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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Incivility in Political Communication: Lessons from Hungary

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Gabriella Szabo
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Gabriella Szabo
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

As the acts of courtesy in politics is going out of fashion, scholarly interest in incivility has been growing. Whilst the main conceptualization of political incivility is usually centering on deliberative theory and considering rudeness as harmful malpractice, some researchers suggest that outrage discourses with their emotional appeals may stimulate the voter turnout. By moving beyond the deliberation and the strategic use of incivility, this presentation addresses this problem from the perceptive of social semiotics. The longitudinal analysis (1990 – 2015) of the political communication in Hungary reveals multiple use of inappropriate vocabulary. The presentation highlights the expansion of insulting language and vulgarity in politics. First, incivility appeared as part of the desacralization of politics in blogs and online portals in the early years of 2000s. Then came the waves of character assassinations during the election campaign. In 2006, the highest peak in the uncivil mode of communication was connected to Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s infamous speech and the people’s reaction to the talk in which he admitted that he lied and purposely misled the electorates during the previous legislative election campaign. Last but not least, obscenity in street protests was discovered. Having catalogued the practices of incivility in Hungary, I argue that indecency in political communication can be comprehended as semiotic resource which is characterised by repetition, widespread and multichannel usage to express authenticity and political identity.
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