Political offensiveness in the mediated public sphere : the performative play of alignments

Higgins, Michael and Montgomery, Martin and Smith, Angela; Graefer, Anne, ed. (2019) Political offensiveness in the mediated public sphere : the performative play of alignments. In: Media and the Politics of Offence. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. ISBN 9783030175740

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This chapter explores developing concerns about the rise of offensiveness in the political public sphere and more especially in social media. We argue that current iterations of purposeful political offence should be considered in the context of a number of factors. The first of these is a rise of “post-truth” politics (Montgomery, 2017), in which impressions of personal authenticity take the place of facts and truth becomes less important than ‘speaking your mind’. The second factor is the ascendency of short-form social media such as Twitter and Instagram, which disperse and fragment the discourse of political elites in a setting in which particular “authentic” styles prevail and in which relatively unrestricted access enables multi-articulated tactics of address. The chapter explores how examples of offensiveness in the agonistic political domain (see Ong) may have similar qualities to those “ritual insults” identified by Labov (1972), arguing, indeed, that like Labov’s examples they have a doubly-articulated quality. In the public sphere, however, they can rehearse the core beliefs of a supporting ingroup, and choreographing expressions of alignment for them, while at the same time offensively provoking an “offended” outgroup."