Over the last decade populist right-wing parties have been growing in Western Europe (Bartlett et al. 15
). Despite being referred to as far-right, many of these groups are not easily recognized according to traditional political categories. The old racial nationalist politics of neo-Nazi and traditional far right parties are currently in many ways replaced by the Counter-Jihad movement. The Counter-Jihad movement can be described as a political alliance, or current of people, that share anti-Islamic ideas and embrace sections of neo-Conservatives, Christian evangelicals, hard-line racists, football hooligans, nationalists, right wing populists and even some former leftists (HOPE not hate
). Even though the movement exists since the 1980s, it gained more attention after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City. Contrary to old racist national parties, this new right-wing parties that focus on anti-Islam and anti-immigration messages, seem to be much more mainstream and popular, as they attract much broader support from the population in countries such as Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands (HOPE not hate
In the Netherlands Geert Wilders is the most present right-wing politician. He is best known for railing against the Islamisation or, as he describes himself, his fight against the Islam. Wilders founded the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid PVV), which quickly became the fourth-largest political party in Holland. His views/criticism of the Islam can be outlined by his famous quote: I dont hate Muslims, I hate the Islam. He says: I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture and ideology and there is no equality between our culture and the retarded Islamic culture he continues (Traynor
). Furthermore, he gained much worldwide media attention by comparing the Koran to Hitlers book Mein Kampf. His radical views of the Islam and the immigrant policy, as represented in the mentioned statements, made him a controversial figure both in his country of origin and abroad. His film Fitna, that was published online, also contributed to great international attention (Eteraz
). Wilders is seeking international attention in other ways as well. In July 2010 Wilders announced the International Freedom Alliance in the hopes of bringing together Counter-Jihad forces across the globe (Huizinga
). The message is: stop Islam, defend freedom.
According to the website of the British HOPE not hate campaign the prominent Dutch politician Geert Wilders is in the top twelve of the over hundred individuals who are central to the international anti-Muslim network. The HOPE not hate campaign aims to counter racism and fascism by providing up to date news, good practice and analysis. The HOPE not Hate campaign claims that Wilders is the most prominent politician. Moreover, it is claimed that he is also the most successful Counter-Jihadist politician in the world. The viewers of the site are able to see a list of all the meetings Wilders has attended in the past few years, the books he has written and the organisations he is a member of. The website also display Wilders claim that there is no moderate Islam even though there are moderate Muslims. However, this claim seems to lack supporting arguments that explain why Wilders should be considered as an important contributor to the Counter-Jihad movement. It is remarkable that this claim is the only justification of the presence of Geert on the list of top dozen players who are central to the international anti-Muslim network (HOPE not hate
According to the texts on the website of HOPE not hate the Counter-Jihad movement is based on several principles; the key players all criticise the Islam and this eventually leads to hatred. It is a form of organized racism and they make use of anti-Muslim rhetorics. They propagate scare stories about the Islam and they often generalize the entire Muslim community. In other words, they do not distinguish radical Muslims and moderate Muslims who dissociate themselves of the terroristic violence. The key figures of the Counter-Jihad movement and their large constituencies contribute to tensions between different populations and this results in anxiety among the citizens towards the Muslim population. Another main characteristic of the Counter-Jihad key figures is that they compete against the current establishment. Finally, there is little or no contact between the top dozen players of the Counter-Jihad movement. Even though Wilders is often labeled as extreme right, others (including himself) view himself rather a mainstream politician with legitimate concerns. Wilders rejects the label far-right and even calls it scandalous (West
At any rate, Wilders seems to effectively spread the message of Counter-Jihadism. The growth of this movement is mirrored online (Bartlett et al. 15
). Hence, besides the discussion that takes place on traditional media, the debate on the Islamization takes, to an ever-greater extent, place on the Internet and social media, such as Twitter, in particular. To illustrate the influence of Geert Wilders on the social media platform Twitter one can have a quick look at the score he has on Klout, which is 72. Klout measures the influence one has based on the ability to drive action on /social networks (Klout beta
). When comparing this score to other politicians or celebrities, one can see this is quite a high score.
