YouTube and political ideologies: Technology, populism and rhetorical form

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Digital media are driving profound changes in contemporary politics, including, this article argues, to the production, reception and dissemination of political ideas and ideologies. Platforms increase the number and political range of ‘ideological entrepreneurs’ using distinct rhetorics through which ideas are articulated and experienced. Developing and justifying these claims I draw on the political theory of ideologies, digital media studies and rhetorical political analysis. I show how a populist ‘style’ and appeal to rhetorical ethos, linked to mediatisation, are intensified by digital media, affecting ideological form and content. Explaining in particular how YouTube constitutes political-ideological communication I examine in detail the British-based political YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson. I show that his political ideology is a blend of conservatism and libertarianism, with a populist style and rhetorical ethos of ‘charismatic’ authority. Centred on the revelation of political truths, presented as of therapeutic benefit for individuals, it is characteristic of the medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-80
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • YouTube
  • digital and social media
  • political ideologies
  • populism
  • rhetoric

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