D5.1 Country Report | April 2021
Authors: Miriam Haselbacher, Ursula Reeger, Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences
The present report aims at identifying and analysing cultural drivers of radicalisation in Austria, to explain the process of radicalisation, and to detect patterns of radicalised ideas and their mainstreaming through digital platforms. We focus on right-wing extremism because this is the most institutionalised strand of radicalisation that dominated Austrian post-war history. As right-wing extremism is a multi-faceted phenomenon, we include YouTube videos from two different actors, one inside and the other outside institutionalised politics. The first video stems from the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), an elected party which has successfully mobilised using right-wing populist hate speech and is currently part of the opposition. The second actor is the so-called “Generation Identity”, a right-wing extremist youth organisation that forms part of the “new right”. Both videos include online representations that are closely connected to concrete offline events. This allows for a comparative analysis of the events as such and of their representation in the online world. This is accompanied by an analysis of the reception of the messages conveyed in the videos by commentators.
Both videos appear to be successful in mobilising support and in creating audiences. The video published by the FPÖ features a demonstration against government measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, advocating for basic rights and the freedom of speech and proclaiming a movement that “can no longer be stopped”, thus constructing a strong and powerful “us” element. The – more extreme – second example is a video published by the Generation Identity. The “we” proclaimed here is constituted by young Austrians without a migration background who are said to be “forgotten”. Contrary to the ideas featured in the FPÖ video, this video documents a disruptive action at a play that was performed together with refugees at the University of Vienna. The activists took over the stage to enrol a banner, dis-tribute leaflets, and spill fake blood. Though different in their expression and extent of extrem-ism, both videos display signs of perceived injustice and grievance, and both contribute to polarisation.