Warblog Without End: Online Anti-Islamic Discourses As Persuadables

This dissertation is a critical discourse analysis of how anti-Islamic rhetoric in prominent online forums is articulated within the context of popular discourses of multiculturalism and tolerance. According to Melanie McAlister, perceptions of Muslims within the United States are unique in comparison to other minority groups in that they are almost entirely mediated, whether it is the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, or the various Muhammad cartoon controversies. While much work has been done analyzing how Islam and Muslims are mediated in popular film and television, very little attention has been given to how these perspectives are mediated through the Internet. Using Erving Goffman’s theory of performativity and Kristine Fitch’s notion of persuadable, I examine how both prominent bloggers and pseudonymous commentators work in a “backstage” context to bring Islamophobic norms and premises within the sphere of acceptable opinions for the “front stage” of mainstream media discourses. In particular, I examine how these discourses have evolved over the past few years on three prominent weblogs: the anti-jihadist Little Green Footballs, the liberal-atheist advocacy blog One Good Move, and the popular news aggregate Fark. In light of increasing evidence that weblogs exert a high level of influence over popular media discourses disproportionate to their readership, these websites offer a glimpse “backstage” into how contemporary American discourses on Islam and Muslims are articulated across a broad array of political perspectives, particularly in relation to norms and premises regarding multiculturalism, tolerance, and freedom of expression. While Islamophobic rhetoric has become firmly embedded within discourses of the American Right, each of the three sites examined shows a steady integration of anti-Islamic perspectives within the American Left. Leftist anti-Islamic discourses are frequently articulated within the context of general anti-religious sentiment, misanthropy, and a belief that the values of “the Islamic world” are inherently incompatible with the liberal, democratic, and multicultural values of “the West.” While by no means universal, these perspectives have become sufficiently common, recognizable, and sensible to be granted the status of persuadable within these particular web forums, which in turn helps to move them into the realm of popular American cultural persuadable.

Tags: far-right, Islamophobia, Online