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Populism, sovereignism and conspiracy: Right-wing populist discourse in 19-Coronavirus anti lockdown mobilizations

Populism
Social Movements
Political Activism
Cecilia Biancalana
Université de Lausanne
Cecilia Biancalana
Université de Lausanne
Oscar Mazzoleni
Université de Lausanne

Abstract

During the pandemic, street and web mobilizations against lockdowns, masks, social distancing and vaccines spread in Europe and elsewhere. Protesters claimed for constitutional and economic freedoms, as well as individual and national sovereignty, in opposition to medical and political elites and economic corporations, often accused of hiding the truth from the people. In some cases, right-wing populist parties and leaders used this kind of mobilizations in order to adapt their own discursive strategies to take advantage from the crisis (Bobba and Hubé 2021). This paper addresses the question of the link between populism, sovereignism and conspiracy narratives. Thus, our goal is twofold. From a theoretical point of view, we will discuss the literature on populism and link it with that on sovereignism (Kallis 2018; Blühdorn & Butzlaff 2019) and conspiracy theories (Bergmann 2018; Uscinski 2018). In order to illustrate our argument, we will consider a set of discourses produced by right-wing populist parties during the pandemic crisis. Through the examination of the parties’, leaders’ and representatives’ discourses, we will try to understand whether and to what extent populism, sovereignism and conspiracy narratives are combined in actors’ discourse, how the discourse is constructed, and examine the variations between different actors and contexts.