Far-Right Narratives

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.

Photo by George Ian Bowles on Flickr

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.

Photo by Zsolt Szigetvary on EPA

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.

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18 thoughts on “The Jackpot of the Far-right: How to Win the Popular Vote with One Argument 101

  1. Firstly, we found the post already a good start. However, we have a few suggestions, namely, it would be nice if you could reference the author of the quote. We also appreciate a brief definition of xenophobia.

    1. Dear commenter, thank you for your input and the question! Due to the short nature of the entry unfortunately I could not include a definition of xenophobia. However, I find the following one the most concise and appropriate: Xenophobia is an aversion or hostility to, disdain for, or fear of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/xenophobia). Let me know what you think, is this a good definition in your view?
      On a second note, the quotes are from the blog entry, they are my own words, just put as a way of emphasizing the main arguments.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. We agree with the definition you proposed. We understand that the quotes are your own words, however, we suggest checking if the double quotation marks are appropriate. Maybe you could substitute with italics. We can’t wait to see your final work!

        1. Thank you for getting back to me! The extracted lines are already in italics, but I will definitely try to think about ways to make it more obvious that these are not external quoted lines.

  2. Interesting topic! The lay-out could be more structured. Also make sure to quote the author. However, interesting article. The title is very catchy, however make it more clear that the title is satire and not an actual guide.

    1. Dear commenter, thank you for the useful advice! Could you please elaborate on what is not clear about the layout? Please note that the quotes are internal quotes, I used them to emphasise the main takeaway of my entry.

      1. Hi Márton, what we meant was the featured image, because it is very ‘busy’ with lots of dots, and colors it can look a bit much, especially since the quotes are also in different colors. However, this is a personal preference maybe. The quotes itself look very good and are clear as well. We would like to end by saying that we really enjoyed reading the post, it is very well-written.

        1. Dear commenter,

          I am glad you liked my post, and I value your feedback. The colouring of the featured image and the quotes consist of just two colours, the exact national colours of the Hungarian flag. The dots are therefore meant to symbolize the governing Hungarian party, Fidesz. The metaphor is meant to convey that the party is not just xenophobic and anti-immigrant, but “anti-” in general. I understand that it is a metaphor that can be confusing at first, however, I hope it is clear now.

  3. Hi Márton,
    The visualisation of your blog adds value to the well-written content. In this regard we specifically enjoyed the use of the ‘quote tool’ to emphasis main takeaways from the post.
    Besides that, we wondered if there is a causal link between the different factors, why far-right parties take a xenophobic stance. When we were reading this section, we thought that could be very plausible. If this is the case, we would say it would be a great idea to highlight that. We are already looking forward to your reply.

    1. Dear Kilian,

      Thank you for your comment, I am glad you found value in my writing.
      The answer depends on which factors you are referring to specifically. Do you mean the points I marked as ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’?

      1. Thanks for your quick answer!
        And yes exactly! We thought that an expanded population fearing immigration and increased influence consequently lead to increased success in elections. So that the first two factors condition the success in elections. But maybe this is just a minor detail. However, we were also wondering how specifically credibility is raised through the economic crisis.

        1. Thank you for your remark, indeed these points are closely correlated, one flows from the other.
          Regarding your other question, I suggest that you take a look at two other entries in our blog, that specifically address economic questions. These two posts elaborate more deeply on the economic narratives of far-right parties.
          You can find the posts under these links:

  4. Hi Marton,
    First of all, what a captivating title! A real attention grabber, way to go.
    Additionally, the storyline of the blog post is clear and structured, also backed up by visuals that support the claim that you are making.
    However, there are some small changes to be made. For example, in the title, instead of “how”, “How” with a capital H.
    Despite these small spelling changes, really interesting post, keep up the good work!

  5. Dear commenter,

    Thank you very much for your input. I corrected the aforementioned. I am glad that you see value in my work. What do you think about the headings I used in my post? I would appreciate your opinion on them.

  6. Nice work!
    I found the post easy to read and with a very clear structure.
    I liked the fact that you attached that specific tweet at the end. It fit the post perfectly.
    I found extremely interesting the point that you made about the absence of an opposition party to blame. I think it would be intriguing to research the relation between this absence of opposition and Orban’s constant blaming of the EU.
    All in all, well done!

    1. Dear commenter,

      I was delighted to read your comment, I am glad you liked my work. Indeed, Fidesz’s connection to the opposition is one that is worthy of researching, especially its strategic use of blaming. I am happy this made you think about new arguments to explore.
      Once again, thank you for your input!

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