Conspiracy, Religion, and the Public Sphere: The Discourses of Far-Right Counterpublics in the U.S. and South Korea

Menno H. Reijven, Sarah Cho, Matthew Ross, Gonen Dori-Hacohen


Much research within the noncritical perspective on the public sphere has been quantitative. To strengthen the argument for an ideologically disinterested approach to the study of publicity and counterpublicity, we use ethnomethodological discourse analysis to analyze how far-right movements claim counterpublicity, or “do being a counterpublic.” Specifically, we study the U.S. pundit Alex Jones and a prayer meeting of South Korean Evangelical Christians. For each, we considered how they created a shared discourse and attempted to change mainstream discourse while claiming being marginalized and different from the mainstream. Across these two case studies, the strategies for “doing being a counterpublic” are similar, even though they use different organizing symbols—conspiracy in the U.S. versus religion in Korea. These case studies show that the functionalist perspective yields benefits to understanding how publicity and counterpublicity are negotiated among various groups of activist citizens.


public sphere, functionalist perspective, counterpublic, discourse analysis, right-wing discourse, conspiracy theories, Korean Christianity

Full Text: