Skip to main content

Trying to Ignore the Bullies and the Buzz: A Critical Discursive Study of How Pro-migration Activists Cope with and Contest Right-Wing Nationalist Interference

  • 94 Accesses

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Discursive Psychology book series (PSDP)

Abstract

This chapter focuses on how asylum-seeker activists and their allies cope with and contest right-wing nationalist rhetoric and interference. The empirical material, consisting of research interviews with migrant activists and an analysis of posts from two pro-migration Facebook pages, is set in a framework in which media studies, social movement studies and discursive psychology intersect. The chapter identifies three discursive manoeuvres through which pro-migration activists resist right-wing nationalist interference and position themselves vis-à-vis the antagonism they face: denying fear, constructing safe spaces and focusing the narrative on the State. Through these manoeuvres, a position is established whereby asylum seekers are not reduced to passive victims or grateful wanderers. Rather, they are presented as self-empowered political figures who anchor their hopefulness in the collective endeavour of creating societal change. The findings bring to the fore the interplay between psychologically aligned coping mechanisms and strategic communication on the one hand, and face-to-face communication and digital interaction on the other.

Keywords

  • Migrant activism
  • Positioning theory
  • Coping strategies
  • Right-wing antagonism

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-89066-7_5
  • Chapter length: 26 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-89066-7
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   149.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    In the geographic, political and temporal context concerned, right-wing ethnonationalism can be understood broadly as an ideological movement ‘anchored in the nostalgic longing for an ethnically homogenous past that never quite existed’ (Hellström et al., 2020, 2).

  2. 2.

    ‘There are Finns who are not as calm as we are, so please come and burn that fucking [migrant] camp’ is an extract used by Laaksonen et al. (2020, 184) to exemplify the content in these right-wing nationalist videos.

  3. 3.

    My understanding of ‘hybrid’ is aligned Andrew Chadwick’s (2017) theory of hybrid media systems. ‘Blended’ has mostly been used within pedagogics for describing a milieu where the online lived realities merge with the offline but the notion has recently gained ground also within other disciplinary traditions (e.g. Granholm, 2016).

  4. 4.

    Acknowledging that the right to conceptualise racism is an act of power exercising in itself (Hesse, 2004; Lentin, 2020; Stoler, 2002), I understand racism as a system of power in and through which difference is organized unfairly according to such criteria as ethnic, racial, religious and/or cultural backgrounds, affiliations and/or features that intertwine with other categorisations such as class, status, gender and sexuality. This system has historical roots, but contemporary prevalence and it disadvantages some individuals, communities and regions and unfairly advantages others. This system of power affects also digital or hybrid environments since social media platforms and various actors on these platforms can function as amplifiers and manufacturers of unfair hierarchisations (see Matamoros-Fernández, 2017, 11).

  5. 5.

    The movement was initially linked to an organisation with a left-wing agenda (Vapaa Liikkuvuus, meaning ‘free movement’). However, in both the research interviews and in public statements, this link was downplayed, perhaps because the broader anti-capitalist left-wing agenda failed to fully resonate with migrant activists (as argued by Simin Fadaee, 2015, in another political and geographic context) or perhaps because political claims focusing on migration and deportation were reckoned to have more influence on public opinion than a broader agenda.

  6. 6.

    The guide for the semi-structured interviews was assembled by me. The interviews lasted from 20 minutes to one hour and were all transcribed verbatim. The interviews were conducted in English as the individuals selected for the interviews had good or adequate English skills. The informants were selected and interviewed by research assistant Erna Bodström. The two sets of material are part of a larger pool of material from the demonstration that also includes interviews with Finnish activists, ethnographic notes, mainstream media material and big data from social networking services (see e.g. Haavisto, 2020; Laaksonen et al., 2021). In line with discourse theorist Christine Griffin (2007), I rely on contrived material in a DP-setting since ‘No talk or other practice is “natural” in the sense of being unmediated/…/’ (ibid., 248).’

  7. 7.

    Although the use of images and graphics are essential for the formation of social and political identities, I focus my analyses on textual elements.

  8. 8.

    Whether these commenters are asylum seekers who arrived in Finland in 2015–2016 or earlier, we cannot know. Neither do we know, generally speaking, whether people are using their real names on Facebook. Further, because names are not a reliable indicator of someone’s background, these numbers must be interpreted with caution.

  9. 9.

    A more general analysis of how commenters used emoticons on the two pages showed that posts received on average 57 emoji reactions (likes, dislikes, etc.), ranging from 0 to 672 reactions. The most popular post in terms of having received the most emoticon reactions is a bilingual (Finnish and English) post on Refugee Hospitality Club from 24 February 2017 sharing that Pekka Haavisto and Erkki Tuomioja, two influential Finnish politicians, came to visit the Right to Live demonstration.

  10. 10.

    Goodman et al. (2015) have written about how asylum seekers manage talk about returning home by highlighting the importance of safety. It is noteworthy that the informants of my study do the same to manage talk about threats in the Finnish society.

