‘Populism’: what a feeble term it is. So weak that once it has been uttered it almost immediately needs a clarification. In reality, it could be changed to ‘anti-system’ or ‘radical’; or for certain specific kinds of populisms: ‘anti-capitalist’, ‘neo-fascist’ or ‘neo-Nazi’.
All of these terms, however, carry far more weight and symbolic punch than ‘populism’, which gives us an insight into why the newspeak had a need to invent this new terminology in the first place.
‘Populism’ makes the radical sound legitimate. By diluting the radicalism, it makes it possible to analyse the opponent in a decaffeinated way. But why is the light-discourse necessary in the first place?
The necessity for diluting the radical comes from the very popularity of the anti-systemic feelings. If we call populisms ‘anti-system ideologies’, then we are admitting that the system itself is being deeply questioned by society in a radical way. The ‘populist’ term, however, envelops the radical within the system itself. It turns it into just another political current within the system and eventually, therefore, it hopefully makes it lose its essential pulse and swallow its own tail – even though the success of ‘populisms’ seems to indicate the opposite.
Likewise, it wraps all radicalisms into the same sack, with a belief that this will confuse support for them – how can we support the radical-left if they are fundamentally the same as the neo-Nazis? And vice versa.
Nevertheless, the term itself carries a dangerous charge for the ‘democratic’ system that could blow up in its face. By calling the radical threat ‘populists’, the system puts the radicals on the side of the demos. A ‘populist’ is popular because he/she understands the demos. In its hermeneutic essence, by calling the radical a ‘populist’ there is an insinuation that that same populism reflects a clearer, more popular, more democratic will than the questionably democratic system does.
Of course, if the radical is more popular than the system, then the system really is under threat. In any case, whether you want the system to collapse or not, it is not a good idea to keep using the term ‘populism’.