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Strategically Hijacking Victimhood: A Political Communication Strategy in the Discourse of Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump

Barton Hronešová, Jessie; Kreiss, Daniel; (2024) Strategically Hijacking Victimhood: A Political Communication Strategy in the Discourse of Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump. Perspectives on Politics 10.1017/s1537592724000239. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

This article introduces the concept of “hijacked victimhood” as a form of strategically leveraging victimhood narratives. It is a subset of strategic victimhood, which is a relatively common communicative strategy whereby groups claim victimhood status in contests over power and legitimacy. Political leaders who use the strategy of hijacked victimhood present dominant groups as in danger, as current or future victims, and in need of protection (especially by the crafter of the narrative) from oppressive forces consisting of—or indirectly representing—marginalized and subaltern groups. In the process, leaders hijacking victimhood blunt the rights-based claims of such groups. Analyzing Viktor Orbán’s and Donald Trump’s elite rhetoric in Hungary and the United States, respectively, we inductively document varieties of hijacked victimhood in their political communication, showing how Orbán leverages historical suffering and resistance while Trump constructs economic and value-based harms for dominant groups. Making both conceptual and empirical contributions, we argue that at the heart of hijacked victimhood is a reversal of the victimizer–victim dichotomy, a new portrayal of moral orders, a teleological ordering of past and future harms, and a mobilization of security threats—all used to preserve or expand a dominant group’s power.

Type: Article
Title: Strategically Hijacking Victimhood: A Political Communication Strategy in the Discourse of Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/s1537592724000239
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s1537592724000239
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third-party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10190240
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