Imagining refugees as enemies: German right-wing Facebook pages as counter-public spheres

Flöser, Linda ; Ludwig, Katharina ; Rühland, Victoria ; Wessler, Hartmut

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2018
Conference title: 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA)
Location of the conference venue: Prague, Czech Republic
Date of the conference: 24.-28.05.2018
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Medien I (Wessler)
Subject: 070 News media, journalism, publishing
Keywords (English): Counter-public , Public Sphere , Political Communication , Germany , Right-Wing , Content Analysis , Refugees , Social Media , Image of the Enemy
Abstract: Counter-publics have usually been viewed as enhancing democracy by offering voice to marginalized groups. But it is unclear whether such a function should also be attributed to counter-publics on the extreme right, which often do not support liberal-democratic values. This study aims at clarifying the (un)democratic character of right-wing counter-publics by way of a standardized multimodal content analysis of posts (n=716) and comments (n=649) found on the Facebook pages of six German right-wing media outlets, parties, and movements as well as two hyperpartisan Facebook-only “news pages.” Coding focused on textual and visual elements through which refugees are constructed as “enemies” as well as additional criteria of discourse quality. On the level of the Facebook posts, the construction of refugees as enemies became consistently more intense, the more extreme the respective page’s overall position was, indicating a heterogeneous actor set in the right-wing counter-public. On the level of user comments, however, constructions turned out more similar across different pages hinting at a more homogeneous right-wing discourse arena that binds moderate and extreme elements together. In conclusion, normative implications are discussed.

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