A Systemic Functional Linguistics Approach to Analyzing White Supremacist and Conspiratorial Discourse on YouTube

Since the 2016 US Presidential Election, extreme right-wing communities have gained extensive popularity on YouTube, spreading discourses of white supremacy and conspiracy. This paper focuses on how methods drawn from Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) can be used to analyze this communication and contribute to research interests within the field of media and communication studies. SFL is a social semiotic model of language concerned with systematic analysis of language choices in terms of their social context. More specifically, this paper draws upon the Appraisal and Affiliation frameworks developed within SFL, in order to understand how patterns of evaluation are expressed in language and how these function in terms of aligning ambient audiences with particular values. YouTube videos and comments about the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire are used as a case study. The aim is to illustrate how this approach can offer an additional perspective on the issues of information disorder and hate speech that does not attempt to homogenize the multiple reasons why people engage in such hateful behavior.

Tags: affiliation, conspiracy theories, Systemic functional linguistics, White Supremacy, YouTube