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LARPing & Liberal Tears. Irony, Belief and Idiocy in the Deep Vernacular Web: Online Actions and Offline Consequences in Europe and the US



How have digital tools and networks transformed the far right's strategies and transnational prospects? This volume presents a unique critical survey of the online and offline tactics, symbols and platforms that are strategically remixed by contemporary far-right groups in Europe and the US. It features thirteen accessible essays by an international range of expert scholars, policy advisors and activists who offer informed answers to a number of urgent practical and theoretical questions: How and why has the internet emboldened extreme nationalisms? What counter-cultural approaches should civil societies develop in response?
LARPing & Liberal Tears
Irony, Belief and Idiocy in the Deep Vernacular Web
Marc Tuters
In the summer of 2017, the American Alt-Right gained international re-
cognition following the violence at their Unite the Right rally in Charlot-
tesville, North Carolina, which left one counter-protester dead and dozens
of others injured. Unwilling to condemn this act of far-right violence, the
American president Donald Trump instead spoke of violence having oc-
curred “on many sides” (Peters 2017). As exemplified by this response,
over the course of his election campaign and early days in oce Trump’s
reluctance to distance himself from the far right had the eect of normal-
izing the public expression of their ideas to an extent that seemed unpre-
cedented to many (Mulhall et al. 2018; Marwick/Lewis 2017). Beyond the six ty
million Americans that voted for him, Trump’s inflammatory political style
also appealed to heretofore little known elements of internet subculture for
whom he also appeared as an avatar of their indignation at feeling somehow
demographically displaced. This source of indignation, however imaginary,
is what accounts for the resonance between bizarre internet subcultures and
the global insurgency of far-right populism, and is the subject of this chapter.
Although Trump’s initial rebellious appeal was somewhat diminished
in the eyes of radicals by the time of Charlottesville, a significant number
of those at the rally still saw themselves as the loyal foot soldiers of the
world’s first meme president, who they imagined themselves as having
helped elect through their skillful deployment of “meme magic”. While
self described “internet trolls” were pleased to publicly pronounce such
ridiculous sounding claims in the media (Shreckinger 2017), one may rea-
sonably ask if they actually believed it to be true? While there are those
who have attempted to seriously grapple with such claims (Lachman
2018), the standard fallback response from most of these figures when
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38 Marc Tuters
pushed to explain their actions is that they are ‘trolling’, which is to say
they are just playing around. To put it in the jargon of computer game
culture, they are ‘live action role playing’ or LARPing. This explanation of-
fers those involved with a convenient excuse if and when things get out of
hand. It is based on the core belief that “teh Internet is serious business”,
an ironic slogan whose meaning is its opposite, which is to say that the
internet is not serious business, and anyone who thinks otherwise should
be corrected and is, essentially, undeserving of pity.
The Identitarian Movement (in Germany), LARPing at Pepe.
For many this dualistic outlook was, however, no longer sustainable in the
face of the bloody violence in Charlottesville. Indeed, in the aftermath of
that event the apparently inexorable rise of the Alt-Right was, for the first
time since Trump’s rise, brought into question. A year later, on the anni-
versary of the rally, the movement’s momentum appears rather dimin-
ished. It seems that there has been a softening of the Alt-Right as many
who had been flirting with its explicit white-racial supremacist elements
have fallen back to the more ‘mainstream’ position of contemporary far-
right populism, with its reactionary suspicion of ‘migrants’ and celebra-
tion of ‘Western culture’. But while the disturbing spectacle of violence in
1 | Source:
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LARPing & Liberal Tears 39
Charlottesville may have tested the commitment of many to ‘real-world’
political organizing, from an online audience perspective the rally never-
theless seemed like the culmination of a trend which had been consistent-
ly developing for some time and which continues unabated.
