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How the Rhetoric of Women in the Alt-Right Broadens the Movement’s Appeal

How the Rhetoric of Women in the Alt-Right Broadens the Movement’s Appeal

Speaker(opens in a new window)Richard Nielsen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Wednesday, November 30, 14:00–14:45 (Irish time)

Please register (opens in a new window)here to receive the link and password to the online meeting and information on the room at UCD.

Abstract: How do women establish themselves as authorities in political movements dominated by men? We investigate this question by examining the rhetoric of women who position themselves as spokespersons for the alt-right white nationalist movement. Some research argues that women entering male-dominated political arenas face incentives to adopt the rhetoric of men, while other research suggests that women can gain authority in politics by differentiating themselves from men through gendered rhetoric. We investigate which of these strategies for gaining authority best explains women’s rhetoric in the alt-right. Using a topic model that combines text and image content, we analyze 14,281 YouTube videos by prominent figures in the alt-right movement to describe the differences between the conversations and communities that women and men curate. Although women in the alt-right are often perceived as focusing primarily on issues of gender and family, we find that on balance, the women we study focus on the core issues of the movement: race, immigration, and religion. Our analysis of the video meta-data shows that women’s videos elicit more viewer engagement than men’s videos, and evoke more racist language in the viewer comments. We conclude that women serve as more palatable ambassadors for the alt-right movement while spreading its most extreme ideas.

About the speaker: Richard Nielsen is an Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT. He completed his PhD (Government) and AM (Statistics) at Harvard University, and holds a BA from Brigham Young University. His research focuses on the politics of religious authority in the Muslim world, with side interests in political violence, conspiracy theories and misinformation, human rights, economic development, and research methods. His first book, Deadly Clerics (Cambridge University Press), uses statistical text analysis and fieldwork in Cairo mosques to understand the radicalization of jihadi clerics in the Arab world. He is now writing a second book on how the Internet is changing the nature of Islamic authority, with a focus on gender. He is the developer of free software tools for Arabic text analysis, causal inference, and qualitative case selection. His research has appeared in The American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Political Analysis, and Sociological Methods and Research. At MIT, he is affiliated with the Security Studies Program, the Center for International Studies, and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. His work has been supported by the Carnegie Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.