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Meme wars : the untold story of the online battles upending democracy in America
2022
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Publishers Weekly Review
Internet subcultures have transformed U.S. politics and hijacked collective discourse, according to this informative survey. Sociologist Donovan, journalist Dreyfuss, and ethnographer Friedberg document how the speed, connectivity, and algorithmic sorting of the internet created alternative media ecosystems in which self-described "digital soldiers" propagated sexist, racist, and antisemitic ideologies. When this loosely affiliated antiestablishment movement--dubbed the "red-pilled right" by the authors--transformed their online appeals into insurgent actions in the real world, they garnered news coverage that generated more online reactions and further plans for action. These "meme wars" are accelerated and amplified by a communications infrastructure that prioritizes sensationalism over accuracy, facilitates community building, has a low barrier to entry, and offers few consequences for participation in fringe discourse. The authors examine these dynamics at play on 4chan's Politically Incorrect message board, the misogynist blogs of the "manosphere," and other "safe spaces for hate"; they also detail lessons learned by the alt-right from the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, document the origins of QAnon, and contend that a "steady diet" of "mimetic warfare" culminated in the January 6 Capitol riot. Clear-eyed and persuasive, this is an alarming look at how internet culture has imperiled democracy. Photos. (Sept.)
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