The Jackpot of the Far-right: How to Win the Popular Vote with One Argument 101
What screams far-right more than strong demagogic rhetoric? Persuasion is a natural and organic part of all political campaigns, but the far-right has been especially successful in reiterating certain subjects, almost like a creed. Themes are often based on hatred, taking the form of ‘anti-‘ arguments.
‘xenophobia provided the European far-right with one of its most effective rhetoric, even more so since the start of the migration crisis in 2015’
Undoubtedly, the anti-immigrant narrative derived from xenophobia provided the European far-right with one of its most effective rhetoric, especially since the start of the migration crisis in 2015. It proved to be the perfect tool in finding a scapegoat on whom national problems could be blamed.
This is what led several scholars to see xenophobic strategy as one main identifier of far-right parties while explaining their rise. This suggests a strong trend, but it is not always the case. For some scholars, xenophobia occupies a different place on the table of the far-right and is assigned a different level of importance, as also explained in my recent literature review.
This post contributes to the conversation by observing far-right xenophobic rhetoric in a systematic way with a focus on strategy and implications and the case example of Hungary.
The art of persuasion
The far-right parties base extensive arguments on the idea of immigrants being a threat to European societies. Arguments include immigrants taking jobs and slowly altering our reality in Europe through changing the culture, traditions, or religion.
These arguments find their way to the voters through different channels like public speeches, posters or social media. The different tools are an important and strategically planned part of the far-right agenda, explicitly designed to legitimize far-right party politics and target voters for gaining political power. The various channels use targeted political language of exclusion, portraying immigrants as a threat to European culture, national unity, and economic stability. The language and use of visual images are characterized by persuasion, misleading and fearmongering. Ethnic and religious intolerance constructed by the far-right party and the consequent fear in the voters encourages them to support the far-right party, which claims to defend the normative values of the nation.
Why be xenophobic?
Results are not guaranteed, but with a sufficiently high presence of xenophobic tendencies and especially in times of economic crisis the anti-immigrant discourse has a solid ground to develop on. This could lead to positive outcomes for the far-right parties:
- First, they expand the size of the population fearing the consequences of immigration described by the party.
- Second, their actions gain legitimacy, boosting their political power, influence, and credibility.
- Third, it raises their chances of winning the subsequent elections. This has been the case throughout Europe in the last decade.
Intolerance, violence, and the changing spectrum
It is argued that the extensive populist use of these tools and arguments ignite artificial hatred, resulting in intolerance and violence against immigrants. But on the wider scale, such narratives also forced the mainstream right to adopt similar arguments, hoping to regain its supporter base from the far-right. What is more, this then resulted in the far-left showing little resistance to the xenophobic campaign too, adopting similar policies. The phenomenon constitutes an overall shift in the nature of the political spectrum.
Case study of Hungary: “If you come to Hungary, you cannot take the job of Hungarians!”
No medium in Europe has missed addressing the Hungarian situation and the immigrant policy of the governing party (Fidesz) with Viktor Orbán as the ultimate bad cop of Europe. This has also been the case in overseas media.
Fidesz is indeed the textbook example of the successful use of different populist narratives, with the xenophobic one being its goose with a golden egg.
Fidesz has been governing since the start of the migration, depriving it of its other favourite political tool, extensively blaming the opposition for the situation. Therefore, the government adopted a rather firm stance in the question, one that made it famous all over Europe and popular in the eyes of the voters.
‘Fidesz is indeed the textbook example of the successful use of different populist narratives‘
The “required” amount of xenophobia is present in the Hungarian society, perfectly observable through historical unfolding, taking the face of an ‘Other’. The Fidesz regime built extensively on this possibility. Fidesz’s hostility towards immigrants, but even refugees, was clear and targeted from the beginning when the government closed its borders and refused to take in refugees. But the party took it even further by using the migration crisis as a tool of manipulation to cement its own power. Soon a whole campaign on anti-immigrant prompting and rhetoric followed, strategic exploitation of xenophobia. A variety of manipulative narrative tools are used. The xenophobia narrative became the focus of Fidesz’s infamous poster series, aiming to engrave hatred toward immigrants. The arguments are also reflected in the surveys of the so-called ‘National Consultation’. These referendums officially aimed to involve the population in the decision making, in reality, they were part of the xenophobic campaign of the government, manipulating the population through leading questions and incitement to fear immigration and gain power for Fidesz. All this, with the result of a never seen level of xenophobia and rancour against immigrants in the Hungarian society.