“TWO CAN PLAY AT THAT GAME”: COMMUNICATING DISSENT AS A MICRO-CELEBRITY IN A RESTRICTED NATIONAL TWITTERSPHERE
Turkey has a notoriously restricted Twittersphere where any explicit criticism towards the government can be framed as a criminal offence (Saka, 2018). However, despite the efforts to eradicate public expression of dissent on social media, Twitter remains as an essential space for political deliberation for Turkish dissidents (Dogu and Mat, 2019). This surveillance regime creates a necessity of engaging in political talk that remains under the radar. Especially, the accounts with higher visibility such as micro-celebrities suffer most scrutiny, whilst being important actors of information dissemination (Sanjari and Khazraee, 2014). In this paper, I analyse the evasion tactics used by dissenting Twitter micro-celebrities in navigating these restrictions. In order to do this, I specifically focus on micro-celebrity accounts by ordinary users who gained fame due to the humorous commentaries they offer on the daily events in Turkey. Without a claim for expertise or any exceptional ability beyond being avid observers of the social, cultural and political realities of life in Turkey, these accounts claim follower numbers that often exceed 30-40k and some reaching millions. This paper presents how these accounts express political criticism through a narration of everyday life and daily events by utilising platform specific cultural capital in formulating a language (Scott, 1990) that is understood by subgroups who are acclimated to the platform culture. I argue that these practices signal a change in the conventions of dissident political talk that relies on a perceived gap in platform cultural knowledge between the pro- and anti-government groups.