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Photo: “The Guardian Building Window in London“, by Bryantbob licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Maydell, Elena, Keith Tuffin, and Eleanor Brittain. “The effect of media populism on racist discourse in New Zealand.” Critical Discourse Studies (2021): 1-17.


While populism is commonly considered antagonistic to democratic liberalism, recent research demonstrates how populist rhetoric may highjack traditional liberal discourses and opportunistically refashion them against the plight of minorities. Drawing on the concept of media populism, this research investigates how notions of ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ were contested in debates on racism in New Zealand regional newspaper, The Taranaki Daily News, and further deployed to promote a populist agenda, against the representation of the Indigenous minority, Māori, in the local government. The analysis of letters to the Editor shows the prevalence of anti-Māori sentiment, articulated through such populist rhetoric as ‘majority’, ‘whole community’ and ‘togetherness’; while the appeal for Māori representation was framed as ‘special treatment’, ‘positive discrimination’, ‘separatism’ and ‘reverse racism’. Hence, by endorsing the populist discourse, media provide their audiences with the moral affinity to support racist and anti-minority policies; ultimately producing the political phenomenon of media populism.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.