If the Alt-Right can be said to have accomplished anything, besides
briefly normalizing ‘ironic’ expressions of intolerance and hate, it would
be in their innovative infusion and deployment of elements of high con-
cept fan culture in the form of political tactics. It would seem that many
continue to see themselves as engaged in an online culture war whose
primary battlefield is social media (in particular Youtube), and in which
they appear to have the upper hand, in spite of an apparent disenchant-
ment with the Alt-Right’s more ideologically extreme propositions. While
the European far right, unlike its American counterpart, has a long and
established tradition of organized street protest, it would seem that they,
too, are learning from the Alt-Right playbook.
The deeP VeRn ACUlAR web
While much has been made of the Alt-Right’s supposedly ironical stance
(Neiwert 2017), their ideological core lies in an essentialist vision of identi-
ty politics developed by the European New Right, which has been referred
to as “dierentialist racism” (Taguie 2001). Many radical right populist
parties in Europe have embraced these same ideas, seeing themselves as
engaged in a civilizational struggle. This worldview implores supposedly
autochthonous Europeans to prevent the “great replacement”: waves of im-
migrants overtaking Europe, all orchestrated according to the nefarious
multicultural agenda of the “globalist” class. Like some of the radical right
populists, there is an expressed feeling amongst these long-established
denizens of the web that their web is being encroached upon and gentri-
fied. The rise of social media platforms that have corporatized the expe-
rience of the web has led these otherwise disparate and marginal niches
of what I call the deep vernacular web to see themselves as an oppositional
subculture tasked with keeping alive what they perceive to be the original
spirit of the web. Due in part to the cleverly strategic amplification of these
antagonisms via platforms such as Twitter and Youtube, in practice this
has manifested as an online culture war, the opening battle of which was
the notorious Gamergate that I unpack below.
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40 Marc Tuters
The concept of the deep vernacular web can be understood as a heu-
ristic intended to historicize these online antagonistic communities as
antecedent to social media and even to the web itself. The deep vernacular
web is characterized by anonymous or pseudonymous subcultures that
largely see themselves as standing in opposition to the dominant culture
of the surface web. Identified to an extent with the anonymous 4chan im-
age board – which hosts one million posts per day, three quarters of which
are made by visitors from English-speaking countries – these subcultures
tend to imagine themselves as a faceless mass. In direct contrast to the in-
dividualized culture of the selfies associated with social media, we might
thus characterize the deep vernacular web as a mask culture in which indi-
vidual identity is eaced by the totemic deployment of memes. Insofar as
this mask culture constructs an image of itself as an autochthonous cul-
ture whose integrity is under threat, we can perhaps begin to understand
how grievances of the deep vernacular web have been capitalized upon by
those espousing a far-right ideology. Conversely we can also see how the
vernacular innovations of these often bizarre subcultures, such as Pepe the
Frog, have themselves been absorbed in the service of far-right populism.
The reasons why 4chan is productive of vernacular innovation have to
do, in part, with the aordances of the platform. 4chan ‘moves’ very quick-
ly – threads are quickly purged from the website, meaning the website
does not oer a way to ‘catch up’ with the latest developments (notwith-
standing external archival websites or wikis like Encyclopedia Dramatica).
Furthermore, 4chan is anonymous, which means that if one wants to par-
ticipate in the conversation one has to demonstrate a degree of subcultural
literacy. Although there are other 4chan boards which operate dierently,
on its most popular board, /pol/ – which has, since about 2015, increas-
ingly been viewed as a point of convergence been online subculture and
Alt-Right ideas (Heikkilä 2017) – if you speak out of turn you are likely to
be either brutally insulted or else, even worse, simply ignored. As a result
of this blend of aordances and practices, /pol/ drives many away while
exhibiting a strong socialization eect on those remain – one byproduct
of which is that sensationalist behavior helps one to be noticed on /pol/.
Combined with an ironic relationship with the idea of belief, discussed
below, these factors help to account for why 4chan is so productive of ver-
2 | Anon (2018): “Advertise”, (
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LARPing & Liberal Tears 41
nacular innovation and arguably why /pol/, a board devoted to ‘politically
incorrect’ discussion, appears so productive of far-right hate speech.
