to delegitimize journalism and its institutions. Even though these examples relate to current cases, media criticism in general is not a new phenomenon. Politicians often express negative attitudes towards the media and distrust journalists (Brants, de Vreese, Möller, & van Praag, 2010; Watts, Domke, Shah, & Fan, 1999). They tend to react to negative media coverage with hostility and accuse the respective media outlets of being biased against them. Moreover, with regard to the citizens, a large part of many Western societies also does not trust the media and expresses various points of criticism. Consequently, there is a large body of research on media criticism both on a theoretical and on an empirical level that dates back several decades (Chomsky, 2002; Goldstein, 2007; Watts et al., 1999). Especially, the Frankfurt-school and other critical scholars (e.g., Bourdieu, 2001) have largely focused the media’s role in society. Media criticism can be differentiated in terms of internal media criticism by the media themselves and external media criticism voiced by scholars, political actors or citizens. The latter has often come along with a 39 political leaning. While left-wing actors criticize, for instance, the “capitalist system media” and their “neoliberal propaganda,” right-wing actors attack the mainstream media’s “left or liberal bias” (Ladd, 2012; Smith, 2010). Within the research on the hostile media phenomenon, it has been shown both for political actors (Matthes, Maurer, & Arendt, 2019) and citizens (Vallone, Ross, & Lepper, 1985) that the more left- or right-wing oriented they are, the more biased they perceive the media to be. Such media criticism in general is an important element in democracies, as it ideally fosters a critical reflection on the journalistic routines, journalistic norms and values, its democratic functions, or its quality criteria. There are indeed numerous developments in the media landscape that can be observed critically and evaluated problematically, such as commercialization (McManus, 2009) or tabloidization (Mackay, 2017). Thus, assessing which media criticism is justified and which is not is rather difficult. It clearly becomes problematic and worrisome when it is generalized, completely unfounded or anti-democratic, e.g., containing hate speech. Scholars observe a fundamental change in the way such criticism is expressed today by becoming more prominent and more hostile (Krämer, 2018a; McNair, 2017). In 2018, according to Reporters Without Borders (2018), press freedom decreased the most in European countries (although they respect press freedom in general the most). The organization states that political actors in both opposition and government increasingly express anti-media hate speech, which may prepare the ground for violence against journalists. In several cases, these actors belong to parties that can be classified as populist. In contrast to normative media criticism, their form of criticism is often strategic, as it aims at achieving particular interests of specific groups of society. On the other hand, populist media criticism has a genuine democratic and participative character by pointing out the lack of representation of interests of some segments of the population (Neverla, 2019). This chapter seeks to shed light on this populist media criticism by theoretically analyzing the relationship between the dimensions of populism and negative attitudes toward the media. It is the aim of this analysis to extract the genuine populist element of media criticism. The chapter will include the perspective of both populist political actors and citizens, but will focus on the latter. It will present the major points of criticism of the media and the places where this criticism is voiced. With the use of the term “media,” this chapter refers to established, professional media and does not include criticism of social media, alternative media or citizen journalism. The latter media outlets are, however, relevant when dealing with the venues where criticism of the established media is voiced. The following Nayla Fawzi 40 reflections mainly refer to Western democracies but might also be applicable to other cases. Finally, this paper will focus on right-wing populism due to its current rise in many Western democracies and its challenge for the media (Wodak, KhosraviNik, & Mral, 2013). Left-wing populist media criticism differs with regard to several points of criticism, e.g., their understanding of the media’s role in society or their definition of populists’ ingroups and outgroups, which are thus neglected in the following. Defining Populism and Populist Attitudes In recent years, scholars have followed the idea that populism cannot only be analyzed on the political supply side, but also as an individual-level characteristic in the form of an attitude on the demand side (Akkerman, Mudde, & Zaslove, 2014; Hawkins, Riding, & Mudde, 2012; Rooduijn, 2014a; Schulz et al., 2017). While the understanding of populism as a discourse strategy or communication style is fruitful in many contexts, this chapter mainly follows the ideational approach of populism (Mudde & Rovira Kaltwasser, 2013), as it allows the analysis of populist attitudes empirically, both on the supply and demand side. The different understandings of populism can mainly be traced to different contextual conditions (Priester, 2012); they fundamentally differ when analyzing populism, for instance, in Latin America, the U.S., or Europe. Due to these large differences, the following reflections need to focus on a geographic region and will mainly be applicable to the