radical right

CfP: “The backlash of the extreme: communicative constructions and media discourses mainstreaming populism and right wing radicalism in Central and Eastern Europe” (CEEPOPCOMM); DL: 10/04/2016

The present panel is intended to be part of the 4th ESA RN-32 mid-term conference “(Dis)locating EUrope: Conflicts, challenges and changes” (28-29 October 2016, Brussel/Bruxelles, BE). It is organized by Ov Cristian NOROCEL (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI & Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) and Gabriella SZABÓ (Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU). We are looking forward to selecting 4-5 contributions/session.

In the present context of an extremist backlash against liberal democracy, it is of special importance to examine the extent to which public discourses are permeated by populism and right wing radicalism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors in the public debates. The panel aims to identify the regional specificities of the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of communicative constructions and media in the dynamics of populism and radical right in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. 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. There is however a pressing need for a more systematic overview of the complex interplay between social media, traditional formats of written press, and radio and TV broadcast of populism and right wing radicalism. With this in mind, we seek contributions that discover and critically analyse the rapidly growing media universe of populism and right wing radicalism. Empirical contributions like comparative studies, longitudinal analyses, and case studies are particularly welcome to elucidate whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere in CEE countries. We are searching for novel conceptions and innovative methods of researching the communicative constructions of populism and radical right. Therefore, the panel is open to scholars from the disciplines of political sociology, media studies, communication studies, and (digital) ethnography who are interested in the comprehensive assessments of traditional and social media in mainstreaming the extreme politics.

Please, send your abstract (approximately 300 words, include e-mail and institutional affiliation information) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi no later than April 10 2016.

The authors would be informed in a timely manner whether their papers have been accepted to be part of the panel. The authors of selected abstract would then receive detailed information concerning the submission process that must take by April 15 2016.

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Monday, March 7th, 2016 Research No Comments

Reality Check in Romania: A True (Orthodox) Romanian Man Explains Why ‘an Arab’ Cannot Be the Catalyst of the Disenchanted People Marching Against State Abuse.

A bit over a year ago, the people took to the streets in several countries across the ‘Arab world’ in what was later on called the ‘Arab Spring’. The Western medias have rushed to praise the people’s ‘democratic aspirations’ and their courage to speak against a brutified state apparatus. In contrast to that, in the UK the 2010 protests against the massive increase of the tuition fees and the 2011 anti-austerity protests were not met with the same sympathy. Demands for transparent and accountable democratic processes that have people at the center – instead of profit – were dismissed as ‘rioting’, ‘extremist’, ‘thuggish’ and ‘outright criminal’. In a similar vein, unfortunately, the massive protests witnessed these days in Romania, not only in the capital Bucharest but across the whole country, are derided in a similar manner. Reports mainly discuss the ‘football hooligans’, ‘mindless rioting’, ‘extremism’ or even ‘street warfare’ (in Romanian, aici).

A week ago, an apparently inconspicuous law triggering the profound reform of the healthcare system was uncovered to be a naked demonstration of political will on behalf of the acting center-right conservative government. Instead of being yet another law coming into force through the back door of a confidence vote in the Romanian Parliament, it was publicly condemned in a TV debate by Raed Arafat, the then Undersecretary of State for Health. Arafat, a Syrian Arab that has become a Romanian citizen, has distinguished himself by successfully founding the only professional emergency rescue service in Romania (SMURD/ Serviciul Mobil de Urgenţǎ, Reanimare şi Descarcerare), thereby embodying professionalism and moral standing in a healthcare system that is mostly regarded as book-example of corruption and oftentimes considered an expressway to the grave. Arafat’s opposition to the coming law was vehemently criticized and quickly dismissed by an angered President Băsescu, who called and demanded to intervene in the live TV debate. President Băsescu labeled Arafat’s criticism to the privatization of the healthcare system as mere ‘leftist views’ and decreed the necessity of opening the system to ‘the market forces’ (in Romanian, aici). The consequence of such a forceful televised intervention on behalf of President Băsescu was that Arafat presented his resignation shortly afterwards.

His resignation was met with popular indignation and triggered a series of demonstrations across the whole of Romania, from Târgu Mureș/ Marosvásárhely where Arafat founded SMURD and Cluj-Napoca/ Kolozsvár in Transylvania, to Constanța on the Romanian seaside and the capital Bucharest. The protests were initiated on January 12th 2012 in Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely as a non-violent demonstration in support of Arafat, and transformed in full fledged popular protests across the country in the coming days, continuing throughout the week and eventually gained the support of 5 trade union organizations. The riot police and the gendarmerie have been called to intervene in Bucharest and elsewhere under the pretext of ‘maintaining order’ and combating ‘the extremism’ of ‘paid football hooligans’ (in Romanian ‘ultras‘) and other such ‘elements’ (in English, here; here; and here; in Romanian, aici and aici).

Perhaps it is worthwhile to take a step back, and have a closer look at what does such a label of ‘extremism’ conceal. ‘Extremism’ is not represented by the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters that have had enough of a corrupt and idle political system that does not offer so much of a political alternative, but an alternation of the same unreformed political forces. Arguably, it is rather to be found impeccably dressed and allegedly representing Romania in the European Parliament.

Indeed, commenting on the ongoing demonstrations, George (Gigi) Becali, Romanian MEP on behalf of the radical right populist Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) and football club owner, defended President Băsescu. MEP Becali expressed his ‘disgust’ that thousand of Romanians have taken the streets in support of ‘an Arab’ against President Băsescu. MEP Becali added, in the same vein, that Romanians are not allowed to take the ‘Arab’s side’ on this matter and that the TV images with the demonstrators were ‘sickening’. He then concluded that ‘Arafat should go back to his country, among his Arabs! How can I take the side of an Arab against the President of my country?’ (in Romanian, aici).

In this context, the question that comes to the fore is why someone who has become a Romanian citizen is dismissed as a simple Other and recommended to return to his (or her) ‘home country’? What does it take for an Other to be accepted as a full-fledged Romanian citizen? Even more so, why ‘the Arab’ Arafat is refused the ability to coalesce popular dissatisfaction against a corrupt political system? The irony of history perhaps, but Arafat simply represents a continuation of the line of Others that triggered the coagulation of the people’s discontent in Romania.  Here it suffices to mention another key figure in Romanian recent history:  Pastor László Tőkés – a Romanian of Hungarian ethnicity and a Reformed Pastor. Pastor Tőkés played a major role in the initiation in Timișoara/ Temesvár of the December 1989 manifestations that led to the overthrown of Ceausescu dictatorship. In the manly confrontation that Romanian politics have turned into in the post-revolutionary period, why is Arafat deemed less than a man that President Băsescu? Since when the protection of a corrupt political system and taking the side of a Romanian President that has oftentimes stepped over the powers of his mandate is a clear marker of devotion for the country? MEP Becali defied the Romanian National Council for Fighting Discrimination (CNCD/ Consiliul Naţional pentru Combaterea Discriminării) and argued more recently that no possible fine would deter him from taking the side of ‘Romanians’ (in Romanian, aici). The immediate question that comes to mind is why is then President Băsescu more Romanian than the tens of thousands of Romanians (be them ethnic Romanian, Hungarian, Rroma, or even Arab) that have peacefully demonstrated against a state apparatus and a political elite that appears to have become just as brutish as the ones that ruled so ruthlessly in the ‘Arab world’?

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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 Research No Comments