  11. 11.

    Yasim: ‘I think there is no leader in the demo. Cause every person he, know his job, in the demo, and we cannot continue without him. So every member in the demo he, do his job. He’s the leader in his position. So, we are just one family, trying to, fix this misery in Finland’.

References

  • Andreassen, R. (2020). Social media surveillance, LGBTQ refugees and asylum. First Monday, 26(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i1.10653

  • Augoustinos, M., & Every, D. (2007). The language of “race” and prejudice: A discourse of denial, reason, and liberal-practical politics. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 26(2), 123–141.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, G., Feigenbaum, A., Frenzel, F., & McCurdy, P. (2018). Introduction: Past tents, present tents: On the importance of studying protest camps. In G. Brown, A. Feigenbaum, F. Frenzel, & P. McCurdy (Eds.), Protest camps in international context: Spaces, infrastructures and media of resistance (pp. 1–22). Policy Press. https://doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781447329411.003.0001

  • Cammaerts, B. (2020). The neo-fascist discourse and its normalisation through mediation. Journal of Multicultural Discourses. https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2020.1743296

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Chadwick, A. (2017). The hybrid media system: Politics and power (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Costanza-Chock, S. (2014). Out of the shadows, into the streets!: Transmedia organizing and the immigrant rights movement. MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 43–63.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Dobai, A., & Hopkins, N. (2020). Humour is serious: Minority group members’ use of humour in their encounters with majority group members. European Journal of Social Psychology, 50, 448–462. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2612

  • Edley, N. (2001). Analysing masculinity: Interpretative repertoires, ideological dilemmas and subject positions. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, & S. J. Yates (Eds.), Discourse as data: A guide for analysis (pp. 189–228). Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekman, M. (2014). The dark side of online activism: Swedish right-wing extremist video activism on YouTube. MedieKultur, 30(56), 79–99.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fadaee, S. (2015). The immigrant rights struggle, and the paradoxes of radical activism in Europe. Social Movement Studies, 14(6), 733–739. https://doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2015.1070336

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Farkas, J., & Neumayer, C. (2020). Mimicking news: How the credibility of an established tabloid is used when disseminating racism. Nordicom Review, 41(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.2478/nor-2020-0001

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Farkas, J., Schou, J., & Neumayer, C. (2018). Cloaked Facebook pages: Exploring fake Islamist propaganda in social media. New Media & Society, 20(5), 1850–1867. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817707759

  • Fenton, N. (2016). Left out? Digital media, radical politics and social change. Information, Communication & Society, 19(3), 346–361. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1109698

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Gill, R. (2000/2012). Discourse analysis. In M. Bauer & G. Gaskell (Eds.), Qualitative research with text, image and sound: A practical handbook (pp. 172–190). Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, S., Burke, S., Liebling, H., & Zasada, D. (2015). ‘I can’t go back because if I go back I would die’: How Asylum seekers manage talk about returning home by highlighting the importance of safety. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 25, 327–339. https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2217

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Granholm, C. (2016). Blended lives : ICT talk among vulnerable young people in Finland. Young, 24(2), 85–101. https://doi.org/10.1177/1103308815613188

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Griffin, C. (2007). Being dead and being there: Research interviews, sharing hand cream and the preference for analysing “naturally occurring data.” Discourses Studies, 9, 246–269.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Haavisto, C. (2020). “Impossible” activism and the right to be understood: The emergent refugee rights movement in Finland. In O. C. Norocel, A. Hellström, & M. Bak Jorgensen (Eds.), Nostalgia and hope: Intersections between politics of culture, welfare, and migration (pp. 169–184). IMISCOE Research Series. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-41694-2

  • Hellström, A., Norocel O. C., & Jørgensen, M. B. (2020). Nostalgia and hope: Narrative master frames across contemporary Europe. In O. Norocel, A. Hellström, & M. Jørgensen (Eds.), Nostalgia and hope: Intersections between politics of culture, welfare, and migration in Europe. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-41694-2_1

  • Hesse, B. (2004). Im/Plusible deniability: Racism’s conceptual double blind. Social Identities, 10(1), 155–178.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Huma, B., Alexander, M., Stokoe, E., & Tileâga, C. (2020). Introduction to special issue on discursive psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 17(3), 313–335. https://doi.org/10.1080/14780887.2020.1729910

  • Kellner, D. (2003). Media spectacle. Routledge.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kuokkanen, K. (2017, May 30). Rautatientorin telttaleirin liepeillä pyörii kolme maahanmuuttoa vastustavaa ryhmää, jotka eivät voi sietää toisiaan – Poliisi: “Vaikea tietää, kuka edustaa ketäkin”. Helsingin Sanomat. https://www.hs.fi/kaupunki/art-2000005232142.html

