Populist communication during the Covid-19 pandemic: the case of Brazil’s president Bolsonaro

Populist communication during the Covid-19 pandemic: the case of Brazil’s president Bolsonaro

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Burni, Aline / Eduardo Tamaki
External Publications (2021)

in: Partecipazione e Conflitto 14 (1), 113-130

DOI: 10.1285/i2035660914i1p113
Open access

Brazil has been one of the hardest hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic. Far-right populist president Bolsonaro promoted social polarisation and politicised the crisis, while neglecting the seriousness of the health emergency. Despite the consequences ofthe lack of response by the federal government to contain the high infection rates, Bolsonaro’s approval ratings remained stable and slightly increased during the  outbreak.  Against  this  background,  this  article  turns  to  the  question  on  how  populist  politicians  in government have used communication to frame the Covid-19 pandemic and navigate the crisis. Looking at the  case  of  Brazil,  we  ask:  how  was  the  Covid-19  pandemic  framed  or  used  by  a  populist  leader  like Bolsonaro? How did he communicate the pandemicin his social media speeches? By mobilising literature on  populism  from  both theideational  and  discursive  perspective,  we  formulated  a  rubric  and  analysed Bolsonaro’s speeches on social media according to a “populist-crisis” approach, using the holistic grading method. Our findings suggest that, aligned with the literature, populists like Bolsonaro use crises to advance some  strategies  that  can  help  them  maintain  support:  the  creation  and  blaming  of  enemies,  an  alleged proximity to “the people”, and the projection of a paradoxical image of “exceptionality” and “ordinariness” of the populist leader.

About the author

Burni, Aline

Political Science

Burni

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