PATRIOTS WIN! A thematic analysis of political deliberation and everyday political talk on pro-Trump social media during the 2020 U.S. Election
PATRIOTS WIN! Is the re-branded manifestation of one of Trump’s most fervent online bases of support, /r/the_donald, back from the grave. As the informational landscape becomes increasingly decentralized and the risk of filter bubbles and exclusively echo chambers rises, the salience of political extremism growing there rises as well. Little is known about how exactly political deliberation and everyday political speech is carried out in such insulated spaces, and yet, they can have very real ramifications in fomenting violence, as shown by this year’s U.S. Capitol riots. This thesis exhaustively examines 1,000 comments from patriots.win and conducts a qualitative thematic analysis on their content, attempting to answer the research question: “How was extremist political deliberation and associated ‘everyday political talk’ conducted on patriots.win during and immediately after the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election (October-January)?”. Sub-questions investigate the roles of conspiracy theories, and political tribalism, and their presence in the corpus. After exhaustive coding, four main themes were discerned. These are: in-group rei nforcement, out-group antagonism, socio-political organization, and mis/disinformation & conspiracies. The nature of discourse on patriots.win reveals a troubling example of a self-reinforcing, ideologically extreme group of violent individuals who do not tolerate dissent and regularly call for death of their opponents. Feeding on a diet of almost exclusively conspiracy theories and allegations of fraud, users operate in an environment where everybody who is not with them, is an enemy, and enemies are presented as rightful targets for violent action. Deviation is not tolerated, nor is disloyalty. The site is used for more benign political organization, but with an existing dark undercurrent of more extremist and violent speech ever-present. Future research needs to more accurately ascertain how deradicalization from such spaces can be conducted, and how these deadly cycles can be broken. It must also aim to enhance our understanding of how information spreads within and between such spaces. Extremist tribalism is the default status quo, and users constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in the pro-Trump cause as well as their own rightful mission, complete with militarized language. These insulated spaces need to be studied more closely in order to understand radicalization and extremism better, but also in the off chance that they organize efficiently enough to launch actual attacks on targets and their perceived enemies. They prove to be a disappointing reality for the classical Habermasian public sphere and represent another step in the growing cracks of classical deliberative democracy, driven by technological affordances and developments that simultaneously prove to be awe-inspiring and chilling.
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|Dr. Débora Antunes|
|Media & Creative Industries|
|Organisation||Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication|
Jan Piotr Pogorzelski. (2022, July 25). PATRIOTS WIN! A thematic analysis of political deliberation and everyday political talk on pro-Trump social media during the 2020 U.S. Election. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/65206