current situation in Europe. They follow the understanding of populism as a (thin) ideology that consists of several subdimensions. In a populist ideology, the political elite are accused of depriving the people of their sovereignty and exploiting democracy for their personal goals. They are portrayed as a detached, corrupt and self-serving group that is antagonistic to the people (Canovan, 1981; Mudde, 2004; Taggart, 2000). This vertical exclusion has been labeled anti-elite populism (Jagers & Walgrave, 2007). Another central part is the reference to the people, which is at the core of a populist ideology. Crucial here is that the people are depicted as a pure, virtuous and homogenous group. This constructed ingroup of the people is contrasted in a horizontal opposition to “the others” (anti-outgroup populism). Some authors see the exclusion of an outgroup as part of an additional right- or left-wing ideology (Schulz et al., 2017); others argue that “the others” are a constitutive part of populist ideas (Reinemann, Aalberg, Esser, Strömbäck, & de Vreese, 2017), because the construction of a homogeneous people is 1. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 41 mainly possible by emphasizing an opposition between “us” and “them”. The definition of the outgroup further determines the understanding of the “people,” for instance, as a class or nation (Brubaker, 2017; Mény & Surel, 2002). A right-wing populist ideology understands “the people” as a culturally or ethnically homogenous ingroup whose will should be implemented in favor of the outgroups’ interests, as they do not belong to “the people.” Individuals that agree with these populist ideas can be labeled populist citizens (Jacobs, Akkerman, & Zaslove, 2018; Schulz, Wirth, & Müller, 2018). The chapter will refer to these three dimensions of populism in the following analysis: homogeneity of the people, anti-elite and anti-outgroup attitudes. Populist Media Criticism Recent studies have shown that citizens’ attitudes and preferences are more consistent than previous studies have suggested. Citizens do not necessarily recognize a higher-order connection between different social domains; however, they tend to think in terms of broad ideas of how they function and how they are connected (Feldman & Johnston, 2014). Thus, it can be assumed that citizens tend to evaluate society and its institutions in congruence with their political worldview. In our case, this means that populist attitudes should influence how citizens evaluate the media’s role in society and the media’s performance and vice versa. In this process, all populist dimensions can be regarded as a relevant initial point. Thus, the following section will present how anti-elite attitudes, the perception of a homogenous people, and right-wing anti-outgroup attitudes are related to criticism of the media. Anti-Elite Attitudes A populist ideology contains an anti-elite stance that also includes the media. Populists perceive the media as being part of the establishment and neglecting the people’s interests. They often tend to disregard the media as a crucial part of democracies but evaluate them as enemies (Esser et al., 2017; Jagers & Walgrave, 2007; Krämer, 2018b). Such attitudes are summarized under the term anti-media populism, which describes an attitude that perceives a great divide between “bad and corrupt journalists” and “the good people” (Fawzi & Krämer, under review; Krämer, 2018b). Jour- 2. 2.1 Nayla Fawzi 42 nalists are portrayed as detached from the people and do not serve the public’s but their own or the ruling elites’ interests. This is also reflected by the term “Lügenpresse,” which assumes that the media – together with the political elite – purposely lie to the people. “Lügenpresse” was first used at the beginning of the 20th century, but experienced a revival recently due to its increased usage by far-right actors. Great attention was given to the term by the PEGIDA movement, which repeatedly referred to it during their weekly demonstrations.   Figure 1. Populist narratives on the media-politics-people relationship The populist perception of the media-politics-citizens relationship (see Figure 1) is based either on the narrative that the media are controlled by the political elite and advocate in favor of them, or that the hegemonic media support the interests of the political elite with their coverage, or that both the media and politics actively conspire (Krämer, 2018b; Fawzi, 2019; Schulz et al., 2018). All three explanations are founded on the notion that politics and media are not independent of each other; they give different reasons for that. The first explanation considers politics as actively influencing the media; the second assumes a rather voluntary adaptation of the media to politics. The media do not adhere to their professional standards and do not maintain the necessary professional distance and, consequently, do not fulfill their watchdog function. The latter explanation (which is usually only claimed by rather extreme actors) assumes a joint collaboration of media and politics (Figenschou & Ihlebæk, 2019). In any case, populists suppose that both the media and politics together betray the people. