Together with Iris Muis, Gerwin van Schie and Tim de Winkel we wrote the article ‘”Liberation begins with stating the facts”: rationalization of discrimination through data in populist rhetoric on Twitter’. It considers Geert Wilders’ use of numbers and statistics about immigrants on Twitter. The article is open access and can be found here: http://doi.org/10.16995/olh.320
Geert Wilders is internationally the most iconic politician of the Netherlands and one of the most mediagenic flag bearers of Europe’s new right. This paper presents an analysis of a fundamental aspect of Wilders’ claims, namely their apparently factual basis, by employing framing theory and contentious politics theory, and taking a mixed method approach of quantitative data analysis and qualitative critical reading of Wilders’ Twitter timeline. Our main research question is: How did Geert Wilders frame his political claims, specifically about race and ethnicity, through statistics, numbers, and ‘facts’ on Twitter in the three months leading up to the Dutch elections on 15 March 2017? Our aim is to take Geert Wilders as a case study to closely examine how politicians can frame a particular topic to suit their own purposes, and manifests itself when politicians move to the new media sphere where their views seem to be less frequently challenged and their statements less verified by the media. We will conceptualize Wilders’ Twitter practice as ‘information bricolage’ which is a consequence of the new media reality where, on his own Twitter feed, a politician appears to be the editor of his own news. We show how the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) campaign is almost in its entirety Wilders’ media performance, and how this is, both online and offline, largely devoid of conversation but consists of one-way broadcasting instead. In addition, Wilders shows a paradoxical attitude towards statistics. On the one hand, he challenges the objectivity of numbers or the institutes that produce them, while at the times he uses these ‘facts’ to validate his statements. By way of these practices, Geert Wilders rationalizes and legitimizes discriminating claims about Dutch immigrant populations.