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Populism as PR: An International Perspective of Public Diplomacy Trends.

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19. The Public Relations of Populism: An
International Perspective of Public
Diplomacy Trends
JiSKa enGelbert & Jac ob Gro She K
On April 30, 2012, Dutch parliamentarian and head of the right-wing Par-
ty for Freedom, Geert Wilders, gave a speech in the Four Seasons Hotel in
New York that was entitled Stifling Free Speech in Europe. By invitation of
the conservative U.S. think tank, the Gatestone Institute, and against the
background of a large Dutch flag, Wilders presented his four strategies on
how “we” ought to “defeat Islam” (Wilders, 2012). Although this language
signals both Wilders’ and Gatestone’s shared vision on freedom of speech in
the context of criticizing Islam, it also seems to imply a broader alliance of
countries:
We must reassert our national identities. The nation-state enables self-govern-
ment and self-determination. This insight led the Zionists to establish Israel as
the homeland of the Jews. Zionism teaches us one of the most important lessons
which the modern world needs today. Theodor Herzl argued that a Jewish state
would facilitate “a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit.” Today, we need our own
respective nation-states to preside over a new blossoming of our own Western
spirit. Our nations are the homes in which freedom and democracy prospers [sic].
This is true for the Netherlands. This is true for America. This is true for Israel.
Wilders, however, was not in New York as an official or formal representative
of the Dutch government. In fact, only nine days earlier his Party for Freedom
(Partijvoor de Vrijheid; PVV) had officially withdrawn its support of the mi-
nority government, a cabinet that had existed only by virtue of the Party for
Freedom’s assured endorsement. Rather, Wilders’ speech coincided with the
U.S. release of his autobiography, Marked for Death: Islam’s War against the
West and Me. This book does not reflect any official Dutch stance on foreign
334 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
policy or internal affairs, but documents the innate juncture between Wilders’
private and political life as his views on Islam have led to death threats and
Wilders living under permanent protection. Indeed, when Wilders was inter-
viewed on Fox News by Sean Hannity about his book the following day, he
was introduced there as “a marked man.”
Wilders’ visit to the U.S. was made in a personal capacity and by pri-
vate invitation. Yet, his parliamentary affiliation and governmental position
suggest that his U.S.-targeted book, New York speech, and Fox interview
inexorably have ramifications for perceptions of “The Netherlands” or, more
specifically, of the Dutch government’s position in the field of international
politics and affairs as it is publicly known.
Additional international speaking engagements featuring Wilders further
illustrate the role of media platforms and international alliances in the dis-
semination of his political vision for the Netherlands that are at odds with
official Dutch policy, particularly in the areas of foreign affairs and immigra-
tion. As examples, in 2009, Wilders gave a speech to the Danish Free Press
Society, where he outlined his version of a two-state solution for the Middle
East conflict, namely, “one Jewish state called Israel including Judea and Sa-
maria and one Palestinian state called Jordan” (Wilders, 2009), and where he
called for a boycott of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Also in 2010, after
having been denied entry to the United Kingdom the year before, Wilders
controversially addressed the House of Lords in London, by invitation of
Lord Malcolm Pearson, who is a peer from the U.K. Independence Party.
Wilders asserted there that, “[…] we will have to end and get rid of cultural
relativism” (Wilders, 2010a, emphasis added). When Wilders was in Berlin in
2010 by invitation of die Freiheit [the Freedom], the German counterpart to
the PVV, he stated, “I am here because Germany matters to the Netherlands
and the rest of the world” (Wilders, 2010b, emphasis added). And on Sept.
11, 2010, at a much anticipated speech at the 9/11 Remembrance Rally,
Wilders argued,
[…] we, we will not betray those who died on 9/11. For their sakes we cannot
tolerate a mosque on or near Ground Zero. For their sakes loud and clear we say:
No mosque here! […] So that New York, rooted in Dutch tolerance, will never
become New Mecca (Wilders, 2010c, emphasis added).
Wilders’ performances on these international stages are typically contro-
versial. They, consequently, attract extensive national and international me-
dia coverage. Wilders can thereby capitalize on the strategic public relations
potential of these platforms, on which he is consistently seen to explicitly
contend with government voices and stances on foreign policy, immigration
The Public Relations of Populism 335
politics and international affairs. Although Wilders’ actions may be primarily
rhetoric and polemic in intent, they explicitly claim a diplomatic entitlement
and may thus have very real diplomatic consequences.