The adepts of the deep vernacular web engage in gatekeeping pro-
cesses to mark-o and maintain its boundaries from the surface web. In
spite of the familiar purist tendencies of the hard core that wish to re-
main resolutely underground, the broader influence of their subcultural
imaginary can be seen as extending rather deeply into aspects of corporate
social media. As an example of such an incursion we might consider the
Kekistan meme that had its origins in 4chan but which came to promi-
nence on Youtube as a kind of imaginary homeland for trolls (de Keule-
naar 2018). In a series of videos posted on Youtube over the course of 2017,
the Kekistan meme developed the mythology of an imaginary country
with its own flag and history, a kind of ‘ethnostate’ in the language of the
European New Right, whose people imagined themselves to be engaged
in a civilizational conflict against the forces of ‘political correctness.’
Initially functioning as a kind of in-group slang expression for gamers,
in 4chan the term ‘kek’ (at the root of Kekistan) became a conceptual
marker for the concept of ‘meme magic’. As such ‘kek’, often symbolized
by Pepe, signifies the peculiarly postmodern idea that an empty symbol
can itself be used as a tool to create belief in which its ‘adepts’ bear witness
to eects of that idea without necessarily believing in any sort of truth, as
one would normally expect from ‘believers’. Since expressions of sincerely
political belief would be dismissed as ‘causefagging’ on 4chan, any polit-
ical memes that it generated were thus veiled in layer upon layer of irony.
As a keyword, ‘kek’ spread from 4chan to other parts of the deep vernac-
ular web, such as /r/The_Donald, a popular discussion board on the ag-
gregator site Reddit devoted to Donald Trump’s insurgent candidacy. On
the Facebook page God Emperor Trump, the candidate was envisioned as a
figure of divine chaos, the embodiment of the ‘cult of kek’. On Youtube the
Kekistan meme was developed in a number of directions by a variety of
channels including some associated with Youtube’s so-called “intellectual
dark web” (Weiss 2018). Common to most of these channels were videos
which staged confrontational encounters with liberal protesters, so-called
social justice warriors or SJWs. Following a well established technique
of internet trolls, the objective of these Youtube videos was to ‘trigger’
an emotional reaction from the SJWs, who are considered to exhibit an
embarrassing and predictable lack of composure – connected to this, for
example, was a whole new genre of ‘liberal tears’ videos.
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42 Marc Tuters
The idioT iC AdjACe n T
The Kekistani flag became emblematic of Alt-Right trolling tactics. It was
‘iconically’ modeled on the Nazi Reichskriegsflagge, an echo that was in-
tended to ‘trigger’ SJWs into accusing their opponents of being Nazis.
While the ironic use of Nazi iconography may appear baing, the logic de-
ployed is that, as memes, even the most taboo symbols can be disconnec-
ted from their fixed historical meaning and made to function as floating
signifiers for those who understand the rules of memes. As with Trump’s
own populism, we can think of the essential formlessness of the Kekistan
meme as having created a kind of “equivalential chain” across an other-
wise disaected group of people, thereby uniting them (Laclau 2005). As
opposed to SJWs, trolls thus perceived the flag of Kekistan as being gov-
erned by the first and second laws of the internet: that all discussions find
their end in a fallacious comparison with the Nazis (Godwin’s Law) and
that, in any case, it is impossible to distinguish between sincerity and
parody online (Poe’s Law). These videos thus staged a conflict not only
between Alt-Right Kekistanis and liberal SJWs but also between the ima-
gined depths of authentic web subculture and its superficial surface. We
could call this LARPing deployment of 4chan ‘meme magic’ in the sphere
of protest politics a kind of idiocy, in the sense that Isabelle Stengers dis-
cusses “the idiot” as someone who takes a kind of stand against objective
reality (Stengers 2005). To this end, self-described Kekistani’s imagined
themselves as staging a kind of counter-protest against what 60s count-
er-culturalists sometimes referred to as “consensus reality”, represented
in this case by all the “‘normies’ and ‘basic bitches’ who ‘don’t get’ the
countercultural styles of the amoral subculture” (Nagle 2017: 107).
