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Erik Bucy - Populism as Verbal and Visual Transgression: A Focus on Truth, Nonverbal Behavior, and Social Media Response - 14/03/2019

About the lecture

Mainstream political discourse relies on a foundation of decorum, some fidelity to the truth, and civility—or at least it used to. The rise of populism in Europe and Trumpism in America suggests that there are sizeable constituencies for unadorned political appeals that feature stark language, blunt delivery, and impassioned claims that are more or less true—but also visually provocative and attention getting. Indeed, populism is as much a communication phenomenon as it is a political ideology. Thus far, we have only considered half of the message: the verbal performance of populism, especially discourse that channels voter anger and need for blame. In this talk, I review evidence across a series of studies using content analysis, focus group, and time series methods to assess the resonance of populism’s neglected visual and tonal dimensions. Findings provide insight into how Trump in particular uses a mélange of nonverbal theatrics—in tandem with verbal attacks—to bond supporters while alienating critics. The presentation operationalizes populism as a communication phenomenon with distinctive verbal, tonal and visual correlates that can be subjected to systematic analysis. Findings for Trump are discussed in relation to the debate performances of recent presidential candidates, including not just Hillary Clinton in 2016 but Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 

About the speaker

Erik P. Bucy is the Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. He is the author of Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (with Maria Elizabeth Grabe, Oxford, 2009) and editor of the Sourcebook for Political Communication Research: Methods, Measures, and Analytical Techniques (with R. Lance Holbert, Routledge, 2013). His research interests include nonverbal and visual framing analysis of politics, civic engagement with digital technologies, and public opinion about the press. Bucy is the former editor of Politics and the Life Sciences, an interdisciplinary journal published by Cambridge University Press, and has recently held research fellowships at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.

Practical information

  • March 14th, 2019; 16:00 'o clock
  • Aula R.014 (Rodestraat)
  • Participation is free, but online registration is mandatory.