Scientists versus the people: science, anti-science and counter-science in Italian populist communication before and during the pandemic
This paper fits into the complex debate on the relation between pandemic and populism, shedding light on one aspect that has not yet been sufficiently investigated: the renewed antagonism between common sense and scientific knowledge in populist communication. How has the way populist actors speak of expert knowledge and scientists changed since the outbreak of the Coronavirus? Has the pandemic fostered an extension of the ‘elite’ concept in populist rhetoric, allowing populist forces to identify scientists as the new central antagonist of ‘the people’? The research tries to answer these questions through a content analysis of populist tweets (N=1533). We focus on a relevant case study, Italy, which makes it possible to distinguish between different ‘types’ of populist parties, in terms of both ideology and strategical ‘constraints’. Findings show that a radical right ‘science-related populism’ has emerged as a backlash of scientists’ massive intervention in the political sphere.
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