(((They))) rule: Memetic antagonism and nebulous othering on 4chan

Previously theorised as vehicles for expressing progressive dissent, this article considers how political memes have become entangled in the recent reactionary turn of web subcultures. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s work on political affect, this article examines how online anonymous communities use memetic literacy, memetic abstraction, and memetic antagonism to constitute themselves as political collectives. Specifically, it focuses on how the subcultural and highly reactionary milieu of 4chan’s /pol/ board does so through an anti-Semitic meme called triple parentheses. In aggregating the contents of this peculiar meme from a large dataset of /pol/ comments, the article finds that /pol/ users, or anons, tend to use the meme to formulate a nebulous out-group resonant with populist demagoguery.

Tags: 4chan, alt-right, antagonistic speech, Anti-Semitism, conspiracy, floating signifier, memetic abstraction, nebulous othering, political memes