University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Populist discourse on a British social media patient-support community: The case of the Charlie Gard support campaign on Facebook

Das, Ranjana (2018) Populist discourse on a British social media patient-support community: The case of the Charlie Gard support campaign on Facebook Discourse, Context & Media, 24. pp. 76-84.

[img] Text
Populist discourse on a British social media patient-support community - The case of the Charlie Gard support campaign on Facebook.docx - Accepted version Manuscript

Download (744kB)


This article draws from an ethnographically motivated non-participant observation of an ongoing and very young online patient support community in the UK, to present an analysis of its discursive practices. It demonstrates how it performs populism (c.f. Canovan, 1982, 1999; McRae, 1969), and both draws upon and contributes to a climate of opinion (Gunther et al, 2011) fuelled by what has recently been described as media populism (Krämer, 2014). Using the theoretical lens of populism and climate of opinion, it demonstrates how the more than sixty thousand strong social media ‘army’ (61,337 members at the time of writing this paper) formed around a terminally ill baby at the centre of a parent-judiciary-hospital legal battle in Britain in 2017, uses key tropes and devices of populist rhetoric to establish lay-expertise in its performance of support for the ordinary patient and their family, de-recognising and vilifying medical expertise and publicly funded healthcare systems built on socio-democratic ideals. The article also demonstrates how ordinary users’ mobilisation of populist rhetoric to reject both professional expertise and public institutions, make use of established architectural features of the online community’s socio-technological design (c.f. Escobar, 1994; Ley, 2007), such as immediacy, remediation and protective gatekeeping. Populism has, till now, been used largely for the study of politics and mediated political communication (c.f. Meyer, 2006; Hameleers & Schmuck, 2017). By drawing upon this body of work to inform the analysis of a patient-support community (see also Loader et al 2002; Preece 2010; Armstrong et al, 2011 on online patient communities), this paper also discusses the public implications of these findings, calling for considerations of the impact of digitally mediated populist ideologies, campaigns and rhetoric on public perceptions and expectations of healthcare systems and professionals.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Date : August 2018
DOI : 10.1016/j.dcm.2017.11.005
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2018. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Uncontrolled Keywords : Charlie Gard; Populism; Social media; Patient; Campaign; Facebook; Twitter
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 23 Feb 2018 13:11
Last Modified : 30 May 2019 13:24

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800