From Twitter to Charlottesville: Analyzing the Fighting Words Between the Alt-Right and Antifa
This study examines the Twitter rivalry of two groups of the alt-Right and antifascist movement to understand how certain appeals, launched through social media, may promote material violence. Several studies have explored the impact of extreme political rhetoric in motivating hostile responses, such as the one that erupted at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The present study contributes to this literature by examining how Twitter can offer a staging ground for political hostilities to swell, circulate, and sometimes activate the call for confrontation. A textual analysis deconstructs the Twitter accounts of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and Antifa over a six-week-period culminating in the violent Charlottesville rally. A focus on the groups’ framing of the opposition and use of persuasive appeals offers insight into the priming nature of political extremism happening on Twitter today.