While analyses of Twitter have shown that it holds democratic potential, it can also provide a venue for hate speech against minorities. The articulation of opinion-based identities, the tendency to homophily, and the use of emotional discourses can indeed help spread verbal violence on Twitter. This paper discusses group polarization on Twitter through Mouffe's distinction of agonistic and antagonistic politics, as elaborated in the 2013 book “Agonistic: Thinking the World Politically”. The theory is supported by a practical example: a qualitative analysis of Islamophobic tweets sent in the aftermath of the 2016 British referendum on European Union membership, which is commonly referred to as ‘Brexit’. Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, there was a surge of Islamophobic attacks on Twitter. My analysis reveals that anti-Islamic sentiments were articulated in terms of complex identities referring not only to religion but also to ethnicity, politics, and gender. The paper shows that these tweets are antagonistic in character because they prevent the dialogic participation of Muslims and propagate symbolic violence rather than engaging in constructive conflicts.

Twitter, Islam, religion, UK, Brexit, Islamophobia
dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1388427, hdl.handle.net/1765/133035
Information, Communication and Society (online)
Department of Media and Communication

Evolvi, G. (2017). #Islamexit: inter-group antagonism on Twitter. Information, Communication and Society (online), 22(3), 386–401. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2017.1388427