Voltagabbana Rhetorics: Turncoating as a Populist Strategy in Pandemic Times

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In this chapter I examine the incoherent, oscillating character of right-wing rhetoric during the Coronavirus global crisis in the second half of 2020. By focusing on Matteo Salvini’s political discourse about Covid precautionary measures in Italy and by
contextualizing it among several similar international examples, I make the case that the dramatic u-turns on issues such as mask mandates and lockdowns, typically performed by right-wing politicians, can be understood as a contemporary manifestation of classic political trasformismo. Drawing on accounts of Italian historic trasformismo, I conceptualize this discursive strategy with the term “voltagabbana”––the Italian word for opportunistic reversals, u-turns, and inversions in political stance. I also argue that these turnabouts, in Italy and elsewhere, are not primarily examples of a type of populist rhetoric from politicians who claim to have a metaphysical or spiritual understanding of the will of ‘the people’; rather we can understand their maneuvers as a kind of algorithmic populism, informed by data driven advice leading them to capitalize on trending topics and/or produce topics of interest that shift news cycles and public attention in strategic, exploitative ways. The essay concludes by demonstrating how voltagabbana rhetoric, as a populist strategy, can be a tool for
enabling the flight from accountability and responsibility crucial to demagoguery.
TitelPopulist Rhetorics : Case Studies and a Minimalist Definition
Antal sider31
ForlagSpringer Nature Switzerland
Publikationsdato1 jan. 2022
ISBN (Trykt)978-3-030-87353-0
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-3-030-87351-6
StatusUdgivet - 1 jan. 2022
NavnRhetoric, Politics and Society

ID: 291125490