On Language

Ultra-Wrong: Hear It From An Academic

Yesterday, I published a post exploring how NPR, and other media outlets, use labels in politics. The column was prompted by an NPR report describing the Norwegian Progress Party, but the issue is broader. That particular party has been in the news because Anders Behring Breivik, who admitted to killing 77 people in Norway, is a former Progress Party member.

Today we're adding an academic perspective from Professor Cas Mudde of DePauw University, a scholar on radical right politics, especially in Europe. He shares three questions that help label the Progress Party and other parties like it.

Mudde chose "populist right-wing" to describe the Progress Party.

  1. Why populist?
    The party's narrative pits "the pure people" against "the corrupt elite."

  2. Why right-wing?
    It accepts the existence of socio-cultural and socio-economic differences between people and doesn't want the state to equalize them.

    It strongly supports a free-market economy.

    Their small state and free-market combination is more like the United States' Republican Party, Mudde wrote, than the European radical right, which supports a more active role of the state in the market.

  3. Why not radical?
    Nativism (the policy of protecting native inhabitants over immigrants) is not central to the party's ideology. While its election propaganda might emphasize immigration, and individual members and/or representatives might make nativist statements, Mudde wrote that their party program hardly touches on immigration.

Labeling Breivik requires a further distinction – radical v. extreme. Breivik's views represent the "extreme right" rather than "radical right," Mudde wrote.

  1. Why extreme?
    Breivik no longer believed in the democratic process.

    Breivik "preferred violence over the parliamentary way." Radical right parties, by Mudde's definition, do not promote violence.

Mudde's prescription may seem like a lot of hairsplitting, but it does have the advantage of being systematic and transparent. Could it be the basis for a policy guideline for NPR and other news media? Do you have other suggestions?

Andrew Maddocks contributed to this post.

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