IS TWITTER GOING TO BE “EXTREME”?

8 mins read

The right of freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without any interference from the government or regulation. But what if this happens on a social media platform that might create echoes of hate and intolerance, boosting the far-right extremism?

The beginning

Since the beginning of the rumors concerning the purchase of the famous social media platform by billionaire Elon Musk, the author of this analysis had started to monitor the situation. The particular factor that started the monitoring was the recognition of a “scheme” by the author that resembled the rhetoric Donald Trump used to employ when on Twitter, more specifically stating that the freedom of speech should apply to everyone and everything, not minding the highly possible racist and violent turn-ups. 

When Elon Musk was buying the social media platform, he started to use that same way of addressing his followers, making it easy and instant to identify similarities between the two.

Elon, Trump and the violent far-right

When Donald Trump started to run for the presidency of the United States of America, he began to catch the attention of many far-right supporters, who were rooting for him for some reasons: (i) he didn’t belonged to the “classic” political establishment, he was an outsider and for this reason considered “real” in his intentions to reveal the “secrets” of the American government; (ii) Donald Trump in the elections was opposing Hillary Clinton, considered by many as a member of a secret cabal that fed on children and performed satanic rites, making it relatively easy for far-righters to side with him; (iii) the far-right supporters quickly identified Donald Trump as a representative for their ideals of freedom of speech, of carrying weapons around, of mistrust of the immigrants and closure towards them, generating a long lasting trend of hate and xenophobia. 

It must be noted that far-right supporters are not all the same, there are those who simply adhere to the vision and the ideals of the far-right from a solely political point of view and then there are those who use politics and the political views for their own propaganda and purposes. The latter group is the one that is formed of the violent members. 

The concept of Violence mustn’t be considered only from a physical point of view but also from a verbal one. Individuals may express violent thoughts and harm one another also without physically assaulting them, which is why it is crucial to mind what people post on social media platforms. 

Verbal violence is conveyed in an easier way online because there isn’t the fear, or chance, of getting physically injured when expressing a thought, a chance that might appear if the thoughts are expressed in person. The computer may be considered as a protective barrier for those who want to share hateful ideas and violent comments online, as the “online” creates a distance that protects the harmful individual.

This sort of protection becomes an essential factor when it comes to freely sharing each and every thought publicly, on a platform that is best known for boosting popular contents at an impressive speed, making people see more of the content they have just shared, ultimately leading to possible self-radicalisation. 

The main point: the rhetoric

The political and social turbulence of these past few years in the U.S. has inevitably impacted the lives of individuals not only in America but worldwide, thanks to social media and all communication means. 

Nevertheless, what really made an impact on peoples’ lives is the conspirative rhetoric used firstly, by the political establishment and secondly, as a result, by all individuals. By rhetoric, it is meant the language used in a persuasive and impressive way, in order to be effective and influential towards others. 

The rhetoric is crucial in politics because it aims to attract as many people as possible through the art of the word, fascinating and seducing the ones who listen. Or read. It is very important to note that the rhetoric is not only used in conversations or in the oral form but also in the written one.

This late fact becomes particularly relevant if it is considered within the internet world. Radicalisation occurs in many ways, one of these is surely through the skillful and wise use of the word. Subjects, at least in the far-right terrorism, are often approached with a one-on-one radicalisation path, making it clear that a large crowd is not needed to start the process, it only takes one person who belives strongly enough in a certain idea and that then lures sympathisers. 

Future considerations

Elon Musk is currently rising a big following on Twitter, causing millions of people to get in contact with his account and the tweets that he shares. 

The rhetoric of the “freedom” that he is using, is highly appealing at the moment, as the global violent far-right, which had already begun to rise again since the beginning of the pandemic, is particularly attracted to it and to  everything that is presented as the revelation of the truth. 

Elon Musk has bought the Twitter platform very recently but has already started to speak in favor of the return of Donald Trump on the platform, causing Trump’s supporters, who have a reputation for including violent far-right members in the group, to automatically support Elon Musk as well, particularly when he tweets about the freedom of speech. 

The difference that individuals must learn is between “freedom” and “respect”, for one may be free to express their views and their ideas but only until their freedom respects another individual’s right of having different views.

A person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. Nevertheless, violent far-right supporters are not interested in respecting other people’s views and ideals, as noted on 6 January, 2021, during the Capitol Hill riots. 

The violent far-right will never respect or come to terms with the targets that they consider “enemies”, the liberalization of the speech on a social media platform such as Twitter, will inevitably cause a rise in hate speeches, racial and xenophobic narratives, posts that incite to violence and extremist rhetoric. This might be the beginning of a new era for hateful, violent speeches. 

Caterina Anni è laureata in Sicurezza Internazionale con una specializzazione in Analisi e Intelligence. Si avvicina allo studio dei gruppi estremisti Far- right con l'internship presso The Counterterrorism Group di Washingon D.C., con cui collabora per 7 mesi. Scrive per Analytica for Intelligence and security studies e lo IARI per l'area di Difesa e Sicurezza.

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