Importantly, Geert Wilders’ case is not idiosyncratic, but emblematic of
an emerging kind of actor that ought to be considered for its diplomatic
ramifications. These typically populist agents are not to be mistaken for in-
cumbent populist leaders and governments that deploy anti-elitist tactics in
their approaches to foreign policy and management of international relations
(McPherson, 2007). Instead, the actors focused on here are self-positioned
as political outsiders who, because of explicit ties with state institutions, have
demonstrated (potential) access to political power; are explicitly opposed
to federalism, centralism, and to political institutions and symbols associat-
ed with it; advocate nationalist and anti-immigration politics; and operate
in international networks that are influential in both domestic electoral be-
havior and diplomatic relationships between nation states. Most interesting,
however, is that they do and convey almost all of the above through strategi-
cally benefiting from the workings and economy of mainstream media in con-
junction with the affordances of online and social media. Key contemporary
examples of this growing phenomenon, which this chapter terms the ‘con-
testing public diplomat,’ are Nigel Farage, leader of the increasingly popular
anti-Europe and anti-immigrant UKIP party in Britain; Marine Le Pen, party
leader for the French National Front; Sarah Palin, former senator and one
of the symbolic leaders of the Tea Party movement in the United States, but
also Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently out of political office but continues
to disseminate his vision for Italy through domestic and international main-
stream media.
The “contesting public diplomat” described is increasingly visible in the
arena of international politics and public diplomacy. This shift is certainly
related to the surge of neo-populism in Europe and North America but also
shaped by the increasingly widespread use of both mass and personal media as
a space (Castells, 1997) for performing politics and mobilizing support. The
aim of this chapter is therefore to provide a starting point for understanding
the diplomatic impact of populist practices in other international contexts.
By drawing on Geert Wilders and particular instances of mediated controver-
sy surrounding him, this chapter explores the broader strategic significance
and diplomatic consequences of neo-populists positioning themselves as con-
tending non-state actors or as contesting public diplomats.The chapter con-
cludes its empirical exploration with a reflection on the broad repercussions
of contesting public diplomats for our thinking about the relationship be-
tween the realms of strategic public relations and public diplomacy (Signitzer
336 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
& Coombs, 1992; Gilboa, 2008), particularly in the governmental pursuit
of an integrated public diplomacy (Golan, 2013). This reflection specifically
considers how strategic communication in all three layers of an integrated
approach to public diplomacy may actively anticipate and aptly respond to
populist public relations.
Populists as Contending Non-State Actors
Put somewhat briefly, in 2004 Wilders clashed with the leaders of his own
Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), which led to him leaving that party in order
establish his own political movement, the Party for Freedom (PVV). This
impasse needs to be considered in the context of what Prins (2002) termed
“new realism” as hegemonic discourse that candidly considers non-West-
ern and Muslim migrants for their economic and cultural-ideological risks
to traditional Dutch national culture, identity, and society. The essence of
Wilders’ conflict with the VVD—his explicit objection to the party’s sup-
port for Turkey’s proposed ascension to full membership in the European
Union—highlights a perception of (global) society as individuals, institutions,
and nation states classified and evaluated along an us / them-axis.
Moreover, the Wilders controversy signals how in neo-populist movements,
ranging from the PVV in the Netherlands to the Tea Party in the United States,
xenophobia is inextricably entwined with foreign policy stances. Populists often
challenge stances of incumbent governments or explicitly propose the contours
of their own foreign policy. Both their challenge and alternative entail calls to
restrict immigration and to reduce or withdraw from particular supra-national
and centralist alliances, such as the European Union (EU).
The close connection between state nationalism and international poli-
tics is already acknowledged in political science scholarship (cf. McCartney,
2004), for example, through the idea of a “dialectical relationship” mediating
national identity and foreign policy (Prizel, 1998). In addition, foreign policy
is perceived as a key national security resource (Campbell, 1998) and, in the
particular context of populism, adopting a nationalist foreign policy stance
enables the practical convergence of populists’ two central adversaries: elit-
ism and pluralism (Mudde, 2004; Jagers & Walgrave, 2007). Specifically, this
adoption allows for subsequently attacking the political left for embracing a
cultural relativism, which, according to Wilders in his 2012 New York speech,
“[…] refuse[s] to stand for liberty and prefer[s] to appease Islam.” Yet, what
is left underexplored is if and how neo-populists’ explicitly anti-state and
anti-elite pronouncements and performances, in relation to foreign policy,
affect the field and future of public diplomacy.
