'FASCISM IS THE NEW HIP': ONLINE ANTI-PUBLICS AND POST-NORMATIVE DEMOCRACY
Keywords:Anti-publics, online extremism, online publics, post-normative democracy
In this paper I draw connections between two emergent phenomena of the recent past: the growing influence of online ‘anti-publics’ on democratic debate and the emergence of ‘post-normative democracy’. The paper draws on work by McKenzie Wark (1997) and Bart Cammaerts (2007) to further theorise the rise of online anti-publics. It demonstrates how groups such as white supremacist groups, ‘men’s rights’ groups, anti-climate science groups, and ‘neoreactionary’ or ‘Dark Enlightenment’ groups, among others, can be understood as belonging to a loose-knit, diverse online ‘anti-public sphere’. This is a heterogenous space of often fractious social interaction where discourse routinely flouts traditional democratic norms, such as normative ‘public sphere’ conventions of rational-critical deliberation, rules of evidence and argumentation, and requirements for truthfulness, reciprocity, mutuality, and so on, over and above the ways in which democratic debate is properly passionate (Papacharissi, 2016). The paper uses a case studies approach based in discourse analysis of five different groups to theorise their activities in light of their influence on the emergence of a post-normative democratic politics. This includes the normalisation of race politics across the west, attacks on human rights conventions, attempts to undermine legal processes, attacks on the media and journalists, attempts to shore up subvert gains made by marginalised groups, and systematic attempts to undermine trust in institutions. The paper will show how, to advance their cause, right groups have sought to flip established political logic and to reposition fascism as ‘the new hip’.