Brexit, YouTube and the Populist Rhetorical Ethos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


This chapter considers how contemporary populist rhetorics make use of, and are shaped by, the affordances of online digital communications platforms. Through an assessment of approaches to the study of populist ideology, I propose a concept of the populist rhetorical ethos which I further develop through in-depth analysis of a case study: a YouTube video advocating Brexit, published online by a prominent online political YouTuber. I argue that online platforms such as YouTube give rise to new genres of communication and new kinds of “rhetorical situation” to which political content must adapt, and that these often tend in a “populist” direction, inducing rhetorics centred on claims about moral and ethical character. Digital media platforms encourage political channels which stage intense dramas of dark forces and the brave rebels fighting against them, led by charismatic rhetoricians revealing secrets and telling truths about what is “really” going on and what “they” won’t tell you, promising salvation to their heroic followers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPopulist Rhetorics
Subtitle of host publicationCase Studies and a Minimalist Definition
EditorsChristian Kock, Lisa Villadsen
PublisherPalgrave Macmillian
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-87351-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-87350-9, 978-3-030-87353-0
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Publication series

NameRhetoric, Politics and Society


  • Brexit
  • British politics
  • Digital media
  • Ethos
  • Political ideologies
  • Populism
  • Rhetoric
  • Youtube

Cite this