The Public Relations of Populism 337
Contemporary approaches to diplomacy, under the banner of “the New
Public Diplomacy” (Melissen, 2005a, 2005b), have extended the kind of
practices and the nature of actors that can qualify as potentially diplomatic,
even if some actors do not evidently have a “working relationship” (Melissen,
2011, p. 3) with the state (Leonard 2002; Ross, 2003). Still, such work has
not necessarily been able to make full sense of the public diplomatic impacts
of agents that explicitly resist such affiliations.
Public diplomacy should, of course, always be considered in the realm
of those practices that set out to ensure national interests by, ultimately, pro-
moting government policies abroad, for example, through nation branding
or place branding (Anholt & Hildreth, 2005; Anholt, 2006). This conceptu-
alization, however, does not fully consider perceptions of neo-populists with-
out formal government representation in any diplomatic capacity, even as
counter-public diplomacy. After all, neo-populists too equally claim to aspire
to safeguarding national interest, and they extensively do so by engaging in
cultural and strategic public relations activities that are increasingly interna-
tional in orientation and impact. In exploring the case of Geert Wilders, the
conceptual territory of public diplomacy should thus be expanded through
the notion of “double differentiation.”
Double Differentiation and Accredited Representation
In his empirical exploration of how alleged Dutch populists in the post-
Fortuyn era relate to “ideal type” populists, Vossen asserts the complexity
of assessing Geert Wilders. Vossen argues that Wilders does not “match the
populist archetype of the ‘reluctant politicians’ with a strong dislike for pol-
itics and politicians” (2010, p. 34), referring to Wilders’ long-standing po-
litical ties with established governmental bodies. Yet, the populist prototype
does not acknowledge that, increasingly, the “reluctant politician” (Taggart,
2000) or “anti-party party” (Mudde, 1996) can also be understood as a dis-
cursive achievement. Explorations of parliamentary ties and government al-
liances of the regional Lega Nord in Italy (McDonnell, 2006), the national
Dansk Folkeparti in Denmark (Rydgren, 2004), or the European UKIP in
the United Kingdom (Hayton, 2010) emphasize anti-establishment identities
as rhetorical resources rather than actual prerequisites for populist parties.
The salience of performance in populism can therefore be situated
through the concept of double differentiation (Kriesi, 2011). Double differ-
entiation considers as characteristic for contemporary (European) populist
actors the ability to distance themselves from the political establishment,
while simultaneously displaying a potential to work within and exert influence
338 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
in the political order. Groshek and Engelbert (2012) extended Kriesi’s con-
cept in a comparative study of populist movements in the United States and
the Netherlands. They found leaders in both groups use self-representational
and online media to “both negotiate and reconcile the potential conflict be-
tween their anti-establishment image and their (past, current, and potential)
political affiliation” (Groshek & Engelbert, 2012, p. 198–199).
Here, Wilders’ distinct political style of being able to operate within the
very center of power he also challenges is essentially something he intention-
ally constructs and keeps alive (cf. Fairlcough, 2000; Ankersmit, 2003). As is
typical for the rhetoric of so many neo-populist movements (Vossen, 2011),
expressions of nationalism and xenophobia are pervasive in the performance
of Wilders’ political style and, consequently, of issues that typically concern
the realm of foreign policy (be they international trade, immigration or the
sovereignty of Europe). Consequently, double differentiation is a practice
that emphasizes the performative dimensions to populism and public diplo-
macy. As such, populists’ performances inevitably entail, and indeed, encour-
age a push-and-pull-struggle with formal state representatives over who is
best equipped to not only protect but also direct national interests amid fluid
globalization processes.
Paradoxically, Wilders takes that struggle over national preservation to
media platforms that are available to or specifically targeted at international
audiences. As could readily be observed in the extract of Wilders’ New York
speech, he does so through laying out what is ultimately a vision for protect-
ing (Dutch) national interest as a vision for international solidarity between
nation-states that are similarly facing the “challenges” of immigration, Islam,
and the consequences of centralization and globalization. Wilders conse-
quently constructs the Netherlands as an object for international identifica-
tion and tool for ideological exclusion. He thereby engages in what displays
a striking resemblance with the Cold War diplomatic practice of ideological
warfare (Kennedy & Lucas, 2005). In fact, Wilders’ purpose in addressing
international issues and managing international relations, but, specifically, his
perceived entitlement to address and manage these issues, seems to pertain to
the broader practice of public diplomacy.
