How to defeat the populist narrative

Avigliano

My name is Giuseppe, I am 26 years old. I work in a library. I have a degree in Classical Literature and now I am studying Philosophy. I live in Eboli, a small town in southern Italy.

The recent years of economic crisis have increased populist movements in all European states. The success of the Front National in France in the recent local election is a strong indication of what might be the result of the upcoming European election in May.

Is it too late to stop the populist movement?

The populist narrative derives its strength from strong opposition to the dominant narrative.
If we want to analyse the populist narrative, we have to consider some recurrent points of its narration.

1. The construction of a tragic background.
2. Strong language.
3. Choice of an enemy.
4. The absence of an idea of society.

The aim of our own new narrative for Europe should be to neutralise populist movements. In the current situation promises shouted by populists easily reach those (large) segments of the population that do not understand current European policies.

A new European narrative has to contradict the populist narrative, revealing the structural defects of populist rhetoric. Among the four elements that distinguish populism, two are irreproachable, while the other two highlight its defects.

Elements 1 and 2 are hardly objectionable. These elements have an ancient tradition and have always played an important role in the public debate of any society. These two elements recur to the classical scheme of the invective and were already present in the philippics of Demosthenes and the orations of Cicero. By constructing a narrative based on these two elements, some Greek orators achieved significant results without having to resort to force. In the current populist narrative this simple scheme is used successfully.
It is the other two elements that demonstrate the harmfulness of the populist narrative that leads to the radicalisation of anti-European sentiments, goes against any historical logic, encourages (violent) clashes and reinforces identifications of a national character, which are often essentially fascist – even if not always as explicitly as in Hungary (Jobbik) or France (Front National).

To be continued

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