Digitaler Faschismus als Emergenz des Freien Internet

Neue Studie von Maik Fielitz und Holger Marcks über Radikalisierungsprozesse in Sozialen Medien: Digital Fascism: Challenges for the Open Society in Times of Social Media. Die Studie besagt, dass moderner Faschismus nicht mehr länger einer Top-Down-Dynamik vergangener Tage unterliegt, in dem sich eine kleine Gruppe um ein Bedrohungsszenario radikalisiert, Macht erlangt und aus dieser Machtposition die Gesellschaft kippt, sondern in dem sich eine kleine Gruppe um ein Bedrohungsszenario radikalisiert und dieses Bedrohungsszenario memetisch vervielfältigt (also viral macht) und so auch unbedarfte User in die propagandistische Logik mit einbezieht.

Telepolis: Der braune Algorithmus

Natürlich gebe es auch im digitalen Rechtsextremismus weiterhin zentrale Führungspersonen und auch Parteistrukturen, die auf diesen Prozess einwirken. “Deren Aufgabe ist es weniger, eine organisierte Masse zu dirigieren, als die richtigen emotionalen Knöpfe in den sozialen Medien zu drücken, damit unbedarfte User rechtsextreme Inhalte reproduzieren und unbewusst Teil der faschistischen Dynamik werden.” Die Führungspersonen von Parteien wie der AfD und Organisationen wie der Identitären Bewegung koordinieren dementsprechend nicht mehr den Prozess in der Breite. Vielmehr wirken sie durch Techniken des Mikromanagements auf gesellschaftliche Debatten ein und lenken sie damit nach rechts.

Ich interpretiere Fielitz und Marcks’ Studie so, dass Digitaler Faschismus eine Emergenz aus den Prozessen des freien Internets selbst darstellt, das ein ideales Biotop für diffuse Ängste und Bedrohungsszenarien für In-Groups bildet, für die rechtes Denken eine genauso irrationale wie logische Antwort darstellt und befeuert wird dieses virale rechte Denken von emotionaler Geschichtenerzählung aus dem rechten Lager.

Aus dem Paper:

dispersed digital (sub-)cultures create new counter-publics that go far beyond the familiar logic of far-right organizations. They strongly correspond with the fear-mongering that is being reproduced by a patchwork of beliefs in which contradictory influences converge into myths of an endangered community that is forced to take radical action. The narratives of victimhood and imperilment are key to understanding the enhanced mobilization of such emotions. These myths of menace are easily compatible with the cultural pessimism that permeates mainstream and radical right-wing ideologies. Therefore, it is crucial to analyze how they diffuse in the digital infrastructures that connect the more organized forms of the far right with the dispersed potential of fascist dynamics. […]

Social media, in turn, goes further. It offers every individual a dirt-cheap service structure to spread content effectively, ready-made and not demanding any skill. Even the access to an audience is included in this service, even for individuals who provide nothing more than a dull commentary that would formerly have failed to qualify as a reader’s letter. All this not only accounts for political actors, but also for clueless individuals. As “prosumers” they not only consume (manipulative) information, but (re-)produce it by sharing it uncritically if they lack the expertise to classify the information at hand properly.

The far right is a major profiteer of this opening up of plural information. Classical fascism was already gaslighting successfully by using new media for spreading manipulative information. As a response, the open societies developed protection mechanisms against this, such as journalistic or ethical standards for knowledge production, disarming the far right, whose agenda stands and falls with society’s susceptibility to making truth random. Social media levers these mechanisms out, thus giving the far right its most important weapon back to unleash alternative perceptions. Bypassing established routines and institutions of knowledge production, it can easilyspread its manipulative content.

That structures of social media are also immanentlybeneficial for the far rightisdue to its instrumental relation to truth. While other political actors are bound to ethical constraints in dealing with information, in the fascist rationale there are basically no limits that would sacrifice political ambition for the sake of the factuality of events. Leaders of the Identitarian Movement, for instance, admit openly, that “[w]e need a moral justification of our position much more urgently than proof of its factual correctness!” (Sellner 2017: 218). And this need is also satisfied by social media itself, as it contributes to an erosion in the intersubjective understanding of truth andthusto an “epistemic crisis” (Benkler et al. 2018: 3).

As mentioned above, dramatic events are more salient in human perception, and, at the same time, offensive material attracts more attention. Fear-mongering content is hence only more likely to migrate from one platform to the next. Promising more clickbait (and revenues), it also gets prioritized in the algorithm-based curation of users. In this way, social media keeps pushing the diffusion of “post-truth” forward, which the fascist rationale then builds on.

Metric Manipulation and the Logic of Numbers

Taking the techniques described above a step further, we can observe a symbiosis of far-right manipulation strategies with a business-like competitiveness over followers and attention. […]

In the German-speaking context, the technique has been further elaborated by a far-right network called Reconquista Germanica (Bogerts/Fielitz 2019). Several thousand far-right activists and self-considered trolls gathered on an encrypted discussion board to coordinate manipulation efforts that worked in favor of the AfD party. On central command, hordes of far-right activists targeted the mainstream discussion boards in social media in the disguise of anonymity. Besides these methods of outnumbering, they were also involved in hijacking hashtags and the harassment of politicians, including the doxing of personal information that had already led to the withdrawal of representatives from politics. Organizations like the Identitarians and the AfD have welcomed the flood of comments, memes and bots to marginalize opponents and to manipulate discourses. They also encourage online activists to bring discord into discussions and challenge opponents with disruptive tactics and transgressive appearances. Trolling as a tactic in particular reflects the ambivalence of the internet (Philips 2018). Double meanings, in-joke humor, irony and invective build the cornerstones of a subtle practice, where activists hide behind fake profiles to sidetrack, frustrate or (in the best case) neutralize critics, contributing to a discursive metric that makes far-right tropes look common. […]

4. Grasping the Intangible: The Fluidity and Ambivalence of Digital Fascism

Relating far-right agency in social media to structures of social media, the above section has shown that Acker’s argument has a plausible core. Social media does not simply offer opportunities for far-right actors to spread their worldviews, but offers opportunity structures that are particularly beneficial for far-right agency.

Moreover, social media itself (re-)produces orders of perception that are prone to the fascist rationale. This is plausible if we understand palingenetic ultranationalism as the core feature of fascism and corresponding myths of menace asconstitutive for fascist dynamics. After all, social media enables an allocation and selection of information that unleashes perceptions of imperilment in M. Fielitz /H. Marcks15particular, thus doing the emotional work that, in classical fascism, had to be done by a regimentedparty structure.

Digital fascism can thus be considered a family-like variation of fascism in which the fascist core feature draws dynamics directly out of social structures in the digital world.


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