These new right-wing parties (in relation to the Internet) have been studied a lot by colleges of humanities and social sciences. For instance, Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell and Mark Littler studied the new European populists online and claim in their paper that these parties are defined by their opposition to immigration and concern for protecting national and European culture, regularly use the language of the left -of human rights and freedom. They state that: On economic policy, they are often critical of globalisation and the effects of international capitalism on workers rights. This is combined with anti-establishment rhetoric and language. Often called populist extremist parties or the new right, these parties do not fit easily into the traditional political divides (Bartlett et al. 15
In any case, humanities and social science studies often use digitized methods (such as online surveys) as opposed to those that are natively digital. However, by using (natively) digital methods/ tools we propose that this study project can contribute to a better understanding of the online discourse of the Counter-Jihadism of right parties and certain actors (Geert Wilders and the like) in particular.
Previously discussed claims raise certain questions, which are examined in this research paper. First, to what extent can Wilders be described as being part of the Counter-Jihad movement? This will be examined by analyzing Wilders Twitter account and comparing it to the definition of the Counter-Jihad as described by the HOPE not Hate campaign. And second, how can one describe the language that is used on the Twitter account of Geert Wilders? Is the claim that issue language used by the new right is broader true? Does Geert Wilders also use the language of the left (of human rights and freedom)? Can one call his Tweets messages of hate or does he also provide his Followers with softer language? And, how does this relate to each other? Which narratives does he spread?
In this research project the above-mentioned questions will be addressed through examination of Geert Wilders 580 Tweets by employing different digital methods, such as the tool Sylvester, which has been particularly developed for this project.
Geert Wilders Twitter Influence
To be able to evaluate the influence Geert Wilders has on his Twitter Followers with his Tweets, we have used several free online Twitter analytic tools to gather statistics of his use of Twitter.
it is possible to get a Klout Score of every Social Media user who has a public profile. Klout measures influence across several Social Networks and shows how users have an impact on the users connected to them. The Klout Score is a number between 1 and 100 and represents the users social media influence. It looks at the users engaging and shared content. For Geert Wilders Klout Score we are looking at his Twitter account @geertwilderspvv
. To see if Geert Wilders has a high influence score we compare it with the Klout Score of Lady Gaga (@LadyGaga
) and the popular former politician Femke Halsema (@FemkeHalsema
The second tool used is Twitonomy
. This tool shows statistical information on every public Twitter account and gives information on i.a. retweets, mentions and Twitter behavior. This will give insight on how Geert Wilders uses his Twitter account and how successful his content is.
Third, the tool Visually
is applied to get a sense of Geert Wilders Twitter influence. This tool shows some simple statistics in an animated infographic such as a visualization of the amount of Followers.
shows statistics of your Followers. It shows how much Followers you have, but also gives information about daily growth and predicts the growth of your Following in the future.
Last, a sample of a random 1000 Followers of Geert Wilders 236.211 Followers (on 17 january 2013) are mapped in Google Maps using the tool Map My Followers
. This tool uses the geo locations filled in by the Followers of Geert Wilders in their Twitter bio. This is not entirely flawless because people are able to give no location or a fake location. Still this map is able to give an indication of Geert Wilders influence worldwide.
The results of these tools combined can give a good idea on the level of influence Geert Wilders has online via Twitter.
Geert Wilders Twitter Discourse
In order to analyse and give funded findings on the language and discourse used by Geert Wilders on his Twitter account, several tools are used to make a profound content analysis.
First, the command https://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.xml?screen_name=geertwilderspvv&count=580
has been used to scrape all Tweets and information from Geert Wilders Twitter account. To make this easier by not having to know the whole command, Eelke Hermens custom-made the tool Sylvester
for this project. This tool offers the last 3000 Tweets of every user by only giving the Twitter username. It creates a .csv file that can be opened in Excel for further analysis. This Excel sheet offers i.a. the time of the Tweet, whether it is a reply or not, its geolocation when this is provided, the full text, how much it is retweeted and its URL (Appendix 1 & Appendix 2).
This sheet offers the full text of every Tweet, but Twitter has the tendency to shorten URLs. These URLs are interesting because the full URLs offer titles of articles that are being tweeted. It is not necessary to open all these shortened URLs manually to get a list of all full URLs ever tweeted by Geert Wilders. The Harvester tool has been used to extract all URLs from all 580 Tweet of Geert Wilders. The resulting list is the input for the Expand Tiny URL tool and this tool gives a list of the full URLs and will be used next to his Tweets in the content analysis (Appendix 3 & Appendix 4).
