Authors: Marke Kivijärvi, Tuomo Takala
In this article, we examine the discursive practices of (de)stigmatizing right-wing populist party leaders. We draw on a recent example from Finland by examining how the female presidential candidate of a right-wing populist party was portrayed in the Finnish media during the 2018 presidential campaign season. We examine the stigmatization by the press media and the stigma-management tactics used by the presidential candidate to resist stigmatization. The media representation of the right-wing party leader is highly tensioned, and the media positions her political leadership within the duality of charisma and stigma. In our analysis, we extend earlier literature by unveiling the emotional tensions inherent in portraying and (de)stigmatizing populist political leadership. The results highlight how religion, radical nationalism, and inappropriate expression of emotions are intertwined as the main sources for attributing stigma. In this case, the stigmatization of the leader occurs via threatening and ridiculing imagery and erosion of the leader’s authority. Resistance to stigma occurs through distancing, emotional and moral argumentation, and attribution of strong leadership.
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