Political fandom and the myth of the establishment: how a politically partisan online network engaged with dissonant media texts

Bernard, Sam (2022) Political fandom and the myth of the establishment: how a politically partisan online network engaged with dissonant media texts. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis engages with the question of how participants in politically partisan online networks engage with events that disrupt consensus expectations. My research asks how participants in one such network engaged with political subjects through sharing and interpreting media texts, maintaining consensus and coherency even if these texts initially appeared to be dissonant with established framings of events.

Focusing on a large and impactful network of supporters of former US President Donald Trump as a case study, this research uses netnographic tools to analyse the field site, engaging in qualitative content analysis of both a large-scale ‘overview’ dataset and an indepth analysis of two specific events that disrupted consensus. This research builds on existing literature relating to online ‘echo chambers’ and political fan subcultures, providing an in-depth analysis not just of which media texts were shared to a politically partisan online network, but also what participants did with these texts through the participatory practices of political fandom. I identify three broad strategies used to engage with ostensibly dissonant texts: the interpretation of all events through a dynamic of knowledgeable insiders and an imagined ‘establishment’ mainstream; the use of reliable framing devices such as ‘media bias’ to articulate an ‘establishment’ position to oppose; and the development of a carnivalesque ‘content world’ of familiar reference points, in-jokes and narratives in which an implied consensus was an assumed part of insider status.

My research demonstrates that online political networks do not necessarily exclude ‘dissonant’ texts, such as those produced by opponents or those that disprove the claims of allies, from their media consumption. Instead, they can engage omnivorously with whatever texts are available, engaging with the media field surrounding political events as a stock of potential resources to be used in the creation of content to share in a range of participatory practices.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology and Criminology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0711 Groups and organisations > HM0716 Social groups. Group dynamics > HM0741 Social networks > HM0742 Online social networks
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 05 May 2022 17:50
Last Modified: 05 May 2022 17:50
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/105551

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