Mediatized Populisms| Digital Populism: Trolls and Political Polarization of Twitter in Turkey
This article analyzes political trolling in Turkey through the lens of mediated populism. Twitter trolling in Turkey has diverged from its original uses (i.e., poking fun, flaming, etc.) toward government-led polarization and right-wing populism. Failing to develop an effective strategy to mobilize online masses, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP/AKP) relied on the polarizing performances of a large progovernment troll army. Trolls deploy three features of JDP’s populism: serving the people, fetish of the will of the people, and demonization. Whereas trolls traditionally target and mock institutions, Turkey’s political trolls act on behalf of the establishment. They produce a digital culture of lynching and censorship. Trolls’ language also impacts pro-JDP journalists who act like trolls and attack journalists, academics, and artists critical of the government.