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Politics and populism across modes and media

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Edited By Ruth Breeze and Ana María Fernández Vallejo

The relationship between politics and digital media is currently a focus of intense interest: the symbiosis between the two spheres is such that political activity is now almost inseparable from media communication. However, the implications of this development are not fully understood. Digital media are a powerful tool in the hands of mainstream parties, but also make it easier than ever before for the public to express their reactions, or for new actors to enter the political arena. This volume explores the intersection between politics and new media, which involves crucial ideals, values and aspirations, such as informed democracy, citizens’ empowerment and social debate, but also negative aspects like manipulation and polarization.

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Ruth Breeze and Ana M. Fernández Vallejo: Introduction: Politics, populism, media

Introduction: Politics, populism, media

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Ruth Breeze and Ana M. Fernández Vallejo

Politics is inextricably bound up with discourse and communication. From the earliest times, the sphere of the political has been understood as a social arena in which power and influence can be garnered, and possible collective futures shaped, through persuasion – and persuasion is conducted through symbolic systems of social communication, that is, through languages. In Chilton’s words (2004: 19), through language, individuals have the capacity to “communicate, compare, align or dissent from one another’s mental representations of the present, future and possible worlds”. Language enables us to engage in dialogue with others, and through this, to share and negotiate visions and goals: together, these discursive activities form the essence of the human activity that we call ‘politics’.

There is, of course, nothing new about this. Since Aristotle’s definition of the human being as a ‘political animal’ that is distinguished from the other animals precisely by his/her power of speech, it has been generally accepted that politics is interconnected with language not just superficially, but in its very essence. However, in more recent times with the rise of the different forms of mass media, attention came to focus anew on politics and language, looking not just at the rhetoric used to shape the message, but also at the means used to convey this to a wider public. For many years, the focus was on the press, radio and television, and the way politicians and their audiences adapted to these...

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