Online Hate and Offline Action: Tracing Right-Wing Populism and Virtuous Violence in Internet Communities

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Melody DEVRIES, Ryerson University, Canada
American populism in the form of the Alt-Right increasingly resembles the culture of certain online worlds. Participants of Alt-Right affiliated groups rally around “anti-political correctness” – fighting against what many online define as elitist, corrupt liberal enemies. In investigating how online culture becomes actualized ideology, I outline the development of anonymous “Chan culture” and its notions of “virtuous transgression” as it emerged on 4chan.org and grew through the comparable site Reddit.com. Specifically, I dissect the collective action carried out by these communities in the form of violent anti-feminist and racialized abuse, as was seen in high profile cases such as the #Gamergate controversy and the expulsion of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao. I argue that these events laid the groundwork for spaces like R/The_Donald, Reddit’s community of young Trump enthusiasts who vilify progressives and find virtue in the transgressive politics of the far-right. Alongside these case studies, I present a theoretical tracing of reflexive online practices which shape narratives of collective-self, and the ethical permissions that follow. Ultimately, the features of these online publics produce new ethical subjectivities which determine how one should live in terms of actual-world politics, reformatting American right-wing populism in the process.