Populist Islamophobia. The Australian Refugee Crisis on Twitter

Arianna Grasso


Over the past twenty years, Australia has been one of the many countries challenged by the escalation of the global migrant crisis. In particular, since the 2012 reimplementation of the Pacific Solution, namely the enactment of the offshore detention policy, media manipulation on the matter has intensified. In this respect, Australian politicians have, in a bipartisan fashion, instrumentalized the asylum seeker issue to foment nationalist and sovereign discourses both offline and online, aiming to create consensus among voters and hostility towards migrants. Focusing on social media’s new role as virtual political battlegrounds, this paper explores the so-called Antipodean right-wing populism, and the extent to which it is enacted on Twitter. In the paper, populism is conceptualized as a “cultural-relational performative style,” that is, as a geo-historical event, which involves different digital and political actors who share persuasive rhetorical strategies. On this premise, this study aims to analyze narratives constructed around the refugee crisis articulated on Twitter by selected populist leaders in Queensland State. The research relies on a mixed methodology that combines Corpus Linguistics to elicit quantitative data from the Twitter research corpus, and approaches of Critical Stylistics to unveil the ideological substratum underlying the political content of tweets. The outcomes of the study will show how populists in Queensland State are prone to juxtapose, hence equate, Muslim immigration with Islamic terrorism, by employing specific stylistic strategies.


Queensland populism; islamophobia; Critical Stylistics; Corpus Linguistics; Twitter-based analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2020.i15.718


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