Eastern Europe

CfP: Populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe: rethinking the role of media, public discourse and their publics (25-28/08/15, 12th ESA – Prague, CZ); DL: 28/01/15.

Part of the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association (25-28 August 2015, Prague, CZ), the RN32 Political Sociology organizes Session 4: The Populist Radical Right as Political Actor in Europe. The proposed panel on populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe is organized by Gabriella Szabó (CSS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI) cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi, and is envisaged to fit within this framework.

Already a decade ago it was aptly noted that the study of populist radical right in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) resembles the efforts of aiming at a target in motion. Since then, several researchers have explored the populist radical right political landscape in the region. Still, we believe that studies of populism and radical right are facing the dilemma of whether categories of Western-oriented research properly describe the populist and radical right politics in CEE countries. A case in point, anti-immigration and Islamophobia seem to be non-issues in the CEE contexts, whilst ethno-nationalism (such as in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania), fundamentalist Catholicism (like in Croatia, Poland) and the frustration over the loss of past glories of the country (Hungary) are often hard to synchronize with Western developments. All the more important, the study of populist radical right parties needs to take into account the increasing inequality and growing intolerance to difference (be it ethnic, religious, etc.) in the societies across the CEE. The much needed comparative analyses on European trends of populism and radical right radicalism should be supported by deeper theoretical, conceptual and empirical knowledge on the regional specificities in CEE countries. It is especially true for the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of media and public discourse in the dynamics of populism and radical right. Therefore, we seek comprehensive assessments of mainstream media response to the populism and radical right radicalism.

The panel aims to examine the extent to which public discourses are penetrated by populism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors are in the public debates. We also address the question of the rather under-researched populist and radical right publics. The social media are believed to be intensively used by populist and radical actors to connect with each other and mobilize electoral support. If it is the case, we are interested in studying the impact and the patterns of this interactive way of populist and radical right communication in CEE countries. The international literature lacks reliable information on the rapidly growing media universe of populism and radical right radicalism with a powerful mix of social media, traditional formats of written press and radio and TV broadcast to balance the hostile mainstream media environment. In other words, we are interested to examine both in a comparative perspective and in case studies whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere. We encourage contributions that investigate complex social manifestations, such as the examination of the subcultural environment in the CEE, the intersections of popular culture (skinhead music, rock festivals, and football hooliganism), mass gathering (marches, rallies, festivals) and identity construction (with particular attention to intersections of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality).

Please, send your abstract (no more than 250 words) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi by January 28 2015. The potential participants will be informed in due time whether their papers have been accepted and be directed to submit the abstracts through the conference official submission platform before February 1 2015.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 Research No Comments

The Witch-hunt of Moldova’s Twitter revolution. How to search for hidden messages/ financers/ benefiters while forgetting the defense of basic human rights

Squeezed between the news about the rescue of the US captain from the Somali pirates and the unfolding events in Thailand, the situation in Moldova risks to soon fall off the international media attention. To the benefit of whom, I wonder?

What is even more worrisome is the wave of probably well intended analyses of the geo-political situation in the Eastern Europe that regard the convulsive manifestations in Chisinau simply as some sort of abstract power struggle between Western-financed and encouraged think tanks and political entrepreneurs and the power-clinging East-faithful. But this is, however, an overly simplistic dichotomous model, since Romania, the main culprit as it is portrayed by out-going president Voronin, is not the most important member country in NATO, nor does it have such a crucial leverage in the decision making process regarding the whole security architecture in Eastern Europe. Second, the Eastern sympathies of the out-going president Voronin have changed quite often, as it was noted across time. What has persisted though, was a desire to remain in power and ensure that the next elected president would not upset the internal power balance instated during Voronin’s time in office. I am afraid that, as they use to say, the devil lies in the details, and a rushed and disconnected analysis of the ongoing events in Moldova do not help the cause of the demonstrators against the electoral fraud from the 5th of April 2009.

It appears that the foreign analysts do not bother to read the local news, be them biased on the side of the manifestants or the centrally controlled state media. Otherwise how could one explain the complete silence regarding certain issues that cast a different light on the event? To start with the most obvious, Moldova Azi  discusses the mysterious man (see video attached) that repeatedly appears in the midst of the anti-governmental demonstrations, planting the EU and the Romanian flags on both the Moldavian Presidential residence and the Moldavian Parliament; the same person was filmed among those opposing a manifestation of the one of the opposition parties, only to be later one of those disclosing that he was payed to demonstrate for (this time for) another opposition party. The same topic was discussed by Jurnal de Chisinau, a proof that Twitter meets YouTube when it is about genuine popular movements, and that we truly live in an age of ever more internet connectedness. An educated guess would be that this is a intoxication maneuver to create the false impression that governmental forces were taken by surprise (well, most comments on the internet focus on how cooperative and non-combative a treatment the mysterious man received from a police officer on the roof top).

So what actually happens in Moldova while foreign analysts involve in sophisticated discussions about balance of powers, emergence of new security architectures in Eastern Europe, radical re-drawing of alliances and imminent power struggles, or even more fashionably today, blaming it on the global economic downturn? On the one hand, people die. Or maybe, unfortunately, not as many people die as to attract media attention. Despite that, a young man died, allegedly as a result of the savage beatings of the police forces (the official report blames it on the tear-gas fumes; even so, no discussion on the responsibility of those making use of such lethal means to reprimand demonstrators is allowed to take place). On the other hand, journalists are harassed, this was even difficult for the foreign media to miss. CNN ran yesterday an article on this topic, but that was pretty much it. In the meantime, we are told that a vote recount would take place. However, one may wonder if counting defrauded votes would make a dramatic difference.

In this context, what about taking a step back and leaving aside the grand politics and grandiose theories of international politics, to start looking into how those people manifesting against the result of the elections are (miss-)treated? I think the lives of human beings should value more than a witty comment about new power balances and that a chance for fair democratic elections should be given also to those not as lucky to be in such world hot spots as Thailand or citizens of the US. Maybe it is time for the influential media figures in the West priding themselves with non-partisan stances to take a second and reflect on the fate of the Moldavian youth. I think they owe it to the thousands of young demonstrators in Chisinau and to their future. Or is their future to be gambled for a new security format to better account for the sensitivities of the today’s multi-polar world?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, April 13th, 2009 Miscellaneous No Comments