Populism as an act of storytelling: Analyzing the climate change narratives of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg as populist truth-tellers

Johan Nordensvard*, Markus Ketola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We propose that populism is a storytelling performance that involves a charismatic ‘truth-teller’ and a populist narrative frame. Populist narratives are sensemaking devices that guide people in areas of contestation, uncertainty and complexity where decisions cannot solely rely on rational and formal processes. Populist ‘truth-tellers’ apply a particular narrative frame that pits ‘people’ against the ‘elite’ when interpreting complex problems such as climate change. The aim of this article is one of theory generating, using the cases of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg to illustrate the idea of populism as storytelling. While their climate change stories are very different, both share an approach that relies on the ‘truth-telling’ character of their hero, applying the same populist narrative frame. These findings add to our understanding of the role emotions and conflicts play in the struggles to make sense of climate change based on particular interests or political agendas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Early online date1 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • populism
  • narratives
  • discourse
  • climate change
  • Trump
  • Thunberg

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