The Construction and Destruction of “the other”The Influence of Right-wing Populist Rhetoric on Xenophobic Hate Crimes

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: Today, two phenomena are growing; the constant increase in xenophobic hate crimes and the rampant presence of political and media representatives engaged in right-wing populist rhetoric aimed at defending the people from all threats. The question of how right-wing populist rhetoric influences the occurrence of these violent acts has only been addressed indirectly and partially in the academic world. This thesis tries to fill this gap, by proposing the following argument: right-wing populist rhetoric, through a process of continuous growth and affirmation, gradually creates an enemy who is ethnically “different” from the “native” people, leading to a social reaction and therefore to a consequent increase in xenophobic hate crimes. In order to verify this claim, an analysis of two periods of Italian history is conducted by means of Process Tracing. A primary case (1935-1939), focused on the Fascist Party and Mussolini with respect to two ethnic targets: Ethiopians and Jews. A secondary case (2013-2016), focused on the Lega Nord party and Salvini with respect to immigrants. The empirical results achieved provide good general support and suggest the need for further research, in order for countermeasures to be enacted by policymakers to avoid history repeating itself.

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