But while this ethnographic perspective may oer some insights, and
in spite of how adamantly or articulately some self-described Kekistanis
may protest their ideological innocence, as the Kekistan flag should make
clear, the meme also draws its transgressive appeal from its subjunctive
adjacency to actual violence – violence made possible thanks to the deep
vernacular web’s digital dualism. Although the digital dualist notion that
the online world is somehow distinct from ‘real life’ is an relic of an earlier
era of 1990s ‘cyber-theory’, there is residue of its eects in the deep ver-
nacular web. Given its roots in the pre-web era internet, the deep vernacu-
lar web’s subcultural imaginary may be understood as predating the cur-
rent social media dispensation of the surface web, pre-dating Facebook’s
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LARPing & Liberal Tears 43
global imposition of a “real name policy”. As articulated by 90s libertarian
media theorists with roots in the 60s counter-cultural movements, the
earlier cyberspace dispensation promised to be a “new home of Mind”, of
disembodied avatars exempt from the laws and constraints of the physical
world (Barlow 1996). For all of Facebook’s hegemony, the frontier ideology
of this earlier cyberspace dispensation has continued in the pseudony-
mous and anonymous cultures of the deep vernacular web, in particular
in the thriving parallel reality of online multiplayer gaming.
Trump supporter in New York 2017 with a Kekistan
flag. Photo by Alec Perkins from Hoboken, USA.
As has been well explored elsewhere (Massanari 2016), the current reac-
tionary populist moment in online culture can be traced back to the convo-
3 | Source:
Day_2017_in_New_York_City(34430306665).jpg, CC BY 2.0.
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44 Marc Tuters
luted narrative of “Gamergate”, which was essentially an anti-feminist pro-
test movement bewilderingly disguised as a moral outrage against “ethics
in game journalism”. Gamergate may be understood as having pioneered
a new model of right-wing activism centred around a fundamentalist de-
fence of free speech, neo-reactionary and traditionalist notions of identity
politics and a series of online harassment tactic referred to as ‘brigading’.
What is of particular significant for our purposes is how Gamergate served
to politicize a cross-section of previously relatively politically unengaged
internet users in the service of a cause. (In a rare instance of such censure
on an otherwise uncensored platform, discussions of Gamergate were in
fact banned from 4chan since they violated its ‘causefagging’ prohibition.)
In apparent violation of 4chan’s irony imperative, Gamergate created true
believers. Through a process they referred to as ‘red pilling’, coverts came
to see themselves as part of a collective quasi-religious community. While
this awakening had none of the individual piety of prior American reli-
gious revivals, it did draw its strength from the Thomist idea of the just
war against the infidel, who were in this case the dreaded SJWs. Alongside
the globalist and the so-called Cultural Marxist, the figure of the SJW
served to unite these online antagonistic communities. While originally
derived from the famous psychedelic scene in the 1999 film The Matrix,
the ‘red pill’ became a metaphor for revealing and overcoming false ideol-
ogy through The Dark Enlightenment – a quasi-philosophical movement
that may be considered as a precursor to the Alt-Right – which posits the
existence of a hegemonic, unconscious consensus between powerful fig-
ures within academia and the media who use the concept of “political cor-
rectness” as a tool of oppression (see Sandifer 2017). Dark Enlightenment
thinkers thus advocated embracing the most extreme elements of trolling
as an antidote to, and violent rejection of, insidious attempts at mind-con-
trol by these unholy forces. Thus, it is by way of fan culture and conspiracy
ideology that we may we come to understand the newfound appeal of reac-
tionary post-digital activism.
dARk FAndom
It would be a mistake to claim that the Alt-Right pioneered this relation-
ship to fan culture. American media studies scholarship has for some
years sought to study how online fan culture might inform new forms of
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LARPing & Liberal Tears 45
liberal protest politics. Building on the celebration the ‘agency’ of active
audiences in 90s cultural studies scholarship, Henry Jenkins argued that
fandom represented not only a source of cultural innovation but a new
model for citizenship and even activist politics (Jenkins 2006). In con-
trast to the anti-consumerist culture jamming practices of earlier activ-
ists, with their fatalistic and purist vision of commercial culture, Jenkins
champions the notion of the empowered consumer: co-creation versus
co-optation. In this new model, which has been referred to as “transme-
dia organizing” (Costanza-Chock 2014), activists thus come to resem-
ble the active audience of fan culture by engaging in the co-creation of
world-building leading to narratives or story elements dispersing across
multiple delivery channels. We can find striking examples of Jenkins’
model on the American progressive left, notably the #MyHungerGames
protests in 2014 in which the Twitter hashtag allowed young adult sci-fi
fans to show solidarity with low paid service employees (Ashoka 2014).
