Virtual movements : populist rhetoric, technology, and hegemony




Morris, Matthew B.

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After the Financial Crisis of 2008, The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street both claimed to be “The People” seeking representation. Each of these movements had very different narratives about the flaws in our political system, and each movement proposed conflicting solutions. In this dissertation, I offer the theory of virtual movements as a way of understanding the role media technologies play in shaping our political perceptions as groups struggle for hegemony. I analyze the narrative of the Tea Party as it is disseminated through conservative media with a broadcast structure that emphasizes fidelity to an idealized past as the solution to our current problems; For Occupy, the rejection of representation and desire to embody direct democracy without mediation relies upon a metaphysics of presence modeled on social media in which the ideal is a simulation of immediacy. Each of these movements claimed to operate without a leader, but reproduced a system of authority through their dependence on technology.


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