The third step is the start of the actual content-analysis. To give an evaluation on the words Geert Wilders uses to express himself on Twitter three Clouds will be generated via the online tool Wordle
. The 580 Tweets will be categorized in three categories: 1) Anti-Islam/Anti-Maroccans, 2) (The remaining:) Political National/International topics and 3) Neutral/Non-political. The first Cloud will consist of all 580 Tweets, thus all categories and will offer an overview of the most frequent words used by Geert Wilders. The second Cloud will consist of the Tweets classified as Anti-Islam/Anti-Maroccans and the third Cloud will consist of the remaining international and national political marked Tweets. These clouds will offer an insight in the words used by Geert Wilders when he Tweets about politics with a focus on his Anti-Islam/Anti-Maroccans thoughts (Appendix 5).
Secondly, for the content analysis all his Tweets are coded on categories based on the principles of the Counter-Jihad movement, according to the HOPE not Hate website. To claim that a person or group is a part of the Counter-Jihad movement their actions and messages must comply with the following descriptions (as briefly discussed in the introduction):
- They make use of anti-Muslim rhetoric to garner votes
- They propagate scare stories about Islam
- The target is radical Islam and Islamist extremist groups, or if it goes wider, criticising Islam as a faith and Muslims as people.
- They criticise Muslims and the Islam in a way that it leads to hatred.
- They make generalisations about an entire faith and many fail to differentiate between the actions of a few and the vast majority of Muslims who also reject the extremists
- They contribute to heightening tensions between communities and the whipping up of fear and suspicion.
- They spread an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration message.
- They fail to distinguish between the hardcore radical Islamists and the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject these extremist views and just want to live quietly and in peace
- Some are openly racist, others are not
- There is a dissatisfaction with current establishment
- Sometimes they are focused on the single issue of Islam, but in other situations it becomes interwoven with wider politics of immigration, culture, loss and identity.
All the 580 Tweets of Geert Wilders were analyzed manually to examine if they match one or more of the principles mentioned above. The topics of the Tweets that did not correspond with the descriptions of the Counter-Jihad movement (provided by the HOPE not Hate website) were also analyzed. There are several categories created to decide if the principles of the Counter-Jihad movement match the Tweets of Wilders. These categories are:
- Hatred (is Wilders deliberately insulting a group of people because of their race, religion or believes in his Twitter messages?)
- Anti-Muslim/Anti (does Wilders criticize the Islam or the Muslim community?)
- Organized racism (is Wilders openly racist?)
- Scare stories (does Wilders propagate scare stories about Islam?)
- Islam as one whole (does Wilders make generalisations about the entire Islamic faith?).
- Generalizing Muslims (does Wilders make generalisations about the Muslim community and does he distinguish hardcore radical Islamists and the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject the extremist views?).
- Against migration and multiculturalism (is Wilders openly against immigration and multiculturalism?)
- Against establishment (does Wilders criticize the current establishment?).
- Against the Unification of Europe (does Wilders openly criticize the high degree of collaboration in Europe?)
The last category was added because his view on the unity of Europe could also be seen as a part of his anti-Immigration policy (Appendix 6).
Finally, we conducted a content analysis on language and discourse of Geert Wilders retweeted Tweets. The amount of retweets give an indication of the most shared and thus most successful content. The Excel file is ordered on the retweet count and gives a top 25 most retweeted Tweets and a top 25 least retweeted Tweets. These will be analyzed on the language used in these Tweets and will give an insight on whether this language is typical of rightwing extremists or not (Appendix 7 & Appendix 8).
Geert WildersTwitter Influence
Klout gives a Klout Score of 72 (of 100) for Geert Wilders. Compared to globally successful superstar Lady Gagas score of 93 and popular former politician Femke Halsemas score of 68, this is certainly a high influence score.
Twitonomys statistics shows some interesting aspects. It shows that every Tweet Geert Wilders ever tweeted has been retweeted by other Twitters users and this is thus influential/interesting/successful content. It also shows that Geert Wilders does not follow anyone himself; he does not retweet and reply. This suggests that Geert Wilders uses his Twitter simply to share his own thoughts. He is not interested in the opinions of others on Twitter.