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 43 According to populist ideology, this results in an uncritical media coverage of the ruling elite. Failures and grievances of the political elite are said to be swept under the carpet by the media. In contrast, populist actors see themselves as treated the opposite. They criticize the media for covering populists unfairly and excluding them from the spectrum of legitimate positions. The media would jump at any lapse and, thus, populists accuse them of using double standards (Haller & Holt, 2018; Krämer, 2018a). Many populist actors, such as Donald Trump in the U.S., Marine Le Pen in France, or Alexander Gauland in Germany, express these accusations. In this context, however, they do not mention their often-used strategy of self-scandalization to receive (negative) media coverage, which allows them to portray themselves as victims of the media (Haller, 2015). Moreover, right-wing populists perceive journalists to be too liberal, left-wing oriented and “green.” Most journalists indeed do not represent the general population and, in particular, populist citizens in terms of sociodemographic factors and political attitudes – which actually should not be a problem as long as media coverage is not biased accordingly. Moreover, journalists are highly educated and often part of the intellectual elite (Hanitzsch, Steindl, & Lauerer, 2016). Thus, populists might not only feel neglected by the political elite but also do not feel represented by journalists or media coverage. Populist actors tap into this dissatisfaction and depict themselves as the most able to directly implement the people’s will (Rooduijn, 2014b). They claim to have a moral monopoly over the representation of the people and their true interests (Müller, 2016). This claim is based on a normative assessment and not on empirical evidence. Populists pretend to naturally know the true will of the people, which they perceive as being suppressed by the media (Müller, 2016). Thus, from their point of view, the media are not a legitimate intermediary between the people and the political elite (Dahlgren, 1995) due to a lack of representation and not communicating the people’s real interests. Populists criticize that, especially, the liberal media purposely conceal issues from the public that would confirm the populist worldview but censor in the name of “political correctness.” In contrast, critics of populism refer to the large compatibility between media and populist logic and state that populists receive too much media attention, for instance in talk shows. Content analyses in several European countries show that right-wing populist actors and parties receive a large amount of media coverage but are not overrepresented. Both populist and non-populist political actors receive mainly negative media coverage; however, populists are evaluated more negatively (Wettstein, Esser, Schulz, Wirz, & Wirth, 2018). Regardless of the causes of Nayla Fawzi 44 this, it might explain the negative media evaluations, as populists perceive their preferred political parties as being incorrectly and unfavorably portrayed. Based on a German representative survey, Fawzi (2019) indeed showed that mainly the anti-elite dimension goes hand in hand with negative attitudes toward the media. In this context, it is important to concretize the term “the media,” as populist media criticism might have specific media outlets in mind when talking about the media. First, it is plausible that the media’s role as political actors matters. Some media outlets promote populist ideas and support populist actors and parties in their coverage themselves, which has been labeled media populism (Krämer, 2014). Consequently, it can be assumed that the main objects of populist media criticism are rather those “mainstream media” that cannot be classified as populist. Second, a useful distinction can be made between “quality media,” which includes public broadcasting but also national or local newspapers with a focus on hard news and tabloid media, respectively, commercial broadcasting, whose style of political coverage is usually more soft-news oriented (Bird, 2009). Public service broadcasting often serves as an ideal-typical media enemy of populist actors due to its structural proximity to the state (Engesser, Ernst, Esser, & Büchel, 2017). A natural alliance has been observed in particular between tabloid media outlets and populism (Mazzoleni, 2014). Tabloid media are often more focused on news values such as negativity or personalization and present themselves as taboo breakers, advocates of the ordinary citizens, and opponents of the ruling elite, which overlaps a lot with the populist logic (Wettstein et al., 2018). It is therefore assumed that they cover populist actors and their issues more intensively and in a more positive way, while quality newspapers, and in particular public service broadcasting, are said to have a more critical stance towards populist actors (Esser et al., 2017; Krämer, 2017). Content analyses in ten European countries did find a more pronounced media populism in tabloid and commercial media (Wettstein et al., 2018; exception: Bos, van der Brug, & de Vreese, 2010). In line with these considerations, it has been shown that citizens with populist attitudes tend to prefer tabloid media, respectively, commercial TV and entertainment content, to quality media (Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2017; Schulz, 2018). Homogeneity of the People Populist media criticism also stems from the perception of a homogenous ingroup. Based on this perception and the fact that the media often report 2.2 Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 45 negatively and skeptically about populism in many European countries, populists disagree with the depiction of their ingroup by the media but criticize a biased and unfair coverage. They blame journalists for being detached from the people, as the media do not understand their problems or do not even care for them but