Austria

This subproject investigates the significance of conspiracy theories for populist parties and right-wing movements in Austria, including but not limited to the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) and its splinter parties Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ, Bündnis Zukunft Österreich), Team Stronach, Team HC Strache – Alliance for Austria (THC, Die Allianz für Österreich), as well as their respective party academies, youth organizations and other informally affiliated organizations.

Overall, Austria, the FPÖ and associated parties and organizations present an interesting case study in the framework of the PACT project for several reasons: First, FPÖ has a long history, dating back as far as 1949 when the forerunner organization Federation of Independents (VdU, Verband der Unabhängigen) was established as party of the so-called Third Camp in Austria. Second, this long history includes several periods of governing: 1983-86 with the Social Democrats, and with the Conservatives 2000-07 and again 2017-19. Third, similar to other populist groups, the FPÖ has been and still is dominated by a strong male leadership which has caused internal conflicts and party splits in the past, most recently in 2019 due to the “Ibiza affair“.

This long history therefore includes periods of involvement in government and self-marginalization due to internal conflict, phases of ideological liberalization and radicalization. This allows the subproject to trace several shifts in ideology and political discourse as they relate to conspiracy theories. The project seeks to answer the following questions: When, why, how and to what effect are conspiracy theories voiced by FPÖ leadership and central to the party’s political communication? Which conspiracy theories do they draw on and how are they functionalized? What role do the media and their relationship to the FPÖ and its representatives play when it comes to disseminating conspiracy theories.