Characteristic of Wilders’ populist style, then, is his explicitly claimed
entitlement to being the “accredited representative” (Melissen, 2005b,
p. 4), who is to safeguard Dutch national interest both home and abroad.
He is permitted to do so not by virtue of the state, but by popular appoint-
ment. Consequently, in Wilders’ alternative version of public diplomacy two
acts converge: aligning international audiences and swaying national pub-
lics. This convergence of international orientation and nationalism is indeed
The Public Relations of Populism 339
paradoxical: it shows the ambiguous conceptual boundary (Signitzer &
Coombs, 1992) or “intricate relationship” (Melissen, 2005b, p. 9) between
the realms of public diplomacy and public affairs.
Altogether, contesting public diplomacy as a mode of strategic public
relations management is a significant element of the performative dimension
to populism. First, it ensures a focus on populist vanguards, such as immigra-
tion, Islam, and Europe. Second, it provides an apt stage for double differen-
tiation; enabling populists to challenge the very political institutions they op-
erate in or with which they are associated. It, finally, constitutes an excellent
opportunity to simultaneously display cultural and political leadership. There
is yet an additional advantage to engaging in contesting public diplomacy: it
is enabled by online and social media, the economy of mass news media, and,
not in the least, by populists’ sophisticated integration of these.
From Media Populism to Media Politik
In February 2012, Wilders’ opposition against EU enlargement and poli-
cy emerged in a quintessential example of double differentiation when he
launched the Meldpunt Midden- en Oost-Europeanen [Central and Eastern
European Register] (MOE). The MOE was an online and social media space,
originally embedded within the PVV website, where individuals could regis-
ter their complaints against CEE citizens living and working in the Nether-
lands. The site contextualizes this particular group in the light of “problems”
caused by “mass labour immigration,” which involve “nuisance, pollution,
repression [of the Dutch] on the labour market and integration and housing
issues” (Partij voor de Vrijheid, 2012). The MOE thus extends the anti-Islam
discourse so typically deployed by Wilders in problematizing the cultural
consequences of non-Western migrants. Moreover, the MOE articulates and
reinforces the familiar Wilders discourse of migration as a tidal wave or “tsu-
nami” (De Landtsheer, Kalkhoven & Broen, 2011).
When Wilders’ party launched the MOE on Feb. 8, 2012, the PVV was
still bound by the construction of providing secured support to the gov-
ernment of Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The MOE exposes tension
and conflict within this political arrangement but also provokes and discrim-
inates against nationals from the CEE countries. The MOE thereby meets
two important criteria—sensation and scandal (Arsenault & Castells, 2008,
p. 507)—that make for a controversial and thereby commercially viable news
story in increasingly competitive and market-oriented media systems (cf. Cur-
ran, 2011).
340 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
The launch of the MOE is thus commercially viable for the news agen-
cy and for its clients’ news outlets because it allows for emphasizing and
capitalizing the conflict potentially affected by the register (cf. Semetko &
Valkenburg, 2000). Interestingly, a press release from the national news
agency ANP already makes this potential explicit by presenting as part of the
news event the responses of Dutch parliamentarians and Polish government
representatives:
The PVV has established a website where people can leave complaints about CEE
citizens in our country. They are Poles and people from other countries in Cen-
tral and Eastern-Europe […]. Are you bothered by CEE citizens? Or have you
lost your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other Central- or Eastern Euro-
pean? We like to hear from you,” the website states. The PVV intends to present
all complaints to Henk Kamp, the Minister for Social Affairs. A spokesperson
of the Polish embassy has expressed his sorrow in Algemeen Dagblad [a major
national newspaper]: “Offensive party initiatives do not contribute to thoughtful
debate.” Jolanda Sap [leader of the Green Party] was furious: “The PVV has
acquired a new toy by bombarding Eastern Europeans into new enemies. Prob-
lems and nuisance should be seriously tackled, just as the exploitation of Eastern
Europeans for their cheap labor should. But this register does not contribute to
this. This is mere rabble-rousing” (ANP, 2012).
However, journalistic attention for the MOE signals more than a media
economy that is characterized by “an intensified focus on political celebrity
and political gossip and scandal” (Corner, 2007, p. 216). It again points to
the significant performative dimension to successful populism that can be re-
purposed in the international arena by these actors in staking out public dip-
lomatic efforts. Populism, then, is more than what is commonly referred to as
“media populism” (Mazzoleni, 2002; Waisbord, 2002) and shares essential
features with what Peri (2004) terms “media politik,” a social practice that is
only possible because of its mediation. With the example of MOE provided
here, as a platform that allows and invites citizens to put a name to issues
that would have been systematically tabooed by the political elite, the PVV
created a key opportunity to enact its political identity. Without the actual
online media infrastructure itself, but crucially without media performances
and journalistic attention, this potential would not have been actualized.