Visually gives a good visual of the relation between the amount of his Tweets and his Followers. It shows in comparison he has a great amount of Followers compared to the relatively small amount of content.
Twitter Counter clearly illustrates the growth of Geert Wilders Following. It shows that the amount of Followers grows in a continually upwards trend. On average he gains 222 Followers a day. Even though he is active on Twitter since 2009, the amount of new Followers increases every day.
Map My Followers provides a map with the geo locations of a random sample of 1000 of Geert Wilders 236.211 Followers. This clearly shows Geert Wilders Tweets do not only reach Dutch Twitter users, but also other users around the world.
Geert Wilders Twitter Discourse
The first step was to categorize the Tweets and that resulted in 133 of the 580 Tweets show Anti-Muslim or Anti-Islam content. That represents 23%. Then 394 of the 580 Tweets have a political content. This counts for 68%. In the last category 44 of the 580 contained a neutral on non political content, which shows 9%. Together 91% is politically, with the Anti-Muslim and Anti-Islam as main topic and other subsequent topics are Euro, Europe and Greece. The first cloud was made out of all the 580 Tweets of Geert Wilders twitter account. It emerged that Wilders uses the words PVV, vandaag (today), NL, Nederland (The Netherlands), geweldig (great), Euro, Islam, Rutte, weer (again), kamervragen (parliamentary questions) and kabinet (government) most often. In addition to the general cloud the second cloud consist Tweets classified as Anti-Islam/Anti-Moroccans. The cloud shows that the most frequently used words are the following: Islam, vandaag (today), marokkaanse (moroccan), geweldig (great), boek (book), kamervragen (parliamentary questions) and geweld (violence). The last cloud contains the remaining international and national political marked Tweets. The word PVV is obvious significant larger than the rest of the used words. Other words which are often used are Rutte, NL, Nederland (The Netherlands), Griekenland (Greece), Euro, EU, kabinet (government), PvdA, mensen (people), vandaag (today) and geweldig (great).
Content analysis on counter-jihad of HOPE not hate
The results of the content analysis showed that Geert Wilders mostly wrote on his twitter account about his ideology against the European Union. In his Tweets this topic came up with a total count of 111 times. The subsequent topic he Tweets about mostly is the established political order; he often critiques the current political establishment. This kind of critique is mentioned 110 times on his twitter account. Besides twittering about the the European Union and the established political order, Wilders has twittered about the extremist topic anti- Muslims and the Islam, with a total count of 99 times. Wilders is not only against anti- muslim and the Islam but also against migration and a multicultural society, this is apparent from his twitter account; this Tweets 47 times negatively about this topic. In addition, a significant amount of his Tweets contain hateful language. In total, such negative content is found 38 times. Furthermore, Wilders is not only against the radical Islam or extreme Islamic groups, but he sees the Islam as a single entity. He also generalizes Muslims in his Tweets and moreover, the Islam in general. The generalisation of Muslims, and critique on the Islam in general, is applicable 24 times. Wilders Tweets considerably less about organised racism by his political party PVV, though he Tweets about it seventeen times. Finally, the results showed that Geert Wilders has used twitter to propagate scare stories about the Islam. The twitter account contained fifteen Tweets in this category.
Content analysis of retweets
The results of the content-analysis of the top 25 most retweeted Tweets of Geert Wilders show that about half of the popular/successful Tweets contain anti-Islamic messages. The other half mostly contained messages that concern national and European culture and politics.
By analyzing the top 25 least retweeted messages, and thus least popular amongst his Followers, we found that his critique on the current political dispensation does not seem to be successful (in terms of retweeting). This critique is mainly about the left-wing political party PvdA or other politicians, such as Balkenende. Other messages about his personal life (not related to Counter-Jihadism), such as praising the new movie Avatar or winning a prize, are also not retweeted much.
By analyzing the most and least retweeted content it is noticeable that Wilders increasingly critiques the current political dispensation in the Netherlands. However, overall, we found that his Followers are mainly interested in Wilders anti-Islam language (most retweeted) and less in his broader anti-establishment language (less retweeted).
