Incivility as semiotic resource. Lessons from Hungary (SOSEM)
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungary
As the acts of courtesy in politics is going out of fashion, scholarly interest in incivility has been growing. Whilst the main conceptualization of political incivility is usually centering on deliberative theory and considering rudeness as harmful malpractice, some researchers suggest that outrage discourses with their emotional appeals may stimulate the voter turnout. By moving beyond the deliberation and the strategic use of incivility, this presentation addresses this problem from the perceptive of social semiotics. The longitudinal analysis (1990 – 2015) of the political communication in Hungary reveals multiple use of inappropriate vocabulary. The presentation highlights the expansion of insulting language and vulgarity in politics. First, incivility appeared as part of the desacralization of politics in blogs and online portals in the early years of 2000s. Then came the waves of character assassinations during the election campaign. In 2006, the highest peak in the uncivil mode of communication was connected to Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s infamous speech and the people’s reaction to the talk in which he admitted that he lied and purposely misled the electorates during the previous legislative election campaign. Last but not least, obscenity in street protests was discovered. Having catalogued the practices of incivility in Hungary, I argue that indecency in political communication can be comprehended as semiotic resource which is characterised by repetition, widespread and multichannel usage to express authenticity and political identity.
The Semiotic Resources of Left-wing Political Community Between 1990 and 2015. (SOSEM)
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary; Corvinus University of Budapest
This research investigates the semiotic resources that integrated the left-wing political community in Hungary between 1990 and 2015. This study presents the main results of a 4-years long research project that has explored the history of Hungarian political communication since the regime change using social semiotics as method. The research has found that there are several semiotic resources (actor constructions, discourses, issues, channels and further modalities) that have been highly used by left-wing political actors and make them a recognizable and distinguishable political community within the larger political community of Hungary. The presentation will focus on the most durable semiotic resources, such as depoliticized actor constructions, preference for experts, the discourse of security, stillness and predictability, the discourse of the defense of democracy, the discourse of closing up to Europe, the issue of foreign policy etc. The study argues that while these semiotic resources were highly present in the communication of the members of left-wing community between 1990 and 2010/2012, they have increasingly faded after 2010 that has contributed to the disintegration of the left-wing community in Hungary.
Vertical to Horizontal to Central. Spatial Metaphors in Hungarian Politics since 1990 (SOSEM)
MTA Centre for Social Sciences, Hungary
The presentation will sketch the rise and decline of spatial metaphors in Hungarian political communication for the past decades.
Until 1990, the left – right divide was not important, or rather, it was overshadowed by the vertical structure. The political elite, consisted of either the single party or of the intellectuals of western values, or of the so called popular intellectuals, located itself above the citizens defining thereby a vertical division of space.
From 1990 to about 2010, the Hungarian political space was constructed as a left – right continuum, sometimes with several actors, sometimes with only two.
Since 2010, a great discrepancy has unfolded between the government elite and the rest. The former tends to use the metaphor of central/centralized field of force (centrális erőtér), with itself promoting the common national causes, and the hardly important rest. The opposition forces try to stick to the left – right division but each has difficulty to find a proper place on that continuum for itself, for the government and for the others in opposition.
The presentation, based on a four year long research project on the history of political communication in Hungary, will draw the trajectory of the vertical, horizontal and central space metaphors, their advantages and disadvantages in political identification and strategy building.
Changing Patterns of Negative Campaigning in Hungary (SOSEM)
Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
Negative campaigning as a political marketing tool has several functions during an election campaign. Its main goal is generally to make the targeted opponent seem less suitable for a position by attacking her based on policy issues, ideology, past political performance, behaviour or personal characteristics. On the other hand, negative campaign messages serve as distinction between the sponsor of the attack and the target implicitly claiming that the sponsor would be a better, in some cases even a more legitimate choice. The presentation examines these functions of negative campaigning using the case of Hungarian parliamentary election campaigns between 1990 and 2014, a period in which negative campaigning became a prevalent part of election campaigns in Hungary. It focuses on the patterns of negative campaigning examining the content and type of negative messages, their main sponsors and their choice of targets. Based on this analysis, the presentation argues that campaign negativity in Hungary did not only change in a quantitative term (i.e. usage of more negative messages during the campaigns) but shows a shift in its content as well from questioning the political stance to questioning the legitimacy of opponents.
Visual political communication resources in Hungary, 1990-2015 (SOSEM)
HAS Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Political Science; Corvinus University of Budapest, Doctoral School of Political Science
Visuals have huge importance when political parties communicate with their audience: images may not only carry direct messages, but they can deliver all sorts of hidden contents, thus the investigation of political communication has to be broadened to the visual materials. In spite of the fact that political communication today is built on visual resources, research on visual political communication is still infrequent. As a contribution to this research area I will present some of the most important visual social semiotic resources of the Hungarian political communities between 1990 and 2015. The communities used varied visual resources, for example logos of the political parties, images of the politicians and the parties, or election posters can be considered as classic visual resources, but there are less obvious ones also: places that a community recurrently use, clothes or badges that represent fellowship or even a moustache can be a visual resource. I will concentrate only the most typical ones. The aim of the presentation is to describe how the political actors used these visual resources: what kind of signs, messages, and hidden intentions can be identified in their visual communication tools.