Controversy and provocation are thus equally as important to the survival
and success of media institutions as they are to that of populist movements.
From this perspective, the MOE is an example of how Geert Wilders attempts
to create opportunities for himself and his party to double differentiate in
relation to the national political establishment. Yet, the MOE also brings
to the fore how Wilders’ “national media politik” and the opportunities for
The Public Relations of Populism 341
local double differentiation increasingly have repercussions for international
perceptions of the Netherlands abroad.
Something Old, Something New
When pressed by parliamentarians, ambassadors, and other officials to con-
demn the MOE days after it was launched, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
instead classified it as a “performance of political parties” (Rutte, 2012). This
reaction signals the increasingly influential position of populist movements in,
especially, Europe, either through their contribution to actual governments
(for example, in the Netherlands and Denmark) or through their influence
in shaping the agenda of mainstream politics (for example, in Finland and
France). Accordingly, neo-populists, like Wilders, can more easily claim to be
speaking on behalf of national and political majorities. The major repercus-
sion of this consensual self-accreditation—consensual in the sense that gov-
ernments are increasingly impaired to openly criticize populists’ behavior—is
that something like the MOE risks being interpreted as representative of a
government stance or, at least, as a voice to be reckoned or diplomatically
battled with.
This confluence of trends means that Wilders’ actions—be it the MOE,
his calls to pull out of and disband the European Union, his protest against
Turkey’s proposed EU membership, his particular two-state solution for
the Middle East Conflict, or the release of his controversial anti-Islam film
Fitna—are not incidents that need to be anticipated and responded to
through formal diplomacy (Melissen, 2008). Rather, in order to grasp the
international consequences of a national media politik, the actions themselves
need to be understood in a public diplomatic capacity, even if these actions
appear explicitly anti-diplomatic, undermine former long-standing diplomatic
efforts, or directly threaten the status quo of international relations.
At the same time, however, Wilders is actively pursuing new international
alliances. In the case of the MOE—but similarly in all of Wilders’ actions
aimed against the values, aspiration and symbols of a European Union—the
alternative international community would reject the values and aspirations of
any global, supra-national or federal body to which the nation state is to dele-
gate sovereignty. Similarly, it would reject any development that may threaten
the supremacy of national culture, such as immigration or multiculturalism.
And, finally, the community could look at the Netherlands, and the PVV in
particular, for cultural and political leadership in pursuing this ideological
program through double differentiation, though Wilders is willing to share
that leadership with countries with which he ideologically aligns.
342 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
Importantly, the “imagined community” of Wilders, or the partnership
with whom he is to engage diplomatically, then, is not bound by the borders
of the European Union. Rather, his community is an international one, in
which a shared concern over very particular national interests constitutes the
prerequisite and currency for diplomatic exchange. This is how, in his New
York Speech for the Gatestone interview in April 2012, Wilders was able to
ideologically align with ‘the’ United States over his own anti-Europe politics:
[…] previous Dutch governments […] have signed away a significant part of our
own sovereignty to the EU, the European Union, a supranational institution
run by unelected and undemocratic bureaucrats. […] We are now heading for
elections […] Our electoral campaign will focus on the need to restore our na-
tional sovereignty, because without our sovereignty we cannot defend our iden-
tity and fight against Islamization. My friends, we continue our efforts.[…] One
of my favourite presidents Ronald Reagan once said: “The future doesn’t belong
to the fainthearted.” Reagan was right. The future belongs to us (Wilders, 2012,
emphasis added).
In sum, Wilders’ strategic public relations can be considered as an act of con-
testing public diplomacy in the sense that it condemns, problematizes and
tries to break down existing allegiances, policy stances and values whilst it
concurrently creates an alternative international community with its own set
of ideological beliefs and aspirations. The realm of public diplomacy, then,
is accessed by Wilders through strategic public relations efforts. Equally, the
realm of international public diplomacy, because of the controversy that ac-
cessing it permits and the opportunity for “frame fighting” (Entman, 2004)
it provides, constitutes a key resource for populist opposition “in the do-
mestic debate about the right thing to do” (Gilboa, 2008, p. 65). The final
section of this chapter considers the broader implications and relevance of
this contingent relationship between populists’ strategic public relations and
(integrated) public diplomacy.
