Opting for Polarizing Emotions: Strategies of Czech Pro-Vaccination Discussants in the Emotionalized Public Sphere and Debate on a Measles Epidemic
Drawing upon a case study of a heated public online debate on vaccination related to a measles epidemic in the Czech Republic in 2019, this article’s contribution is twofold: First, it adds to recent debates about the emotionalization of the (online) public sphere, and second, it examines communication strategies of vaccination supporters. To capture the heterogeneity of the online debate, we analyzed the discussion forums of 3 mainstream online news servers. Providing observations relevant to current debates surrounding anti-COVID-19 vaccination, our data reveal that the deliberative potential of online debate concerning vaccination is undermined by the offensive nature of pro-vaccination comments. These comments tend to be uncivil, toxic, and offensive mainly due to the use of communication strategies employing destructive emotions. We conclude that by labeling their opponents and constructing dichotomies in which they associate them with individualism and irrationality, the pro-vaccination discussants contribute to further polarization of stances toward vaccination.