Digital Memory and Populism| Commemorative Populism in the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Strategic (Ab)use of Memory in Anti-Corona Protest Communication on Telegram

Christian Schwarzenegger, Anna Wagner


During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-proclaimed resistance movements have organized protests against containment measures both in digital media and on the streets. References to the past and an invocation of collective memory have been important elements in the toolbox of their populist communication. We propose the notion of “commemorative populism” to describe the weaponization of history and memory for the proliferation of a political cause by populist activists. In a qualitative content analysis, we examined postings by the German “Querdenker,” a movement against Corona containment policies. Findings show 6 types of the (ab)use of history and collective memory: (1) the recontextualization of quotations by historical personalities, (2) the creation of false historical analogies and flattering genealogies, (3) the claim of historical exceptionalism, (4) the denigration of elites by referring to failures of medical history, (5) the dissemination of disinformation about historical facts, and (6) the support of conspiracy myths by the myths’ own history.


populism, activism, history, conspiracy myths, Telegram, alternative social media

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