Conclusion
This chapter has attempted to construct a framework for exploring the sig-
nificance and consequences of populist actors who explicitly promote values
in the field of foreign affairs, immigration politics and international relations
that challenge and even compromise those of a national government. These
populist actors were conceptualized as contending non-state actors and as
contesting public diplomats given their claimed entitlement to represent na-
tional interest on mediated international platforms. More specifically, the per-
formance of contesting public diplomacy was argued to constitute a mode
The Public Relations of Populism 343
of strategic public relations management, which, in turn, allows populists to
double differentiate; to distance themselves from the very political institutions
and established practices they are in fact a part of, whilst simultaneously dis-
playing political and cultural leadership.
Populists thus draw on political repertoires of foreign policy and pub-
lic diplomacy and are increasingly international in orientation, whereas they
are in fact attending to domestic conflict with the political establishment.
Though double differentiation highlights the performative dimension to
populism, its ramifications for the realm of public diplomacy and interna-
tional relations may be very real. This chapter considered these consequences
as inevitably shaped by particular national political configurations, such as
a minority government that is directly bound by populist support or more
indirectly shaped by the hegemony of populist discourse. Furthermore, dip-
lomatic consequences should be considered in terms of existing allegiances
that are compromised and new international and ideological alliances that are
actively created.
A framework built around a particular case, embedded within its own
nation-specific political culture, can, of course, never be readily transported
into another context. Yet, the central mechanism of the framework (the cease-
less frame fight over domestic politics and national interest) and its concep-
tual core (populists’ strategic management of public relations provides access
to the realm of public diplomacy) allow for an application to those national
contexts in which the populist forces are increasingly evident, either by means
of formal political representation or symbolic opposition.
For example, considering briefly the United States, the populist Tea Par-
ty emerged in early 2009 as a reaction to the financial “bailout” programs
administered by the Obama administration. Since that time, the Tea Party
has been instrumental in the outcome of the 2010 U.S. midterm elections,
where Republicans—particularly those farther right—won back or took over
previously, Democratic-held positions at the Congressional, gubernatorial,
and state levels. While the differences between the non-hierarchical Tea Party
and the leader-as-party PVV are clear (cf. Groshek & Engelbert, 2012), what
is transcendent about populist public diplomacy is that it pushes local, state,
and national issues into the international arena where opinions about a nation
and its policies are formed by foreign audiences.
In this manner, the mantle of Tea Party values regarding reductions in
government spending and taxes, as well as smaller government are reflected by
a stance toward American exceptionalism and relatively isolationist attitudes
(Mead, 2011). These outward foreign policy positions—some being outlined
by Tea Party representatives such as Ron Paul who assume the inadvertent
344 JiSKa enGelbert & Jacob GroSheK
role of the contesting public diplomat (cf. Paul, 2011)—thus exert a similar, if
more diffuse effect that changes not only the national political reality, but also
the perceived shift of American politics towards conservatism on issues such
as global warming, gay marriage, immigration, and Christian religiousness
(Campbell & Putnam, 2011).
Altogether, there is a certain similarity of Wilders’ performative practices
of double differentiation being carried out in the United States by Tea Party
politicians, in both instances of formal or informal endorsements (Jonsson,
2011). Though the “imagined communities” of these actors are likely far
less international in intent, their impact eventually becomes writ large on
the stage of public diplomacy, often through a strategic melding of mass and
online media.
Given the upsurge in contesting, neo-populist public diplomats in Europe
and North America, like Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Silvio Berlusconi,
Sarah Palin and Nigel Farage—who can all count on extensive coverage in
international mainstream media and further dissemination through social me-
dia spaces—governments cannot but actively be seen to anticipate and respond
to the alternative international solidarities, alliances and country reputations
established by these contenders. Yet, while the diplomatic threat may be so
intricate because it comes from within, new integrated models of and ap-
proaches to public diplomacy are more than ever equipped to deal with this
challenge. That is, given their reliance on the doxa and economies of main-
stream media, performativity and cultural exchange, contesting public diplo-
mats can be repudiated in their claimed diplomatic entitlement through the
very differentiated (soft power) dimensions that integrated public diplomacy
offers. With mediated public diplomacy, nation branding, reputation man-
agement and relational public diplomacy at its core (Golan, 2013, p. 1252),
integrated public diplomacy is particularly well resourced to ‘disintegrate’ the
contesting neo-populist diplomat.
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