Birds of a feather? Trump, Chávez and the populist communication style in times of discursive disruption

Presented by Dr Elena Block

Date: 15 September, 2017
Time: 3pm-4pm
Location: Room 601, Michie Building (#9)


Discursive disruption — loosely defined as the breakdown of the conventions and power relations of a fatigued Western liberal democracy — has become the new normal. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, it will seek to understand the advance and allure of the populist communication style in the era of mediatization. It proposes a critical framework based on three categories—identity construction, rhetorical style, and relationship with the media—to assess the relevant features of the communicative styles of left-wing Chávez and right-wing Trump. Second, drawing on lessons from Chávez’s Venezuela, this paper will seek to explore three threads of analysis:

  1. the rise and normalization of Trump’s populist communication style;
  2. the fierce confrontation Trump-media and intense mediatisation of politics as happened in Venezuela, where Chávez made a ‘brutal’ use of media;
  3. whether the populist communication style – as practiced in Venezuela but also elsewhere – leads to the disruption not only of the political conversation but of the political system itself.



Dr Elena Block is a Honorary Research Fellow and sessional lecturer at The University of Queensland's School of Communication and Arts. She has a PhD in Political Communication from The University of Queensland and an MSc from the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE). She has a long trajectory as a journalist, media relations and public affairs executive in Venezuela. Her main areas of interest include: political communication and public affairs; the populist communication style; discursive disruption; the mediatisation of politics; political communication in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela.

Dr Elena Block


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