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Not if but How Many? Populisms Across Social Fields: Study of Responses to the “Refugee Crisis” in Slovenia.

Media
Migration
Populism
Social Movements
Refugee
Marko Ribać
The Peace Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Marko Ribać
The Peace Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Abstract

While numerous empirical studies and theoretical elaborations demonstrate that populist discourses and practices are part of politics en masse, or a social, political and cultural »zeitgeist«, paper would argue that different forms of populism not only differ from one institutional framework to another, but manifest themselves according to principles and mechanisms, prevalent in the social field in question. Paper’s main aim is twofold: it mainly points out numerous differences in rhetoric, content as well as styles that exist across the social, political and media spectrums. Secondly, it explores cleavages intrinsic to the complex phenomenon of populism at the crossroads of political field, journalistic field, field of NGOs and field of social movements. Author presents preliminary findings of an ongoing empirical study of broader political reactions expressed by numerous actors in mentioned social fields to an increased number of arrivals of refugees and migrants in Slovenia from 2015 onward. He first and foremost argues that the »refugee crisis« (2015 and 2016) served as a focal point for a reinvention of the social-liberal consensus (Gonzalez Villa, 2017) and reinsertion of the far-right in the country after the crisis of neoliberal hegemonic formation (from 2010-2014). Paper shows how parties of social-liberal consensus along with the parties at the far right of the Slovenian political (i.e. parliamentary) spectrum reproduced a technicist and nationalist discourse that presented migration as a “(security) challenge” to the state apparatus. On the other hand the paper explores the notion of inclusionary and participatory populism (Dzur and Hendriks 2018) and presents how various non-parliamentary (civil society) actors developed critical counterarguments (in various published petitions, manifestos, public letters etc.) and participatory practices (protests, coordination groups, meetings, working shops etc.). The paper concludes with the examination of the journalistic discourse and the role of populism in the Slovenian media reporting during the period of last 5 years. Conclusions are derived from the analysis of parliamentary speeches, party statements, legal and policy documents, which were adopted in Slovenia in the period from 2015 onward in order to illustrate the xenophobic, exclusionary and authoritarian responses that accompanied repressive administrative responses of the centre and right wing of the local political space. Frame analysis of public letters and conducted interviews show how actors in civil society fields (NGOs and social movements) along with the parliamentary left managed to influence or reverse some important legal changes and provided coordinated responses that reframed the migration debate during the “refugee crisis”. Author also, in order to illustrate his final point, presents the results of a frame analysis of two broadcasting media outlets and two daily newspapers. He evaluates the role of the Slovenian media in the reproduction of migrants as the outcast group, as well as the journalistic role of enhancers, creators and reproducers of xenophobic and exclusionary populism.