While such progressive examples continue, it would however appear that
in the aftermath of Gamergate, and especially since the rise of Trump,
the new vanguard has become “toxic fandom” (Parham 2018). Indeed, at
a structural level reactionary memes like Kekistan seem more innovative
and original than their politically-progressive counterparts: As instances
of world-building they can be understood as the autopoetic creations of the
deep vernacular web.
The argument developed above is that the deep vernacular web, long
the source of memetic innovation, has recently become a staging ground
and recruitment center for the new-right. In contrast, however, to the
post-critical argument (so forcefully articled by Henry Jenkins), it would
appear that what makes the new-right so appealing to so many in these
subcultures is how this ideology seems to oer a critique of the dominant
hegemonic system which they perceive as threatening their enjoyment
(Lovink/Tuters 2018). Whatever we call them, these online antagonistic
communities appear to be here to stay. Part of the reason for this is indeed
their capacity to world-build by drawing from the abundant ‘lore’ of gam-
er culture. Although equally significant is the schadenfreude of triggering
SJW. These innovations come together in the deployment of ‘meme mag-
ic’ in the sphere of protest politics. However idiotic such protest-LARPing
may appear to ‘normies’, those who consider themselves to be ‘in on the
joke’ may perceive their actions to be a kind of avant-garde activism, which
aims to disrupt ‘consensus reality’. We may even consider the former in
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46 Marc Tuters
terms of an anarchistic protest against what Jacques Rancière (2004) re-
fers to as the dominant “partition of the sensible,” according to which
aesthetic conventions are used to disguise the essentially arbitrary nature
of political domination. Insofar as protest-LARPing does not exhibit an
accompanying “desire to engage in reasoned discourse”, by this same mea-
sure one may say that it fails to meet the normative standard of a genuine-
ly activist “disruption eect” (Rancière cited in Bennett 2009: 109).
In spite of all the ironic posturing, what we should not overlook is the
extent to which these communities also represent the concerns of those
who perceive their identities as under threat. Given the demographic
make-up of the culture of 4chan and of ‘hard core’ computer gamers, this
political movement has appeared as a backlash spurred by an aggrieved
‘silent majority’. While one may not necessarily sympathize with the sub-
stance of these grievances, in terms of political strategy it would be an
oversight to dismiss them out of hand. Given the degree of their entrench-
ment in the broader political discourse, it is not obvious how to respond
to this situation. In a simplification of Gramscian meta-politics, the New-
Right in both Europe and America would have us believe that “politics is
downstream from culture” (Grin 2000; Meyers 2011). While these on-
line antagonistic communities appear to have occupied the high ground
in the current online culture war – figuratively speaking of course – it
has also been argued that “this supposed new and revolutionary counter-
cultural influence hasn’t produced any original cultural artefacts of note
beyond a few frog memes” (Wendling 2018). If, as the red pill metaphor
would seem to suggest, there is a deep desire on the part of many to see
beneath the ideological superstructure, then the left can gain advantage
by shifting the theatre of conflict from half-baked pop culture to the con-
ventional political sphere and issues like economics and social justice. On
that terrain, we might say the left still has all the best memes.
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Fighting for Higher Wages”, 5 December 2014 (
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LARPing & Liberal Tears 47
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bridge: MIT Press.
de Keulenaar, Emillie V. (2018): “The Rise and Fall of Kekistan: a Story of
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... Winter, 2019). Previous research shows that over time, such humorous expressions can work to desensitise those who are exposed (Marwick & Lewis, 2017;Munn, 2019), while creating distance and plausible deniability for users spreading such content as they can always claim they were only joking (Tuters, 2019). Also outside the American alt-right culture, in European digital settings, humour has been identified as an increasingly important strategy for the far right (Hakoköngäs et al., 2020;Hervik, 2019;Malmqvist, 2015;Nilsson, 2021). ...
