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  • Authoritarianism, Discourse and Social Media: Trump as the ‘American Agitator’

    Panayota Gounari

    Chapter from the book: Morelock, J. 2018. Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism.

    After Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, the discussion on authoritarianism has re-emerged. This chapter attempts to create a context where the shift in discourse and the normalization of racist, nationalistic and nativist narratives in the public realm is presented, examined, and questioned. Drawing on the work of the Frankfurt School, and more particularly, on Löwenthal and Guterman’s Prophets of Deceit, the author contends that what we are witnessing with Trump’s ascend to power is not simply right-wing populism and its ensuing discourses and practices but rather, a full-fledged, neofascist, authoritarian turn. In order to illustrate this point, the chapter turns to the function of social media, particularly Twitter. Social media are understood as a new kind of symbolic ‘machine’, an effective political instrument that, in the context of advanced capitalism, both dehumanize politics and struggles and absolve people from the guilt of inertia in the face of major social and economic crises. Twitter as a large dissemination platform is exploited by Trump to promote his brand of authoritarian, corporate capitalism and reactionary politics. Trump’s tweets are analyzed as an instrument of discourse production, reorientation and social control and the characteristics (operationalism, discourse as commodity, self as a brand, amusement, dehistoricization) of this one-dimensional discourse are presented.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Gounari, P. 2018. Authoritarianism, Discourse and Social Media: Trump as the ‘American Agitator’. In: Morelock, J (ed.), Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book30.j

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    Published on Dec. 17, 2018