The 2023 Dutch election will be remembered for one reason: a far-right party topped the polls for the first time and by a large margin. Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) is set to win 37 of the 150 seats in Dutch parliament. This would be more than double of its 2021 tally.
Notably, far-right parties in Europe attract voters through their radical beliefs about immigration and multiculturalism. Most also express a populist message, calling for popular sovereignty.
Wilders has claimed that welfare should be preserved for the “native” population, suggesting this should be done by halting immigration levels and limiting benefits for ethnic minorities who he branded as “undeserving.” This approach typically appeals to culturally conservative voters who want economic state protection. The PVV declares that children are “being indoctrinated with climate activism, gender insanity and a sense of shame about our country’s history”. It has also publicly stated that it wants to ban Islamic schools, the Qur’an and mosques in order to stop the “Islamisation” of the country.
The normalisation of these far-right parties is assisting them in their political popularity. Prior to the election, a children’s TV news programme about party leaders included a segment about Wilders, talking whilst cuddling cats. It is lighthearted media exposure like this that may cause voters to ignore their political stances and policies and rather focus on events that don’t have any sway over how well someone will govern a country. Another example of this, closer to home, is the yearly addition of a politician or former politician into the I’m a Celebrity jungle. Last year saw Matt Hancock donning the cap and boots, munching on spiders and this year comes Nigel Farage. It separates the politician from the politics, reminding us that they are indeed human but causing us to almost entirely ignore what they stand for.
It is lighthearted media exposure like this that may cause voters to ignore their political stances and policies and rather focus on events that don’t have any sway over how well someone will govern a country.
It is no secret that the media and journalism favours news on violence, extremism and terrorism as they are very newsworthy topics, receiving attention from readers, viewers and listeners worldwide. In addition to this, far-right groups more commonly arrange demonstrations, confrontations and sometimes even terror attacks to convey a political ideology. For this reason, the far-right groups are playing on this free media exposure.
In order to halt the normalisation of these groups, perhaps it would be better to stop giving them the attention and exposure they crave and instead work on keeping the stories neutral. For example, the BBC have been known to indirectly negate the existence of terrorist group ISIS by constantly referring to them as the “so called Islamic State”. This helps to stick to the facts and deny the hard power that ISIS possess.
In order to halt the normalisation of these groups, perhaps it would be better to stop giving them the attention and exposure they crave and instead work on keeping the stories neutral.
Social media platforms are also very popular among far-right groups in Europe, such as Spain’s Vox for example and this plays a large role in the messages they spread. Recently, there was a public debate as to whether social media actors should reject extreme actors on their platforms and this led to the no-platforming by Apple, Facebook and YouTube of the far-right conspiratorial website, Infowars, run by Alex Jones.
The choice to de-platform or silence political groups is an entirely different kettle of fish to try. It’s difficult to maintain the rights for groups to have freedom of speech while also making sure that their political beliefs remain separate to their everyday lives. Political figures on lighthearted reality TV shows damages politics and will lead to inaccurate voting during elections because voters find it hard to make an informed decision based on their politics alone. Politicians should stay just that: politicians. Without the need to turn to broadcasted media in order to boost votes.