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Background: This thesis explores the far right online beyond the study of political parties and extremist far-right sites and content. Specifically, it focuses on the proliferation of far-right discourse among ‘ordinary’ internet users in mainstream digital settings. In doing so, it aims to bring the study of far-right discourse and the enabling roles of digital platforms and influential users into dialogue. It does so by analysing what is communicated and how; where it is communicated and therein the roles of different socio-technical features associated with various online settings; and finally, by whom, focusing on particularly influential users. Methods: The thesis uses material from four different datasets of digital, user-generated content, collected at different times through different methods. These datasets have been analysed using mixed methods approaches wherein interpretative methods, primarily in the form of critical discourse analysis (CDA), have been combined with various data processing techniques, descriptive statistics, visualisations, and computational data analysis methods. Results: The thesis provides a number of findings in relation to far-right discourse, digital platforms, and online influence, respectively. In doing so it builds on the findings of previous research, illustrates unexpected and contradictory results in relation to what was previously known, and makes a number of interesting new discoveries. Overall, it begins to unravel the complex interconnectedness of far-right discourse, platforms, and influential users, and illustrates that to understand the far-right’s efforts online it is imperative to take several dimensions into account simultaneously. Conclusion: The thesis makes several contributions. First, the thesis makes a conceptual contribution by focusing on the interconnectedness of far-right efforts online. Second, it makes an empirical contribution by exploring the multifaceted grassroots or ‘non-party’ dimensions of far-right mobilisation, Finally, the thesis makes a methodological contribution through its mix of methods which illustrates how different aspects of the far right, over varying time periods, diversely sized and shaped datasets, and user constellations, can be approached to reveal broader overarching patterns as well as intricate details.
... Already a month after the first 4chan post, anons were disparaging the Boogaloo as a "boring LARP" (Anonymous 2019b)-LARPing referring to a cos-play genre in which gamers "live-action role play" aspects of game mechanics in real-world environments. Yet, though LARPing is typically denigrated on 4chan, on corporate social media platforms it has been an important means by which elements of 4chan's subculture have been adapted by the "alt-right" as the basis of post-digital counter-protest tactics (Tuters 2018). On this same model of translating elements of 4chan's subculture for a more mainstream audiences, Boogaloo memes on Facebook explicitly embraced LARPing-for example often using video game language of "quests" and "achievement points" to describe acts of real world violence as though the second American civil war would occur within the diegesis of a game. ...
... Initially celebrated for their progressive potential, memes have proven to be a suitable conduit for a broad range of political messages including far-right propaganda and recruitment. Tuters (2017) traces the association between memes and the far-right to 'the deep vernacular web': a diverse set of autochthonous internet subcultures that resent 'mainstream' online culture and feel threatened by social media companies' gentrification of the internet. Members of the deep vernacular web also see the survival of their community as dependent on a culture war to preserve 'the true spirit of the internet' as a space of radical freedom through anonymity (Nagle, 2017). ...
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This paper examines memetic content as a window into the values expressed by far-right constituents. Our main premise was that far-right memes are a site of interaction between two types of values: those of the far-right as a social movement and those characterizing memetic communication on social media. We studied this notion through a case from Italy: the photo-based meme genre of ‘alternative calendar commemorations’ that memorialize events or figures important to the far-right imaginary. A multi-modal qualitative analysis based on Schwartz’s theory of personal and political values yielded mixed results. As expected, we found strong appeals to collectivistic values such as patriotism and tradition. Yet some of the individualistic values associated with memes, such as self-direction and authenticity, were also evident in the corpus. We conclude by discussing how this blend of values challenges both well-established value theories and perceptions about the political work of far-right memes.
