Wilhelm Kempf (Konstanz)
The construction of national identity in the Austrian press since
The research results
presented in the present work are part of an international research project
which is studying the construction of national identities by the European
media in the postwar period (1945-1996). By means of a unified research
design the mainstream press in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, as well
as in Finland and Estonia, is being content-analytically evaluated. The
findings reported on here touch on the Austrian, German and Swiss component
studies, on a comparative analysis of Austrian, German and Swiss print
media, as well as on a secondary analysis of the data collected in these
studies and on a comparative analysis of xenophobic versus multicultural
aspects of the construction of identity in the Austrian, Swiss, German,
Finnish and Estonian press.
The chief focus is less on what Austrian identity is than on how this
identity has been constructed by the Austrian mainstream press. The core
of the study centers on the topic complexes
The results of the study show how the Austrian press has encouraged the
intellectual climate which enabled Haider to make use of an originally
leftist system critique in order to convert it in a mixture with xenophobia
and an appeal to vulgar populist instincts into a recipe for right-wing
populist success. The rise of this climate of opinion is above all also
the fault of the populism of the Austrian media, which for decades avoided
any critical analysis and instead, competing for high sales quotas, exploited
a vague dissatisfaction in the population for its purposes. A symbiotic
alienation of the population from the nation has found expression in the
construction of national identity on the part of the Austrian print media.
This is as apparent in the avoidance of any serious analysis of national
history as in the absence of a democratic discourse on controversial current
and topical political issues, in the harmonization of conflicts by looking
away, as well as in the trivializing self righteousness which is linked
with growing dissatisfaction. Not least of all, as well the - coinciding
with the initial rise of the FPÖ - increasing tendency to open expressions
of xenophobia in the Austrian press toward the end of the period under
study shows clearly how the populism of the Austrian media contributed
to its rise.
- Interpretations of history and patriotism,
- Democratic culture,
- Neutrality and
- Xenophobia and racism.
At the same time, the participation of the FPÖ in the government
represents a caesura in Austrian postwar history which raises the question
of Austria's national identity in a completely new way. The Principle
of Austria, which was constituted after 1945 as a sophisticated self-deception
maneuver and was actually successfully realized over long periods, has
On the author:
Wilhelm Kempf, since 1977 Professor for Psychological Methodology and Director
of the Project Group on Peace Research at the University of Konstanz, Germany.
Special areas of interest: nonviolent conflict solutions, the construction
of social reality by the mass media. Publications, inter alia: "Krieg,
Nationalismus, Rassismus und die Medien" (with Irena Schmidt-Regener,
Münster: Lit, 1998); "Konflikt und Gewalt" (Münster:
agenda, 2000); "Los Medios y la Cultura de Paz" (with Sonia Gutiérrez
Villalobos, Berlin: regener, 2001).
Address: Fachbereich Psychologie, Universität Konstanz (www.uni-konstanz.de),
D-78457 Konstanz. e-mail: Wilhelm.Kempf@uni-konstanz.de.