  • Laaksonen, S., Bodström, E., & Haavisto, C. (2021). Finding the voice of a protest: Negotiating authority among the multiplicity of voices in pro-refugee demonstration. In C. Benoit-Barné & T. Martine (Eds.), Speaking with one voice: Multivocality and univocality in organizing. Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laaksonen, S., Pantti, M., & Titley, G. (2020). Broadcasting the movement and branding political microcelebrities: Finnish anti-immigration video practices on YouTube. Journal of Communication, 70(2), 171–194. https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqz051

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lentin, A. (2020). Why race still matters. Polity Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindfors, S. (2017, June 26). Suomi ensin -johtohahmo raudoissa maijaan, yleisö hurrasi poliisille – näin mielenosoitusleirin purkaminen eteni Helsingissä. Ilta-Sanomat. https://www.is.fi/kotimaa/art-2000005269317.html

  • Mäkinen K. (2016). Uneasy laughter: Encountering the anti-immigration debate. Qualitative Research, 16(5), 541–556. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794115598193

  • Matamoros-Fernández, A. (2017). Platformed racism: The mediation and circulation of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6), 930–946. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1293130

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Melasniemi, A. (2018). Poliisin velvollisuus toimia omalla nimellään virkatehtävässä: Poliisien näkemyksiä aiheesta nykyisessä toimintaympäristössä. Unpublished thesis, Police University College, Finland. http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2018053011175

  • Meraz, S., & Papacharissi, Z. (2013). Networked gatekeeping and networked framing on #egypt. International Journal of Press and Politics, 18(2), 138–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161212474472

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Moulin, C., & Nyers, P. (2007). “We live in a country of UNHCR”—Refugee protests and global political society. International Political Sociology, 1(4), 356–372. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-5687.2007.00026.x

  • Näre, L. (2020). ‘Finland kills with a pen’—Asylum seekers’ protest against bureaucratic violence as politics of human rights. Citizenship Studies, 24(8), 979–993. https://doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2020.1769559

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mudde, C. (2010). The populist radical right: A pathological normalcy. West European Politics, 33(6), 1167–1186. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2010.508901

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Nelimarkka, M., Laaksonen, S. M., & Semaan, B. (2018). Social media is polarized, social media is polarized: Towards a new design agenda for mitigating polarization. In DIS ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 957–970). https://doi.org/10.1145/3196709.3196764

  • Noble, S. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. NYU Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt9w5Peters

  • Pettersson, K. (2018). Exploring the discourse contained in political blogs from a critical discursive psychological perspective. In Sage research methods cases. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781526430564

  • Pöyhtäri, R., Nelimarkka, M., Nikunen, K., Ojala, M., Pantti, M., & Pääkkönen, J. (2019). Refugee debate and networked framing in the hybrid media environment. International Communication Gazette. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748048519883520

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sallamaa, D. O. (2018). Ulkoparlamentaarinen äärioikeistoliikehdintä ja maahanmuuttovastaisuus 2010-luvun Suomessa. (Valtiotieteellisen tiedekunnan julkaisuja; No. 97). University of Helsinki. https://doi.org/10.31885/9789515133502.

  • Savolainen, J. (2018, January 31). Aatemaailmaan kytkeytyvistä väkivaltarikoksista Helsingissä 56 liittyi äärioikeistoon, yksi äärivasemmistoon eikä yksikään uskontoon – “Tilastoista näkyy selvästi, mikä on uhka”. Helsingin Sanomat. https://www.hs.fi/kaupunki/art-2000005547269.html

  • Stoler, A. (2002). Racial histories and their regimes of truth. In D. Goldberg & P. Essed (Eds.), Race critical theories. Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Titley, G. (2020). Is free speech racist? Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Törnqvist, L. (2017). Vainoaminen oikeuskäytännössä. In L. Raimo & E. Konttinen-Di Nardo (Eds.), Kirjoituksia modernista oikeuskäytännöstä. Helsingin Hovioikeus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Dijk, T. A. (1992). Discourse and the denial of racism. Discourse & Society, 3(1), 87–118. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926592003001005

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wahlbeck, Ö. (2016). True Finns and non-true Finns: The minority rights discourse of populist politics in Finland. Journal of Intercultural Studies37(6), 574–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/07256868.2016.1235020

  • Wodak, R. (2015). The politics of fear: What right-wing populist discourses mean. Sage.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was conducted as part of the Academy of Finland project Anti-Racism Under Pressure: Social Movements, NGOs and their Mediated Claims-Making in Finland (2013–2016/2018) in collaboration with the Academy of Finland consortium Racisms and Public Communications in the Hybrid Media Environment (HYBRA) (2016–2019). The help of my research assistants, Juho Pääkkönen and Erna Bodström, was crucial in the collection and organisation of the empirical material.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Camilla Haavisto .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Haavisto, C. (2022). Trying to Ignore the Bullies and the Buzz: A Critical Discursive Study of How Pro-migration Activists Cope with and Contest Right-Wing Nationalist Interference. In: Pettersson, K., Nortio, E. (eds) The Far-Right Discourse of Multiculturalism in Intergroup Interactions. Palgrave Studies in Discursive Psychology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-89066-7_5

Download citation