... However, the ironic distance provided by seemingly unserious provocation leads not to a discussion of the view itself, but whether the view is sincerely held or whether it is acceptable to insincerely express the view in question. When such debate occurs, the ironic or unserious use of language expressing genuinely held beliefs communicates meaning to those who understand the rules of a particular form of nihilistic communication as a form of dog whistle (Tuters 2019). The farcical nature of claims that Joe Biden's electoral victory was fraudulent has led to a robust meta-discussion of the degree to which these claims are genuinely held (Rucker et al. 2020), distracting from the fact that they are damaging precisely because they are false. ...
This chapter explores the dynamic between truth and deceit in twenty-first-century transnational capitalism, emerging neo-fascist movements, and post-truth media landscapes marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and the anthropogenic bioinformational challenge. It establishes the centrality of the concept of truth in revolutionary critical pedagogy and underscores the importance of linking true words with true actions in the formation of critical praxis. Revolutionary praxis consists of the dialectical process of self and social formation, while critical educators are situated as protagonistic agents who work in and through history. Truth is therefore not about a timeless or objective state we name history. Action creates history, humans are historical beings, and truth is firmly situated within the dialectic of history. Using the work of Walter Benjamin, we show that aesthetic entertainment provided by fascist national leaders such as Donald Trump distracts the oppressed from the economic and social forms of oppression, supporting asymmetrical relations of power and privilege that repurposes the dominion of the ruling class. In response, we develop the concept of scallywag pedagogy: postdigital, ontological, epistemological, historical, and revolutionary praxis aimed at ambushing oppressive power relations and transforming the world in the interests of social justice through speaking a true word.
The QAnon movement, which gained a lot of traction in recent years, defies categorization: is it a conspiracy theory, a new mythology, a social movement, a religious cult, or an alternate reality game? How did the posts of a (supposedly) anonymous government insider named Q on an obscure online imageboard in October 2017 instigate a serious conspiracy movement taking part in the storming of the US Capitol in early 2021? Returning to the origins of QAnon on 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board and its initial reception as a potential LARP, we analyze it as an instance of participatory online play that fosters deep engagement above all. Drawing on concepts from play and performance studies, we theorize the dynamics by which QAnon developed into an influential conspiracy narrative as instances of “conspiracy fictioning.” In particular, we revive the notion of hyperstition to make sense of how such conspiracy fictionings work to recursively “bootstrap” their own alternate realities into existence. By thus exploring the participatory and playful engagement mechanisms that drive today’s conspiracy movements, we aim to elucidate the epistemological and socio-political dynamics that mark the growing entanglement of play and politics, fact and fiction in society.
Based on a digital ethnography on the imageboard platform 4chan/pol, this article traces the biopolitical compression of Population Replacement Conspiracy Theories into memes, which have populated far-right boards in the last decade. The article makes an argument for the relevance of studying the relation between the intellectual elaboration of Conspiracy Theories and their compression into concise and easily consumable memes, by fleshing out the functionality of memes in the argumentative economy of Conspiracy theories, (a) as encoding and compressing their core components; (b) by filling in the (unspoken) gaps in the logic of Conspiracy theories; and (c) by advancing a biopolitical understanding of social life.
This essay explores the figure of “liberal tears” as a manifestation of contemporary sadistic conservative discourse in the United States. Sadistic rhetoric betrays an underlying structure of affect where hate and desire coincide. Its primary work is to enforce separation between sadistic subjects and fantasy objects that appeal to them in ways that must be disavowed for their identities to remain coherent. The liberal other is a figure both promising and threatening overwhelming enjoyment. Because of the ways in which it relies on separation and identification to generate enjoyment for its subjects, strategies like satire and empathy are insufficient to respond to sadistic conservative discourses, but rhetoric’s capacity to destabilize identities and undermine certainty remain promising contributions to engaged scholarship.
Reviving the somewhat forgotten notion of ‘secondary orality’, this paper conceptualizes online conspiracism as a creative, if monstrous, response to the attention economy of social media. Combining classic literature on oral cultures and current research on online subcultures, this paper takes conspiratorial folklore seriously and develops a program of research into its features and into its surprising adaptation to the attention regime of digital media.
