Online Communities and Populism

Editor(s): Ashley Hinck (Xavier University, USA)

More information:

Submission of Abstracts: 1-15 December 2021

Submission of Full Papers: 15-30 April 2022

Publication of the Issue: October/December 2022

In recent years, there has been an explosion of populism across the globe. Strains of populism have been taken up by leaders like the United States’ Donald Trump, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, India’s Narendra Modi, and Indonesia’s Joko Widodo. While these are some of the most visible instances, populism has also emerged in smaller countries like the Netherlands (Hameleers, 2019) and in the communication of political challengers like Alexey Navalny in Russia (Glazunova, 2020). Populist communication functions as a style, strategy, and ideology that constitutes a “virtuous” people and an enemy of elites who control the system and the status quo (Engesser et al., 2017; Lee, 2006).

Populists are using social media to organize and amplify populist communication (see e.g., Boulianne et al., 2020; Bucy et al., 2020; Hameleers, 2019; Peck, 2020). In an age when citizens are turning to online communities to construct their political values, beliefs, and ideologies (Bennett, 2008; Giddens, 1991; Hinck, 2019), it is not coincidental that many of these populist leaders have been bolstered by large followings of supporters online. This thematic issue examines the role online communities play in contemporary populism—how seemingly untraditional political communities online are influencing national and international politics by developing populist messages and circulating populist media.

Submissions might consider (but are not limited to) to the following:

  • How might online communities provide transnational points of contact, network nodes, or flows of communication between and across nations?
  • How do the social norms and values of online communities provide fertile grounds for populism?
  • How do conspiracy communities, fan communities, and other online communities influence and enable populism?
  • What forms and genres (like memes and deep fakes) define online populism?
  • What communication strategies emerge from online communities to support populist leaders?
  • What are the implications for democracy?