only for their own interest. These evaluations might also lead to the already described portrayal of the media as an illegitimate and non-representative institution that is suppressing the true will of the people. However, all these points of criticism are based on a very specific populist understanding of the people that only includes their respective ingroup and excludes all individuals who belong to the horizontal or vertical outgroups. This assumption of a homogenous people is clearly anti-pluralistic. Consequently, pluralist media coverage that includes a large spectrum of positions, actors and issues contradicts the populist worldview. Normative expectations towards the media presume balanced, diverse and impartial media coverage (Jandura & Friedrich, 2014; Mc- Quail, 1992). Interestingly, if the media do not meet the populist expectations with regard to representation, populists usually do not call for censorship but refer to these journalistic norms and quality criteria. They call on the criteria of accuracy and completeness and accuse the media of violating these norms (Engesser et al., 2017; Fawzi, 2019; Krämer, 2018a). Thus, paradoxically, although being anti-pluralist themselves, they accuse the media of not being pluralist and objective (Moffit, 2017). From a populist point of view, truth or factuality cannot be traced to a diversity of ideas but on the alleged common sense or attitudes of the ordinary people from the ingroup. A populist worldview does not allow for other standpoints; they are seen as a result of an incompatible culture or an ideological bias (Krämer, 2018a). Right-wing populists in particular do not accept that other ideologies can represent the common interest: “Strictly speaking, freedom of expression, as they conceive it, is the freedom of ingroup members to express the will of ‘the people’ without being censored in the name of political correctness and to claim the preferential treatment which they believe that it deserves” (Krämer, 2018a, p. 142). Populist media criticisms consequently only point out a supposed bias against their ingroup; they will not address any media bias against their outgroups. These perceptions of media bias and non-representation of their ingroup can explain the overall negative evaluation of the mainstream media’s performance by many populists. Individuals who do not perceive the mainstream media as an objective information source and as collaborators with the ruling elites, and do not feel represented by the media, will not assess the media as a citizens’ mouthpiece or political watchdog. Consequently, Schulz et al. (2018) showed that a populist worldview goes hand Nayla Fawzi 46 in hand with hostile media perceptions. And a Pew research study (2018) in eight countries as well as a study from Fawzi (2019) confirmed that populist citizens are less satisfied with the media’s performance, trust the (quality) media less and ascribe to the media a less important role in society than do non-populist citizens. Anti-Outgroup Attitudes The exclusion of outgroups is a core element of the right-wing populist ideology and usually refers to ethnic or religious minorities such as refugees, immigrants or Muslims. Populists try to establish the image of a society in crisis and depict outgroups as a threat to the ingroup and responsible for the constructed crisis. They refer to a “heartland” (Taggart, 2000), an emotional construction of idealized, past times where the will of the people is implemented and populists’ outgroups are marginalized. These anti-outgroup attitudes also reflect the anti-pluralistic character of populism, which is again incompatible with pluralistic media coverage. The exclusion of a specific group of society contradicts the normative expectation that the media should include a wide spectrum of actors and interests in their coverage. Moreover, the media, in particular, public service broadcasting, are supposed to include minorities and discriminated groups in their coverage to secure the social integration of all citizens. Populists also turn these normative expectations against the media. In line with their criticism of the political elite, they also accuse the media of favoring outgroups over the ingroup by too-positive reporting, concealing possible negative events relating to the outgroup and purposely misinforming the public on negative impacts of immigration (see Figure 1). Moreover, they perceive that the media understate criminal acts committed by immigrants (Krämer, 2018a). Thus, in Germany, for instance, they demand the media to always report the ethnic background of perpetrators of criminal or terrorist acts (Haller & Holt, 2018). Although the German press codex clearly states that the media should generally not report the background, populists interpret this as deliberate deception of the public and tend to ignore this paragraph. In Germany, this debate has indeed put pressure on the media, which in the end resulted in editing the press codex. The new paragraph now states that the ethnic or religious background should only be mentioned in case of a “well-founded public interest,” which has been criticized as a rather wooly formulation. In addition, populists claim that while pro-immigration positions receive a large amount of attention, anti-immigration positions do not get 2.3 Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 47 access to media coverage as they are boycotted or censored. While Muslims would be granted a “victim status,” anti-immigrant actors would immediately be depicted as “Nazis” (Figenschou & Ihlebæk, 2018; Holt, 2018). Moreover, populists tend to be subjected to a specific version of the actor-observer bias in this context. They expect the media to attribute criminal acts committed by members of their ingroups to individual motives, while acts committed by outgroup members attributed to their cultural or ethnic background (Krämer, 2018a). Where is Populist Media Criticism Voiced? After presenting the main points of criticism that populist political actors and citizens express towards the media, this section briefly points out in which channels populist media criticism is voiced. Focusing on publicly expressed criticism, social media have gained an important role. Previously, citizens were mainly able to voice their dissatisfaction in interpersonal discussions or letters to the editors, which posed a major hurdle for participation. Today, users can easily voice their opinions in blogs, in the comment sections of mainstream media’s social media pages, or on their own social media profiles, e.g., on Twitter. Studies have shown that user-generated content contains both populist attitudes (Hameleers, 2019) and media criticism (Prochazka & Schweiger, 2016; Schindler, Fortkord, Posthumus, Obermaier, & Reinemann, 2018). Populists actors in particular use social media intensively to attack the mainstream media (Engesser et al., 2017; Haller & Holt, 2018; Waisbord & Amado, 2017). Donald Trump’s Twitter posts, in which he regularly assaults the media, accusing them of lying and spreading fake news, are a prominent example. Although social media allow politicians to circumvent the traditional media as gatekeepers, political legitimacy is still mainly possible to establish via mass media. Thus, populists usually attack only those media that hold a conflicting political position while promoting those with favorable media coverage. Moreover, the media themselves take up the criticism; for instance, they have reported intensively on the “Lügenpresse” accusations (Denner & Peter, 2017). Hereby, the media increase their range and might promote such anti-media populist attitudes themselves. However, they also have the possibility to classify and counter them and provide background. Nevertheless, at least with regards to the Lügenpresse accusations, a profound discussion did not take place. Denner and Peter (2017) rather found an unreflective coverage of these accusations in the German mass media. 3. Nayla Fawzi 48 Finally, alternative media are an important source of populist media criticism. There exist different understandings of alternative media, sometimes also called partisan media. Here, the term is used for those media outlets that state to challenge the hegemonic power of the established media as well as their journalistic authority (Atton; 2008; Fuchs, 2010; Holt, 2018). Alternative media often put a large focus on media criticism as well as criticism of the ruling elite (Fuchs, 2010; Holt, 2018). They want to offer counterstrategies and alternative information, although taking a very clear position themselves. With regard to their points of criticism, they claim at increasing diversity of the media market, covering the real interest of the people, broadening the too-narrow mainstream opinion corridor and thereby expressing large distrust in the media elite. The more extreme sites clearly aim at replacing mainstream media (e.g. Figenschou & Ihlebæk, 2019). With regard to their political standpoint, alternative media often position themselves as opponents of the political establishment and share a very clear anti-immigration position (Holt, 2018). Consequently, many right-wing alternative websites can clearly be classified as populist media (Figenschou & Ihlebæk, 2019). This is also because right-wing populist movements tend to rely more on alternative than on mainstream media (Larsson, 2017) and use them to promote their worldviews. Discussion This chapter has shown that a populist worldview is clearly connected to a negative evaluation of the media’s role in society, and both populist citizens and political actors tend to express very harsh and comprehensive criticism of the media. This stems from their perception of the people as a homogenous group, their anti-elite and anti-outgroup attitudes. In contrast to media criticism in general, populist media criticism does not seem to aim at a reflection of journalistic norms and quality criteria but rather at delegitimizing the media (Lischka, 2019). Consequently, Neverla (2019) argues that the term criticism is actually misleading, as populist media criticism often lacks factual arguments that can be theoretically refuted. Populist media criticism is rather “anti-enlightening, anti-democratic and anti-pluralist” and thus not critical (Neverla, 2019, p. 12). Several of the major points of criticism contradict each other, and it should be kept in mind that attack is not criticism. It is very plausible to assume that populist media criticism goes hand in hand with media cynicism, which can also be described as a generalized distrust that perceives all media as untrustworthy at all times. 4. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 49 Thus, an urgent question regards the effects of such populist media criticism, as they may have major implications for society and democracy. Research has shown that politicians’ media criticisms can increase the public’s perceptions of news bias (Smith, 2010) and decrease their trust in media (Ladd, 2012). As user comments can influence individuals’ perception of public opinion and their own attitudes (Zerback & Fawzi, 2017), this might also be the case for media criticism voiced by populist citizens in social media. However, empirical evidence of the effects of populist actors’ and citizens’ media attacks (especially with a longitudinal perspective) and their mutual relation is needed. What happens if the public is constantly exposed to populist media criticism? Are populists successful in their attempt to delegitimize the media and influence their electorate accordingly? One can assume that this might be an explanation of the observed polarization between social groups that trust and distrust the media. At least in Germany, studies indicate that both groups are increasing, while the group of uncertain individuals is shrinking (e.g. Ziegele et al., 2018). Based on empirical findings that there is a large overlap between populist and distrustful citizens (Fawzi, 2019), one could assume that the anti-media rhetoric of populist actors resonates among populist citizens, while it backfires among non-populist segments. Furthermore, populist media criticism may have major effects on the media themselves. Due to their intentional provocations, which have been labeled as a strategy of self-scandalization (Haller, 2015), populists receive large amounts of media coverage (Wodak, 2013). Nevertheless, populists often depict themselves in the role of victims. It is a very difficult task for journalists to find a balance here, and they actually are in a “no-win’ situation” (Wodak, 2013, p. 32). When reporting about right-wing populism, journalists are often criticized by non-populist actors for giving populists too much attention, reproducing the right-wing narratives and further disseminating them. In contrast, populists criticize the same coverage as not balanced, impartial or too negative. And if the media decide not to cover the provocations and scandals produced by populists, the latter accuse them of censorship and neglecting them. The media need to be careful that these constant attacks on their professional norms do not put them on the defensive, as this might lead to even more coverage and attention by populist actors and ideas and to a mainstreaming of right-wing populist positions. This has already taken place, according to some critics, as populists often manage to frame debates in their desired way and maintain successful issue ownership (Wodak, 2013). Moreover, direct attacks against journalists, e.g., online hate speech can have severe impacts on journalists personally and on their coverage itself and create a worrisome and dysfunc- Nayla Fawzi 50 tional climate. Journalists who report about demonstrations by populists such as PEGIDA are more and more experiencing threats of violence and even physical attacks. Moreover, they regularly become the targets of hate speech in online user comments (Chen et al., 2018; Obermaier, Hofbauer, & Reinemann, 2018; Post & Kepplinger, 2019; Ziegele & Quiring, 2013). Despite this critique of populist media criticism, it has the potential to point to some major problems in terms of the media’s role in society and performance, and some aspects of it should definitely be taken seriously by the media. If several members of the society feel that they cannot really participate, and their interests are not heard by the traditional media or perceive that the media’s reality has nothing to do with their own everyday life, it is journalists’ task to reflect on these perceptions, on their selection of issues and actors in their news coverage and, thus, on their social and political functions in democracies. However, it is also journalists’ task to point out when populists attack liberal democracy, checks and balances and freedom of the press by trying to delegitimize the media. Moreover, they should refrain from falling for the provocations and self-scandalization of many populists due to their high news values. Media criticism is an important part of a democratic society; however, it should be well-founded and constructive and should aim at improving the media’s performance. A populist media critique that is generalized and lacking arguments for their viewpoint might prevent necessary and profound criticism. References Akkerman, A., Mudde, C., & Zaslove, A. (2014). How populist are the people? Measuring populist attitudes in voters. Comparative Political Studies, 47, 1324– 1353. Atton, Chris. 2008. “Alternative and Citizen Journalism.” In K. Wahl-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (Eds.), The handbook of journalism studies (pp. 265-278). New York: Routledge. Bird, S. E. (2009). Tabloidization: What is it, and does it really matter? In B. Zelizer (Ed.), The changing faces of journalism (pp. 50–60). London: Routledge. Bos, L., van der Brug, W., & de Vreese, C. H. (2010). Media coverage of right-wing populist leaders. Communications: the European Journal of Communication Research, 35, 141–163. Bourdieu, P. (2001). Television. European Review, 9, 245–256. Brants, K., de Vreese, C. H., Möller, J., & van Praag, P. (2010). The real spiral of cynicism? Symbiosis and mistrust between politicians and journalists. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15, 25–40. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 51 Brubaker, R. (2017). Why populism? Theory and Society 46, 357–385. Canovan, M. (1981). Populism. London: Junction Books. Chen, G. M., Pain, P., Chen, V. Y., Mekelburg, M., Springer, N., & Troger, F. (2018). ‘You really have to have a thick skin’: A cross-cultural perspective on how online harassment influences female journalists. Journalism, Online first, 1– 19. DOI: Chomsky, N. (2002). Media control. The spectacular achievements of propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press. Dahlgren, P. (1995). Television and the public sphere: Citizenship, democracy and the media. London: Sage. Denner, N., & Peter, C. (2017). Der Begriff Lügenpresse in deutschen Tageszeitungen: Eine Framing-Analyse. Publizistik, 62, 273–297. Engesser, S., Ernst, N., Esser, F., & Büchel, F. (2017). Populism and social media: How politicians spread a fragmented ideology. Information, Communication & Society, 1109–1126. Esser, F., Stępińska, A., & Hopmann, D. N. (2017). Populism and the media. Crossnational findings and perspectives. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck, & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 365–380). New York: Routledge. Fawzi, N. (2019). Untrustworthy news and the media as “enemy of the people?” How a populist worldview shapes recipients’ attitudes toward the media. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 24, 146-164. Feldman, S., & Johnston, C. (2014). Understanding the determinants of political ideology: Implications of structural complexity. Political Psychology, 35, 337–358. Figenschou, T. U., & Ihlebæk, K. A. (2019). Challenging journalistic authority: media criticism in far-right alternative media. Journalism Studies, 20, 1221-1237. DOI: Fuchs, C. (2010). Alternative media as critical media. European Journal of Social Theory, 13, 173–192. Goldstein, T. (2007). Killing the messenger: 100 years of media criticism. New York: Columbia University Press. Haller, A. (2015). How to deal with the Black Sheep? An evaluation of journalists’ reactions towards intentional selfscandalization by politicians. Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies, 4, 435–451. Haller, A., & Holt, K. (2018). Paradoxical populism: how PEGIDA relates to mainstream and alternative media. Information, Communication & Society. Online first, 1–16. Hameleers, M. (2019). The populism of online communities: Constructing the boundary between “blameless” people and “culpable” others. Communication, Culture and Critique, 12, 147–165. DOI: 10.1093/ccc/tcz009. Hameleers, M., Bos, L., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017). The Appeal of Media Populism: The Media Preferences of Citizens With Populist Attitudes. Mass Communication & Society, 20, 481–504. DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2017.1291817 Nayla Fawzi 52 Hanitzsch, T., Steindl, N., & Lauerer, C. (2016). Country Report. Journalists in Germany. Retrieved from 20report%20Germany.pdf Hawkins, K., Riding, S., & Mudde, C. (2012). Measuring populist attitudes. Political concepts, committee on concepts and methods. Working Paper Series, 55. Holt, K. (2018). Alternative media and the notion of anti-systemness: Towards an analytical framework. Media and Communication, 6(4), 49–57. Jacobs, K., Akkerman, A., & Zaslove, A. (2018). The voice of populist people? Referendum preferences, practices and populist attitudes. Acta Politica, 53, 517–541. Jagers, J., & Walgrave, S. (2007). Populism as political communication style: An empirical study of political parties' discourse in Belgium. European Journal of Political Research, 46, 319–345. Jandura, O., & Friedrich, K. (2014). The quality of political media coverage. In C. Reinemann (Ed.), Political Communication (pp. 351–373). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. Krämer, B. (2014). Media populism: A conceptual clarification and some theses on its effects. Communication Theory, 24, 42–60. Krämer, B. (2017). Populist and non-populist media: Their paradoxical role in the development and diffusion of a rightwing ideology. In R. C. Heinisch, C. Holtz- Bacha & O. Mazzoleni (Eds.), Political Populism: A Handbook (pp. 405–420). Baden-Baden: Nomos. Krämer, B. (2018a). How journalism responds to right-wing populist criticism. In K. Otto & A. Köhler (Eds.), Trust in media and journalism: Empirical perspectives on ethics, norms, impacts and populism in Europe (pp. 137–154). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Krämer, B. (2018b). Populism, media, and the form of society. Communication Theory, 28, 444-465. Ladd, J. M. (2012). Why Americans hate the media and how it matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Larsson, A. O. (2017). Going viral? Comparing parties on social media during the 2014 Swedish election. Convergence, 23, 117–131. Lischka, J. A. (2019). A badge of honor? How the New York Times discredits president Trump’s fake news accusations. Journalism Studies, 20, 287–304. Mackay, J. B. (2019). Tabloidization of news. Oxford Bibliographies. DOI: 10.1093/ OBO/9780199756841-0191. Matthes, J., Maurer, P., & Arendt, F. (2019). Consequences of politicians’ perceptions of the news media: A hostile media phenomenon approach. Journalism Studies, 20, 345–363. Mazzoleni, G. (2014). Mediatization and political populism. In F. Esser & J. Strömbäck (Eds.), Mediatization of politics: Understanding the transformation of Western democracies (pp. 42–56). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. McManus, J. H. (2009). The commercialization of news. In K. Wahl-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (eds.), The handbook of journalism studies (pp. 218-235). New York: Routledge. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 53 McNair, B. (2017). Fake news: Falsehood, fabrication and fantasy in journalism. New York: Routledge. McQuail, D. (1992). Media performance: Mass communication and the public interest. London: Sage. Mény, Y., & Surel, Y. (2002). The constitutive ambiguity of populism. In Y. Mény & Y. Surel (Eds.), Democracies and the populist challenge (pp. 1–21). New York: Palgrave. Moffitt, B. (2017). Liberal illiberalism? The reshaping of the contemporary populist radical right in Northern Europe. Politics and Governance, 5(4), 112-122. Mudde, C. (2004). The populist zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39, 542–563. Mudde, C., & Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2013). Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: Comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America. Government and Opposition, 48, 147–174. Müller, J.-W. (2016). What is populism? Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Neverla, I. (2019). Medienkritik und Medienjournalismus. Über Herausforderungen der (Selbst-)Reflexion in der mediatisierten Gesellschaft. Communicatio Socialis, 52(1), 7–18. Obermaier, M., Hofbauer, M., & Reinemann, C. (2018). Journalists as targets of hate speech. How German journalists perceive the consequences for themselves and how they cope with it. SCM Studies in Communication and Media, 7, 499– 524. Pew Research Center. (2018). In Western Europe, public attitudes toward news media more divided by populist views than left-right ideology. Retrieved from d-news-media-more-divided-by-populist-views-than-left-right-ideology/ Post, S., & Kepplinger, H. M. (2019). Coping with audience hostility. How journalists’ experiences of audience hostility influence their editorial decisions. Journalism Studies, Online first, 1–21. DOI: 9725. Priester, K. (2012). Rechter und linker Populismus: Annäherung an ein Chamäleon. Frankfurt am M.: Campus Verlag. Prochazka, F., & Schweiger, W. (2016). Medienkritik online: Was kommentierende Nutzer am Journalismus kritisieren. SCM Studies in Communication| Media, 454–469. Reinemann, C., Aalberg, T., Esser, F., Strömbäck, J., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017). Populist political communication: Toward a model of its causes, forms, and effects. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck, & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 12–25). New York: Routledge. Reporters Without Borders. (2018). RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies. Retrieved from sm-threatens-democracies Nayla Fawzi 54 Rooduijn, M. (2014a). Vox populismus: a populist radical right attitude among the public? Nations and Nationalism, 20, 80–92. Rooduijn, M. (2014b). The mesmerising message: The diffusion of populism in public debates in Western European media. Political Studies, 62, 726–744. Schindler, J., Fortkord, C., Posthumus, L., Obermaier, M., & Reinemann, C. (2018). Woher kommt und wozu führt Medienfeindlichkeit? Zum Zusammenhang von populistischen Einstellungen, Medienfeindlichkeit, negativen Emotionen und Partizipation. M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 66, 283– 301. Schulz, A. (2018). Where populist citizens get the news: An investigation of news audience polarization along populist attitudes in 11 countries. Communication Monographs, Online first. DOI: Schulz, A., Müller, P., Schemer, C., Wirz, D. S., Wettstein, M., & Wirth, W. (2017). Measuring populist attitudes on three dimensions. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 30, 316–326. Schulz, A., Wirth, W., & Müller, P. (2018). We are the people and you are fake news: A social identity approach to populist citizens’ false consensus and hostile media perceptions. Communication Research, Online first, 1-26. DOI: https://doi. org/10.1177/0093650218794854. Smith, G. R. (2010). Politicians and the news media: How elite attacks influence perceptions of media bias. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15, 319–343. Taggart, P. (2000). Populism: Concepts in the social sciences. Buckingham, PA: Open University Press. Vallone, R. P., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1985). The hostile media phenomenon: Biased perception and perceptions of media bias in coverage of the Beirut massacre. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 49, 577–585. Waisbord, S., & Amado, A. (2017). Populist communication by digital means: Presidential Twitter in Latin America. Information, Communication & Society, 20, 1330–1346. Watts, M. D., Domke, D., Shah, D. V., & Fan, D. P. (1999). Elite cues and media bias in presidential campaigns explaining public perceptions of a liberal press. Communication Research, 26, 144–175. Wettstein, M., Esser, F., Schulz, A., Wirz, D. S., & Wirth, W. (2018). News media as gatekeepers, critics, and initiators of populist communication: How journalists in ten countries deal with the populist challenge. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23, 476–495. Wodak, R. (2013). 'Anything goes’ – The Haiderization of Europe. In R. Wodak, M. KhosraviNik, & B. Mral (Eds.), Right-wing populism in Europe: Politics and discourse (pp. 23–38). London: Bloomsbury. Wodak, R., KhosraviNik, M., & Mral, B. (Eds.). (2013). Right-wing populism in Europe: Politics and discourse. London: Bloomsbury. Zerback, T., & Fawzi, N. (2017). Can online exemplars trigger a spiral of silence? Examining the effects of exemplar opinions on perceptions of public opinion and speaking out. New Media & Society, 19, 1034–1051. Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism 55 Ziegele, M., & Quiring, O. (2013). Conceptualizing online discussion value: A multidimensional framework for analyzing user comments on mass-media websites. Annals of the International Communication Association, 37(1), 125–153. Ziegele, M., Schultz, T., Jackob, N., Granow, V., Quiring, O., & Schemer, C. (2018). Mainzer Langzeitstudie „Medienvertrauen“: Lügenpresse-Hysterie ebbt ab. Media Perspektiven. (4), 150–161. Nayla Fawzi 56

Chapter Preview



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