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Marcks, Holger, and Janina Pawelz. “From Myths of Victimhood to Fantasies of Violence: How Far-Right Narratives of Imperilment Work.” Terrorism and Political Violence (2020): 1-18.


Why is far-right rhetoric so dangerous? In recent years, scholars and policy makers alike have striven to unpack the black box of extremists’ online communication and the rise of far-right violence. Particularly the role of social media in spreading hate speech and fostering radicalization has caught a lot of attention; however, there has been little success in pinning down the drivers of violence. Drawing on the concept of dangerous speech, we take a step back from the violent effects of far-right online communication. Instead, we examine its logical functioning to illuminate the upstream processes that constitute hate and legitimize violence. More concretely, we study how far-right narratives employed on social media mobilize emotions that prepare for the acceptance or even use of violence. Analyzing the argumentative structures of two anti-immigration campaigns in Germany, we find a network of narratives where narratives of imperilment— supported by narratives of conspiracy and inequality—converge into a greater story of national threat and awakening. By constructing a situation of collective self-defense, violence becomes a logical option, even if violent action is not explicitly proposed. Counter-narrative efforts should thus not only focus on hate speech but also address the myths of victimhood, which are constitutive of (violent) palingenetic fantasies.

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.