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Reactionary Digital Politics: Ideologies, Rhetorics, Aesthetics

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A five-day series of unique interdisciplinary conversations about online politics, right-wing populism and reactionary ideologies.

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This series stages a range of cross-disciplinary dialogues addressing the impact of digital culture and platform technologies on the take-up and spread of radical-right politics, aesthetics and ideologies. It will feature a ‘keynote conversation’ between Whitney Phillips (Syracuse University) and Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley College) alongside panel discussions addressing topics such as reactionary ideologies, online extremism, conspiracy theory, reactionary rhetorics and aesthetics, and the politics of digital platforms.

Hosted by the University of East Anglia and Birkbeck, University of London, the series is part of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Political Ideology, Rhetoric and Aesthetics in the Twenty-First Century: The Case of the ‘Alt-Right’.

All sessions will take place at 5pm UK time (UTC+1)


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This discussion will focus on the history and development of radical right-wing ideologies in Europe and America, and how they have been taken up in contemporary online and offline politics. In particular we will reflect on key themes prominent in online political subcultures, such as ‘the red pill’, and key themes such as inequality, nationalism and gender.

Participants

Jean-Francois Drolet (Queen Mary, University of London, author of articles on political philosophy, neoconservatism and the relationship between European and American right-wing movements)

Eve Gianoncelli (University of Oxford, former fellow of Columbia University, researching European conservatism and antifeminism past and present)

Mark Sedgwick (Aarhus University, historian whose research interests include Islam, Traditionalism, radicalisation, and the history of terrorism, editor of Key Thinkers of the Radical Right: Behind the New Threat to Liberal Democracy)


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In this session we will look at the organisation and political strategy of groups and movements on the far right, discussing how white supremacist and racist organisations operate online, their future in the post-Trump era and the politics of race and gender they promote.

Participants

Bethan Johnson (Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right, specialist in terrorist and extremist movements from the Cold War era to the present)

Annie Kelly (researcher and journalist specialising in the study of online antifeminism and conspiracy, UK correspondent for the QAnon Anonymous podcast)

Matthew N. Lyons (author of Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, expert in right-wing politics and regular contributor to the radical antifascist blog Three Way Fight)

Alexandra Minna Stern (University of Michigan, historian of ethnicity and eugenics, author of Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination)


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A discussion of the techniques of propaganda and persuasion deployed by the online right, including the forms and styles of language and imagery, the influence of meme culture, vlogging, and gaming.

Participants

Alfie Bown (Royal Holloway, University of London, author of The Playstation Dreamworld and In the Event of Laughter and editor of Post-Memes: Seizing the Memes of Production)

Leslie A. Hahner (Baylor University, co-author of Make America Meme Again: The Rhetoric of the Alt-Right)

Alex Newhouse (Middlebury Institute Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, specialist on right-wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, online extremism)

Marc Tuters (University of Amsterdam, member of Open Intelligence Lab and author of articles on 4chan, memetic antagonism, and the deep vernacular web)


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This session will ask how the features and affordances of digital platforms shape political cultures, how their design may be facilitating reactionary radicalisation, and whether those calling for moderation and regulation are taking aim at the right targets.

Participants

Deen Freelon (University of North Carolina, media scholar, data scientist, and software developer, author of over 30 articles, book chapters and public reports focusing primarily on political expression through digital media)

Bharath Ganesh (University of Groningen, political geographer focusing on new media, political communication and cultures of hate)

Paolo Gerbaudo (King’s College London, author of Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism and The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy)

Jessica Johnson (University of Washington, anthropologist specialising in religion, radicalisation and reactionary masculinities)


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This final 'keynote conversation’ brings together experts in vernacular digital culture and in the political history and ideology of neoliberalism to discuss the culture, history, politics and political economy of misinformation today.

Whitney Phillips has been highly influential in shaping understandings of online communities, networked communication, and the relationships between digital subcultures and mainstream media. Co-authored with Ryan Milner, her recent book You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape, draws on theories of ecology and environment to propose means of combating misinformation, antagonism and the amplification of toxic political ideas.

Quinn Slobodian has made landmark contributions to the disciplines of political theory and intellectual history. As the author of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism and the co-editor of Nine Lives of Neoliberalism his work has been instrumental in mapping the contemporary political landscape. In recent publications he has addressed the intellectual roots of online reactionary movements and popular political responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Organiser Political Ideology, Rhetoric and Aesthetics in the Twenty-First Century

Organiser of Reactionary Digital Politics: Ideologies, Rhetorics, Aesthetics

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