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The Global Rise of PopulismPerformance, Political Style, and Representation$
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Benjamin Moffitt

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804796132

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804796132.001.0001

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The Audience: Populism and ‘The People’

The Audience: Populism and ‘The People’

(p.95) 6 The Audience: Populism and ‘The People’
The Global Rise of Populism

Benjamin Moffitt

Stanford University Press

This chapter turns to populism’s central ‘audience’ – ‘the people’ – and investigates the way that populist actors use mediated communication to construct, portray and render-present ‘the people’ in contemporary populism. It seeks to answer a number of important questions: what processes are involved in speaking for ‘the people’? Who are populist performances actually aimed towards? And why do some characterisations of ‘the people’ gain traction, while others fail? Challenging claims that populism is a ‘direct’ or ‘unmediated’ phenomenon, it introduces the concept of mediation in order to better understand these processes. It does this by considering the role of images and media spectacles in presenting ‘the people’ in contemporary populism; outlining the differences between populist audiences and constituencies when speaking for ‘the people’; and explaining how media are never just neutral ‘loudspeakers’ for populist performances, but actually active participants, often presenting themselves as proxies for ‘the people’.

Keywords:   populism, the people, representation, mediation, Debord, the representative claim, media, spectacle, images, performance

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