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Taking the Streets with Concepts? Re-semantization and Radicalization of Political Language in the German PEGIDA-Movement

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Presentation at the international symposium "Understanding Ideological Radicalization" at Malmö University, 11 February 2016

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Taking the Streets with Concepts? Re-semantization and Radicalization of Political Language in the German PEGIDA-Movement

  1. 1. Taking the Streets with Concepts? Re-semantization and Radicalization of Political Language in the German PEGIDA- Movement Associate Professor Andreas Önnerfors History of Sciences and Ideas Gothenburg university, SWE andreas.onnerfors@gu.se
  2. 2. TIME Magazine 1 February 2016
  3. 3. Structure of paper (1) Material and approaches (2) PEGIDA: chronology and background (3) Findings of empirical social studies, qualitative explanations (4) Inside view 1: ”The salvation of the European spirit commences in Dresden” (5) Inside view 2: Conservatism as resistance (6) Inside view 3: Voices from the PEGIDA-galaxy (7) Conclusions: Language and radicalization
  4. 4. (1) Material and approaches • Observations of field study November 2015 • Literature review of freshest German research in the area (Vorländer et. Al. 2015 & 2016; Benz 2015) • Qualitative analysis of internal publications of PEGIDA-supporters: – Special issue of Sezession: PEGIDA, March 2015 – Sebastian Henning: PEGIDA – Spaziergänge über den Horizont. Eine Chronik. Neustadt and der Orla: Arnshaugk, 2015 Approaches: • conceptual history, changes of meaning in political concepts/words over time Hypothesis in relation to radicalization: The altered usage of language and concepts in political vocabulary marks a diversion from agreed consensus and thus prepares the ground for radicalization.
  5. 5. (2) PEGIDA: Chronology and background PEGIDA – Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident’ • established in autumn 2014, facebook-initiative taking protest to the streets • within weeks growing to 25 000 participants in ‘evening walks’ in Dresden • split in February 2015 due to personal and ideological issues, decrease in participation • attempt to tap into political counter-jihadism, Geert Wilders in April 2015 • representatives of German ‘nouvelle droit’ side with the movement • considerable move to the right by remaining supporters • radicalization of language during refugee crisis summer/autumn 2015 • November 2015: launch of website einprozent.de attempting to coordinate ‘resistance’ against asylum politics in Germany (by February 2016, 22 000 supporters) • renewed momentum in the aftermath of the Cologne New Years events 2015/16
  6. 6. (3) Findings of empirical social studies, qualitative explanations 1/2 • Vorländer, Herold, Schäller, 2015 & 2016 (macrostudy, following PEGIDA into summer of 2015) • core of ’Pegidistas’: belong to middle-class of Dresden and Saxony and its “fragile segments”, predominantly male, between 30 and 60, employed (or self-employed) with a relative high level of education (engineering and science degrees) and income • no party and no religious affiliation, leaning towards the German protest party Alternative für Deutschland • reasons given for protest (falling order): ”a general sense of distance between politicians and people”; “discontent with asylum politics” ; “discontent with media coverage”; “discontent with the political system of the German Federal Republic”; “discontent with migration and integration politics” ; “reservations against Islam” A new type of social movement: “right-wing populist movement of indignation”
  7. 7. (3) Findings of empirical social studies, qualitative explanations 2/2 • Benz, 2015, p. 775-6 (based upon status until March 2015) THE LANGUAGE OF UNEASINESS: • rejection of complex structures (as typical for modern society) • rejection of supra-national political organisation (instead of traditional statehood) • rejection of globalization • rejection of modern developments in society (such as inter-culture, individuality and self-responsibility) • strengthening of the ‘own’ by excluding the ‘foreign’ • law and order warranted by a strong state, acting according to traditional patterns, but at the same time (perhaps inconsistently) incorporating larger rights of direct participation • societal homogeneity and adherence to traditional social norms • demand for attention from the side of the ruling political class but simultaneously (and again inconsistently) a need to denounce rulers out of incompetence, permanent failure, corruption and treason
  8. 8. (4) Inside view 1: ”The salvation of the European spirit commences in Dresden” • first hand account: November 2014 to September 2015 • considerable ’Ostalgia’: momentum of 1989-movement, critique against/hate of Western Germany, pro-Russian stance • blatant Anti-Americanism • denigration of media as ’system media’ (”Systemmedien”), ’media liars’ (”Lügenpresse”) • elite critique: German people are exposed to a conspiracy of its own government, a ’war’ against the people, immigration constutites a ’mass rape’ of the European people • anti-EU: critique against ’Eurocracy’, 89-slogan of ’We are the people’ projected upon contemporary popular protests (in February 2016, PEGIDA attempted to launch itself Europe-wide under the banner ”Fortress Europe”)
  9. 9. (5) Inside view 2: Conservatism as resistance • Conservative publisher Götz Kubitschek and his publishing house Antaios sided PEGIDA in spring 2015 • a need to strenghten the bonds and coordinate different initiatives according to the agenda of the German ’new right’ • German political system must be torn down in order to resurrect • Resistance is a legitimate conservative position • platform einprozent.de launched in November 2015 in order to create momentum
  10. 10. (6) Inside view 3: Voices from the PEGIDA-galaxy Qualitative interview with Peter (47, policeman) and Maria (43, student)
  11. 11. (7) Conclusions: Language and radicalization • Circulation of political terminology from yet undefined source(s) to banners, chants and mottos of the PEGIDA-movement. More research needed: 1) connections between publishers like Antaios and other idea-instances to the movement, 2) impact of social media? • Recycling of tropes from the -89 citizen movement for a new purpose in a new context • Re-definition/appropriation of symbols (like ’Wirmer-flag’) – ‘resistance’ as the main trope • Tone of confrontation, demagogic denunciation against media and elites increases between November 2014 – September 2015 (and thereafter) • Expansion of linguistic limits of how problems are framed and which solutions are proposed (in February 2016 AfD proposed the use of gunfire against migrants at borders, a move from ‘cultural’ to ‘direct’ violence) • Extreme solutions are normalized (media and politicians express formerly rejected positions) • Societal discourse moves from agreed compromise to formerly radical positions • Demonstrates that radicalization is a dynamic movement

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