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Social Media and Populism: An elective affinity?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-753
JournalMedia Culture & Society
Issue number5
Early online date8 May 2018
Accepted/In press20 Mar 2018
E-pub ahead of print8 May 2018


King's Authors


Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, an intense debate has developed around the connection between social media and populist movements. In this article, I put forward some theses about the reasons for the apparent ‘elective affinity’ between social media and populism. I argue that the match between social media and populist politics derives from the way in which the mass networking capabilities of social media, at the time of a ‘mass web’ involving billions of people worldwide, provide a suitable channel for the mass politics and the appeals to the people typical of populism. But this affinity also needs to be understood in light of the rebellious narrative that has come to be associated with social media at times in which rapid technological development has coincided with a profound economic crisis, shaking the legitimacy of the neoliberal order. This question is explored by examining the role acquired by social media in populist movements as the people’s voice and the people’s rally, providing, on the one hand, with a means for disaffected individuals to express themselves and, on the other hand, with a space in which disgruntled Internet users could gather and form partisan online crowds.

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