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Making Politics Popular
A changing context and content of political
communication in Western Europe
Kees Brants
Amsterdam School of Communication Research ASCoR
University of Milano Summer School, July 18, 2012
Changes in the political context
• Public distrust, electoral volatility, rise of
• Post-fact society, ‘truthiness’, truth by Twitter
• From party democracy to audience democracy:
authenticity, charisma and empathy
• Selling politics and politicians in a permanent
Changes in the media context
• Competition and the economy of free lead to a
shift in media from a supply to a demand market
• Waning of public service ethos and its culturalpedagogic logic
• ‘what sells’ becomes a news value
• New form of infotainment-journalism mixes nonprofessionalism with critique, comedy and
Appearances of popularization
Popularization as
* Personalization
private, political persona,
same plus vox pops and
personal approach, emotions man-in-the-street
* Infotainment
politician in entertainment
and talk shows
entertainment styles/formats
in information genres
* Popular culture
politicians copy star styles
similar narrative structures
and type of characters
* Populism
popular idiom and tone of
accessible, entertaining and
obstinate tone and style
* Satire
irony, sarcasm, ridicule,
Questions for research
• Street: treat political communication as branch of
show business to take the socalled trivial seriously
• Including more media, genres, formats, styles and
qualitative research raise question of viability of
longitudinal research
• Problems of conceptualization and
operationalization: personalization, irony, sarcasm
• Popularization in social media: towards an
extended concept?