With Social Media towards Democratic Empowerment? Nationalist Populism on Czech Facebook
MetadataShow full item record
With the rise of social media, debates concerning its implications on the society and democracy have emerged. While some perceive it as means of civil empowerment and democratic enhancement, others worry about its role in spreading unhinged information and undemocratic ideologies. Moreover, in the wake of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s presidential victory, there are rising concerns regarding the apparent surge of nationalism and populism – also on social media. Nationalist populism undermines the principle of pluralism in democracy, and may lead to so-called “tyranny of the majority.” This thesis examines how social media – specifically Facebook – is used in political communication to convey nationalist populist rhetoric and how this relates to the academic debates on the topic of the democratic potentials of social media. This is done in the context of the Czech Republic, a Central-Eastern European country, by examining Facebook posts of the four leaders of the four main political parties from two time periods in 2016. These leaders include Bohuslav Sobotka, Andrej Babiš, Petr Fiala, and Tomio Okamura. The Facebook posts are analysed against a framework of 6 articulations of nationalist populism derived from international as well as Czech scholarly works. These articulations include: rejection of elites; rejection of economic globalism; support of a demarcation of the country; opposition to “outsiders;” opposition to minority groups; and evoking the notion of Czech “heartland.” Qualitative content analysis is used to find these articulations in the political communication on Facebook. This thesis finds all six articulations in the Facebook posts of some of the Czech politicians in the selected time periods. The main finding therefore is that, at least in the Czech Republic, open-space political discourse on social media may lend itself not only to pluralist speech but frequently also to speech against pluralist democracy. Social media may facilitate the articulation and entrenchment of nationalist populist discourses that may over time in fact lead to the opposite of pluralist democracy, namely the tyranny of the majority.