This chapter develops an account of epistemic nihilism – roughly, the rejection of truth’s intrinsic or instrumental value in favor of statements that reject or obscure truth to secure an advantage for the speaker – by examining three instances of such nihilism: lying, bullshit, and trolling. It further argues that epistemic nihilism, exacerbated by changes in the media landscape, can pose a significant threat to liberal democratic institutions and ideals by undermining the democratic ideal of good faith engagement on a level playing field, while also encouraging undemocratic actions (e.g., terrorism) among interlocutors who take the nihilist’s claims seriously. Finally, this chapter argues that in extreme cases, we are justified in denying epistemic nihilists a platform from which to speak by drawing a parallel with vexatious litigant laws that deny individuals the right to petition courts for redress on the grounds that abuse of that right results in significant harm to both individuals and the legal system itself.
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Buoyed by the populist campaign of Donald Trump, the “alt-right,” a loose political movement based around right-wing ideologies, emerged as an unexpected and highly contentious actor during the election cycle. The alt-right promoted controversy through provocative online actions that drew a considerable amount of media attention. This article focuses on the role of the “alt-right” in the 2016 election by examining its visual and rhetorical efforts to engage the political mainstream in relation to the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In particular, the alt-right’s unique style and internal jargon created notable confusion and also attracted interest by the media, while its promotional tactics included the use of social media and Internet memes, through which the movement came to epitomize online antagonism in the 2016 election.
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This article considers how the social-news and community site has become a hub for anti-feminist activism. Examining two recent cases of what are defined as “toxic technocultures” (#Gamergate and The Fappening), this work describes how Reddit’s design, algorithm, and platform politics implicitly support these kinds of cultures. In particular, this piece focuses on the ways in which Reddit’s karma point system, aggregation of material across subreddits, ease of subreddit and user account creation, governance structure, and policies around offensive content serve to provide fertile ground for anti-feminist and misogynistic activism. The ways in which these events and communities reflect certain problematic aspects of geek masculinity is also considered. This research is informed by the results of a long-term participant-observation and ethnographic study into Reddit’s culture and community and is grounded in actor-network theory.
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This article focuses on the two most significant forms taken by ideological mutations of the fascist species of radical right in the hostile climate of post-war Europe: internationalization (Eurofascism, Universal Nazism, Third Positionism), and metapoliticization (Revisionism, the New Right, cyberfascism). It goes on to argue that the 'democratic fascism' of some political parties is emblematic of the extreme marginalization of revolutionary nationalism, and that the most potent species of radical right ideology now consists in ethnocratic perversions of liberalism, which help perpetuate Europe's less than democratic impact on the global community.
In Vibrant Matter the political theorist Jane Bennett, renowned for her work on nature, ethics, and affect, shifts her focus from the human experience of things to things themselves. Bennett argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. Toward that end, she theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. Bennett explores how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency always emerges as theeffect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She suggests that recognizing that agency is distributed this way, and is not solely the province of humans, might spur the cultivation of a more responsible, ecologically sound politics: a politics less devoted to blaming and condemning individuals than to discerning the web of forces affecting situations and events. Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood. Along the way, she engages with the concepts and claims of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze, disclosing a long history of thinking about vibrant matter in Western philosophy, including attempts by Kant, Bergson, and the embryologist Hans Driesch to name the “vital force” inherent in material forms. Bennett concludes by sketching the contours of a “green materialist” ecophilosophy.
The Rise and Fall of Kekistan: a Story of Idiomatic Animus as Told Through Youtube's Related Videos
  • De Keulenaar
  • V Emillie
de Keulenaar, Emillie V. (2018): "The Rise and Fall of Kekistan: a Story of Idiomatic Animus as Told Through Youtube's Related Videos", 6 April 2018 (
Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump
  • Gary Lachman
Lachman, Gary (2018): Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, New York: Tarcher Perigee.
Politics Really Is Downstream From Culture -Breitbart
  • Lawrence Meyers
Meyers, Lawrence (2011): "Politics Really Is Downstream From Culture -Breitbart", 22 August 2011 ( 2011/08/22/politics-really-is-downstream-from-culture/).