This study is set up to find out if disclosing Wilders as a part of the Counter-Jihad movement can be justified. The results of the data analysis of the Twitter account of Geert Wilders show that he can indeed be considered as a prominent distributor of the Counter-Jihad message and thus spreading hatred language. Most of the principles of Counter-Jihadism, as discussed on the website of the HOPE not hate campaign, are applicable to the Tweets sent from the @geertwilderspvv Twitter account. The main narrative that he spreads is anti-Islam and the language he uses is quite hard.
However, it is interesting that the main topic of his Tweets, next to his anti-Islam messages, is his dissatisfaction with the current situation concerning the unity of Europe. Wilders is not only against the Islamization of Europe, he is also against all forms of immigration in the Netherlands. The question to what extent the Netherlands should participate in the unification of most of the European countries is highly debated in the Dutch parliament. The European Union is currently dealing with an economic crisis and because of the high degree of cooperation in Europe the richer countries have to solve the economic depression in the poorer countries. The political party of Wilders, the PVV, spends a lot of attention to this issue, and because of the economic situation in the Netherlands, the anti-Europe attitude grows. When looking at the content of the top 25 most retweeted Tweets, one can state that Geert Wilders and his Followers are mostly concerned about national identity in general. These findings are in keeping with the claim of Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell and Mark Littler that populists like Geert Wilders are often critical of globalisation and are concerned with protecting national culture; the critique on the EU is intrinsically related to the anti-Islam messages. It all comes down to the question of sovereignty, most messages are about national identity and when examining the Tweets on the EU one can also think of the in- and outgroup reflex. One can state that the new right, as Geert Wilders of the PVV resembles, indeed uses broader issue language and language of the left in terms of speaking of freedom and human rights. An independent Holland, freedom of speech, workers rights, the rights of homosexuals and so forth are recurring issues in his Tweets. However, the anti-Islam Tweets, especially addressed to the Dutch Moroccan youth, are dominant and are mostly retweeted by his Followers. Furthermore, by analyzing the content of the Tweets it is also noticeable that Wilders increasingly critiques the current political dispensation in the Netherlands. This is also in keeping with the claim of Bartlett et al. that the opposition to immigration and the Islam is combined with anti-establishment rhetoric and language. However, overall, we found that his Followers are mainly interested in Wilders anti-Islam language (most retweeted) and less in his broader anti-establishment language (less retweeted).
This study project shows that analysis of digital data by using natively digital methods can contribute to an increased amount of knowledge about this movement and its key actors. Digital methods/ tools can contribute to a better understanding of the online discourse of the Counter-Jihadism of right parties and main actors. The results of online investigations could lead to more grounded statements on the HOPE not hate website. Therefore, it can be of necessity that the HOPE not Hate campaign expands this type of research to support their fight against the Counter-Jihadism.
At any rate, this research only investigated the Twitter account of Wilders and claiming someone is a key figure in the Counter-Jihad movement based on their Tweets might not be sufficient enough. However, it definitely provides new insights in one of the main Counter-Jihad actors and its online communication. Above all, it contributes to the main goal of the HOPE not Hate campaign; their online campaign aims to mobilise people that are opposed to politics of hate by providing the viewers of the website with full stories about the key figures of the Counter-Jihad movement. It is important to take note that making a key figures list that is hardly substantiated in most of the cases, does not contribute to the knowledge that is required to political defeat of these distributors of hate. Another remark on the available tools that extract the Followers of someones twitter account and displays the geolocations of the Followers all have flaws. The tools to investigate the geolocations of the Twitter Followers are not convincing enough. This is probably caused by the privacy of the Twitter accounts. Most of the Followers do not share their locations online. Perhaps future scholars can design a tool to find a way around this problem. However, the map can still be a good indication. The results of this research contains a map with a random sample of only thousand of his 236,270 Followers. The map shows that his Followers are spread all over the world, even though his Tweets are in Dutch. This result contributes to the idea that Geert Wilders can be seen as an influential politician in the Counter-Jihad movement.
Another interesting aspect for future research is to study to what extent the Muslim community is victimized by the online (anti-Muslim) language (Tweets) of Wilders. The trial of Geert Wilders in 2010 and 2011 showed that it is difficult to find evidence to accuse Wilders of criminally insulting religious and ethnic groups and inciting hatred and discrimination. In June 2011 he was found not guilty. Future tools that are designed to analyze large online datasets (digital methods) could contribute to back up these accusations with evidence.