Phobic and Affective Language in Far-right, Nationalist Discourse Rhetoric in Brexit Speeches

Document Type : Original Article


Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University


Recent years have witnessed the rise of far-right, nationalist movements in Europe, the US, parts of Latin America and Asia. Initially, particularly in Europe, the movement started as an anti-immigration movement and, as it gained momentum and support from the public, its discourse began to acquire a different tone through the use of affective language. This was, to some extent, in reaction to mainstream politicians’ accusations of far-right leaders of racism. In response, far-right leaders used affective language to mobilize more supporters and gain more popularity. This study employs a corpus-based, discourse historical approach to the analysis of the seductive and accusatory strategies employed in the discourse of the far-right leaders in the UK during Brexit (2012-2016). It examines the far-right leadership’s manipulation of the public’s phobias that lie in fears and anxieties about the unfamiliar sociocultural landscape the European Union as well as other international crises, such as the refugee crisis of 2016, have created. To identify affective and phobic elements in the discourse, the collocates and extended contexts of a number of keywords were examined. The findings of the study indicate that far-right discourse began as a ‘blame game’ and then developed to employ affective language, which helped in achieving two purposes. The first was to reach and mobilize the grassroots by means of nationalist, populist discourse. The second was to counter the policies of the mainstream parties by invoking anxiety about the future, fear and anger in the people.