The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis

The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis

The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis

The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis


Mazzoleni, Stewart, Horsfield, and their contributors analyze the two-way relationship of the mass media and the contemporary phenomenon of extreme right wing neo-populist political parties which emerged in the closing years of the 20th century across the world. The success of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the neo-populist Front National, in the first French presidential ballot in April 2002 shows that these extremist parties have strong, if varying, electoral support. Drawn into reporting on the policies and antigovernment critiques of the new parties, the mass communication institutions, especially those engaged in news production, have been challenged by a variety of unconventional but effective political campaign strategies that caused many media professionals considerable challenge.

Taking an approach informed by mass communication theory, this book analyzes eight case studies of the interaction of news media dynamics and neo-populism in Austria, Australia, France, Canada, India, Italy, the United States, and the Latin American region against the background of widespread disenchantment with traditional parties and the complacency and cynicism of popularly elected governments. Insights into media responses reveal how dependent on media coverage the neo-populist parties were and how, in many cases, the media were initially unequal to the confronting ideologies of the new parties. Although the news media exploited the new parties, new parties exploited the news media as well in quite shrewd and original ways. This is an important resource for scholars, students, and other researchers involved with political mass communications and right-wing political organizations.


Those of us from the discipline of communication studies have long believed that communication is prior to all other fields of inquiry. In several other forums I have argued that the essence of politics is "talk" or human interaction. Such interaction may be formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal, public or private, but it is always persuasive, forcing us consciously or subconsciously to interpret, to evaluate, and to act. Communication is the vehicle for human action.

From this perspective, it is not surprising that Aristotle recognized the natural kinship of politics and communication in his writings Politics and Rhetoric. In the former, he established that humans are "political beings "who" alone of the animals "are" furnished with the faculty of language." In the latter, he began his systematic analysis of discourse by proclaiming that "rhetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion." Thus, it was recognized over twenty-three hundred years ago that politics and communication go hand in hand because they are essential parts of human nature.

In 1981, Dan Nimmo and Keith Sanders proclaimed that political communication was an emerging field. Although its origin, as noted, dates back centuries, a "self-consciously cross-disciplinary" focus began in the late 1950s. Thousands of books and articles later, colleges and universities offer a variety of graduate and undergraduate coursework in the area in such diverse departments as communication, mass communication, journalism, political science, and sociology. In Nimmo and Sanders's early assessment, the "key areas of inquiry" included rhetorical analysis, propaganda analysis, attitude change studies, voting studies, government and the news media, functional and systems analyses, tech-

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