Instagram narratives in Trump’s America
Multimodal social media and mitigation of right-wing populism
This study investigates the ideological composition of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign on Instagram, a popular but little researched platform, and attempts to situate it within his broader campaign. To account for the multimodality of Instagram posts, an analytical framework combining methods of the discourse-historical approach and visual grammar is proposed. 330 posts were subjected to a semantic analysis, resulting in a network of discourse topics which defined the Instagram campaign. Trump’s Instagram posts, in contrast to his tweets, are shown to be mostly positive, refraining from nativist attacks on minorities and limiting personal attacks on Hillary Clinton. Trump methodically constructed the positive, populist ‘Man of the People’ image, although in-depth analysis of selected posts reveals his populism to be only superficially inclusive. These findings prompt a reflection on the existence of an internal cordon sanitaire in social media campaigns, a possibly detrimental phenomenon for right-wing populists.