Ha Ha Only Serious: Irony in Information Warfare and the Comedy-Cloaked Extremism.

Date

2021-02

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

DOI

Volume Title

Publisher

ACPIL

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

“I know words. I have the best words.” - Donald J. Trump, 30 December 2015. The 45th President of the USA has been accused on several occasions of ‘stochastic terrorism’, that is, the incitement to acts of violence by the rhetoric of a demagogue, but the truly interesting thing he exemplifies for anyone interested in the evolution of strategic communication is the way in which he rarely issues a call to direct action, but instead makes use of ‘dogwhistling’ and innuendo. In this, he is a truly modern political communicator. This paper will examine a trend in much extremist online discourse, where racist and neo-fascist ideals are presented in a way which is deliberately absurdist, conveyed not in manifestos but in jokes, cartoons, and easily digested and rapidly disseminated images. Through an examination of (in particular) the ‘Boogaloo’ movement(s) in the United States, and a consideration of the style manual of the neo-nazi blog The Daily Stormer, the paper will argue that extremist groups are becoming increasingly adept at communicating messages in a way that perfectly fits the information space of the Web, and which is much harder to combat than traditional, overtly racist and fascist propaganda. ‘Cyber’ has at its heart ideas of control; what we see at work here is a new form of Influence campaign; the use of humour as a political tool is nothing new, but this represents the use of popular culture, and the remix/mashup ethos typical of the post- and metamodern era. Presented throughout n a deeply tongue-in-cheek, sardonic manner, much alt-right online material is ironic in the original meaning of the word, namely ‘dissimulation’. The paper will also discuss how such material may be combatted online, and ways in which the defence that ‘it’s just a joke’ can be resisted and overcome.

Description

The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.

Keywords

Information Warfare, Protest, Dissent

Citation

Scott, K. (2021) Ha Ha Only Serious: Irony in Information Warfare and the Comedy-Cloaked Extremism, in Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security (ICCWS 2021). Forthcoming

Rights

Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)