Sharing the hate? Memes and transnationality in the far right’s digital visual culture

Jordan McSwiney, Michael Vaughan, Annett Heft, Matthias Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current research on visual media and the far right creates two expectations: that memes play an increasingly salient role in the far right’s digital visual culture, and that the visual and participatory dimensions of internet culture facilitate greater transnationality. We explore these expectations with a comparative research design, situating memes in relation to other genres of visual content and across different country contexts. Taking a mixed methods approach, this article examines the digital visual culture of 25 far-right alternative media and other non-party organisations in Australia, Italy, Germany, and the United States. We assess the salience of memes and other visual genres, as well as three forms of transnationality: the circulation of images, direct communicative references, and transnational similarities. Unexpectedly, we find that memes play only a limited role in the digital visual culture of far-right non-party organisations, with their uneven concentration in Anglophone alt-media suggesting the potential pitfalls of assumptions about ‘global’ internet culture. We also find little evidence of transnationality through the circulation of the same visuals across countries, whether memes or other genres. Instead, transnationality works through transnational references within the images themselves and through more parallel practices of reproducing visuals in similar ways with similar themes, but with elements specific to an organisation’s national and political context. Within this, we identify three distinct visual discourses–fascist continuity, western civilisational identity, and pop cultural appropriation–which highlight different practices of transnationality and collective identity construction within the far right online.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2502-2521
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Volume24
Issue number16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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