Assemblages of Pandemic Populism: Populism, Social Media and the COVID-19 Pandemic



Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed the channelling of affective intensities into demonstrations, sieges, and violent outbursts underpinned by far right-wing populism, including the siege of Capitol Hill, counter-BLM protests and so-called “anti-hygienic protests” against lockdowns and public health measures. These outbursts, as sensational manifestations of the more general turn to populism, attest to the urgency of understanding the structures of feelings underlying populist logic and the affective tactics used to spread them. The intensification of these affects by the pandemic and consequent lockdowns requires urgent attention as the associated socio-economic crisis and moral-panic are contributing to far-right populist resentments, the long-term effects of which remain to be seen. I look here how digital media contributes to what has been termed “pandemic populism” in an assemblage consisting of right-wing populist logic, digital and particularly social media, the COVID19 virus and associated public health measures. Far-right populist media and activists have taken advantage of the confusion around public health measures during the pandemic to blur boundaries between fact and fiction to fit the effects of the pandemic into their own narratives. Accordingly, I include in my analysis consideration of hyper-partisan media and the power of conspiracy theories, mis- and dis-information and how these forms of mediation engage populations in ways that challenge rational models of communication. I adopt a version of affect theory developed by Lisa Blackman in conjunction with Rebecca Coleman’s concept of (infra)structures of feeling to make sense of the affective dimensions underpinning right-wing populism, which exert pressure on and mediate actions and experiences and which have been exacerbated by the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.


How to Cite: Isaacson, P. (2022) “Assemblages of Pandemic Populism: Populism, Social Media and the COVID-19 Pandemic”, Brief Encounters. 1(6). doi: