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Virality and Morphogenesis of Right Wing Internet Populism

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Eva Kimminich and Julius Erdmann

Information and its individual interpretations are highly discussed in social media. Their use and misuse is an important subject for cultural and media studies. The theoretical framework of this volume is based on a synopsis of socio-constructivist and semiotic paradigms, which permit insight into ongoing adjustments of the social perception of reality and the thereby changing benchmarks. The assembled micro-studies concentrate primarily on right-wing Internet populism in Germany, France and Italy and allow a more precise idea of the effects the disseminated myths, metaphors and memes can have: Becoming viral, they can have an influence on a society’s semiosphere, i.e.on common sense and social life.

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The Art of Trolling

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Semiotic Ingredients, Sociocultural Causes, Pragmatic and Political Effects

Abstract: The article singles out and describes the main rhetorical ingredients of trolling through contrasting it with comparable discursive practices: provocation, joke, defensive anonymity, critical public discourse, controversy and lie. The following elements are found to play a major role in the discursive construction of trolling: topic-insensitive provocation; time-boundless jest; sadistic hierarchy of sender and receiver; anonymity of both the troll and their audience; choral character of the “actant observer” of trolling; construction of artificial contradictory semantics; disruption of argumentative logics; irrelevance of the relation between beliefs and expressions. Trolling profoundly disrupts the conversational ethics of the human civilization because it severs expression from content, signifier from signified, and communication from intention. The article focuses on a specific case study: trolling in relation to the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Ms Laura Boldrini.

Keywords: Trolling, Anonymity, Digital Cultures, Semiotics

1Introduction

The relatively new phenomenon of trolling has often been studied from the point of view of its reception, that is, from the perspective of its victims or “Internet witnesses”.1 A typical semiotic move consists in reversing the ←163 | 164→direction of analysis so as to wonder about the fabrication of trolling, namely the discursive elements and the contextual conditions that are necessary in order for trolling to take place and be socially recognized as such. The history of rhetoric, a discipline that can be considered as the ancestor of...

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