Collective victimhood in populist media about Brexit: rage against the machine?

Conference paper


Nigbur, D., Williams, E., Layton, A., Tsirogianni, S., Ntontis, E., Hoerst, C., Jemwa, A. and Volkers Poile, I. 2022. Collective victimhood in populist media about Brexit: rage against the machine?
AuthorsNigbur, D., Williams, E., Layton, A., Tsirogianni, S., Ntontis, E., Hoerst, C., Jemwa, A. and Volkers Poile, I.
TypeConference paper
Description

This paper outlines an ongoing qualitative study in social psychology, with a pilot study completed and the main study currently at the data analysis stage. We examine how collective and competitive victimhood are invoked in populist rhetoric and media coverage of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (Brexit). Brexit has been portrayed by its proponents as a project on behalf of ordinary British people against an out-of-touch liberal elite and a malevolent European Union (EU), with the opposing campaign to remain in the EU commonly characterised as an alarmist “project fear” (see Bartholomew, 2017; Durrheim et al., 2018; Forsyth, 2016; Malik, 2018). This populist idea of ordinary people as victims of manipulative and mendacious elites seems to relate to social-psychological work on collective and competitive victimhood (Bar-Tal et al., 2009; Noor et al., 2008a, 2008b, 2012; Vollhardt et al., 2014). According to this account, victimhood can be used as political capital to justify grievances and intergroup conflict. Research on this topic has mostly used quantitative methods, but first attempts have been made to use qualitative methods to show rhetorical functions of collective and competitive victimhood (McNeill et al., 2017). Building on these theoretical and methodological foundations, we use thematic analysis and discourse analysis to show how victimhood is mobilised in British media to garner support for Brexit, and how this connects with concepts such as collective relative deprivation (e.g. Abrams & Grant, 2012; Runciman, 1966) and relative gratification (Dambrun et al., 2006; Guimond & Dambrun, 2002; Jetten et al., 2015). In doing so, we contribute to a social-psychological perspective on Brexit, develop further the concepts of collective and competitive victimhood, and connect the micro-level of language used in the media sphere to the macro-level of populist movements in democratic societies.

KeywordsPopulism; Victimhood; Mass media
Year2022
ConferenceNORFACE Governance Workshop "A multilevel understanding of populist polarisation and its impact on democracy: Bridging the macro and the micro"
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Deposited21 Nov 2022
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