(Re)defining the Political Opposition: A Corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis of Urban Dictionary Definitions of Political Identities
van Hoffen, Caitlin Helen
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Political polarisation is increasing in America, with politically motivated acts of terrorism and hate crimes also on the rise. At the root of these problems is the internet, in particular, the unmoderated, anonymous sites where people with similar views can cluster together and categorise those with opposing views, typically ascribing them vulgar and negative attributes. An example of such a site is Urban Dictionary, where certain individual and groups are defined and negatively stereotyped. In order to examine the contribution of such unmoderated online platforms to polarisation, this study employs methods of corpus analysis and critical discourse to analyse Urban Dictionary definitions of the political identities of Democrats and Republicans. The analysis focused specifically on the metaphors and membership categorisations used to construct Democrat and Republican identities, some of which reproduced the ideological values, of the author’s political affiliation and their beliefs about the party they were defining. Many of the characteristics attributed to the party identities, however, were negative attributes universally found in discourses of Othering. This analysis concluded that Urban Dictionary both reflects and affects political polarisation in America, as the platform’s lack of interactive features prevents the discussion and the consideration of alternate perspectives that are needed to develop a healthy and informed opinion of America’s current political landscape.