Comparing Online Mobilization of Anti-Islam Movements and Parties in Western Europe

Political Parties
Social Movements
Social Media
Political Activism
Jasper Muis
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Jasper Muis
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Ofra Klein
European University Institute

This paper compares the online manifestation of anti-Islam movements and parties in three Western European democracies (United Kingdom, France, Germany). Our main argument is that when successful and well-organized far right parties are absent, people will rely on non-parliamentary means to voice their concerns about multiculturalism and immigration. Using network analyses of Facebook pages to assess the prominence, we show that there is indeed a reverse relation between party and movement strength. In the United Kingdom and Germany, two countries with closed political opportunities, the most prominent far right actors on the Internet are street movements, rather than political parties, namely the English Defence League and Pegida. Second, we investigate the communication between leaders and their followers. Which issues and ‘targets’ (outgroups) do they discuss? Discursive opportunity explanations stress that public debates on national identity and integration are importantly shaped by the citizenship policies of each country. These typically range from multicultural (United Kingdom) to universalistic (France) and assimilationist (Germany). Content analyses of both the posts and the comments on the Facebook pages of eight movements/parties reveal remarkable differences between and also within anti-Islam organizations. Judging from the online discourse, the followers of both UKIP and AfD seem much more concerned about Islam than its leadership. Both parties often do not qualify as ‘radical right’ and its leaders have pursued to distance their platforms from the more single-issue, xenophobic stances of radical counterparts (such as the German NPD and British BNP). Nevertheless, statements of Facebook fans hint at more radical currents among supporters.
Share this page

"Wherever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship" - Harry S. Truman

Back to top