Grupuskulaarne identiteediloome paremäärmuslaste võrgusuhtluses / The Formation of Groupuscular Identity in the Web Communication of the Estonian Extreme Right

Mari-Liis Madisson, Andreas Ventsel

Abstract


Teesid: Artikli eesmärgiks on avada eesti paremäärmuslaste tähendusloomet hüpermeedias. Roger Griffini teooria järgi iseloomustab paremäärmuslaste võrgusuhtluse väikeste mitteparteiliste üksuste – grupuskulite (nt veebilehed, blogid) paljusus ja suhteline marginaalsus, rahulolematus praeguse maailmakorraga, ideede revolutsioonilisus ning risoomne ehk mitte-hierarhiline kommunikatsioonistruktuur. Täiendame Griffini teooriat kultuurisemiootika ideedega. Semiosfääri kontseptsioon võimaldab paremini analüüsida grupuskulite kommunikatsiooni eripära ja seal tekkivaid tähendushierarhiaid. Koodteksti mõiste selgitab aga, miks, vaatamata hüpermeedias kättesaadavale arvamuste paljususele, domineerivad grupuskulaarses kommunikatsioonis väga kindlad tähendusloome viisid. 

 

S U M M A R Y

The purpose of this article is to create a conceptual framework which would aid in the understanding of the characteristic ways the Estonian extreme right has created the prevalent identities and meanings that are currently in circulation in the media. The analysis is based on non-participant observation, by means of which we have attempted to isolate the main foci and dominant practices of self-description found in web communications among members of the Estonian extreme right. Based on the number of visitors to sites, the concentration of topics posted and frequency of citation, we take the following as representatives of extreme right positions: the blogs „The Nationalist“ („Rahvuslane“), „NS“, and „Nationalist“ („Rahvuslik“), and the alternative web pages „Be Aware“ („Ole Teadlik“) and „BHR Ruzzland“. Markers of the extreme right were present in the pages we examined at different levels of intensity; in fact, not every post to these pages clearly, not every page could be labelled as extreme right. Yet the general tonality of the webpages we examined included the following: an urgent need to conserve „core Estonianness“ and protect it from foreign influences; the belief that the world order (including Estonian power structures) are controlled by a secret alliance between Zionists and Masonic orders; the danger of mixing races and cultures; the need to exert strong state control over a range of areas of life; euroskepticism. 

According to the authors of this article non-institutionalized extreme right movements operating in hypermedia have been most extensively examined by Roger Griffin’s research. Griffin has developed the concept of the groupuscule, which can be defined as small, political, (though almost never directly partypolitical) unit in the context of contemporary extreme right-wing politics, and which strive toward revolutionary, ideological, organizational, and activist goals, the overall purpose of which is to overcome the decadence of the liberal democratic system. 

Groupuscules can have diverse physical manifestations: webpages, magazines, and why not also underground meetings of extreme-right cell groups. Indeed, according to Griffin, groupuscules can be treated as non-nuclear cellular networks without a leader. The communication of groupuscules reflects the characteristics of hypermedia itself: nonhierarchical or network-like structure, internal multiplicity, the lack of a centre or a central axis of organization, fluidity, and temporariness, all of which are most often connected with the abstract textuality of the hypermedia environment. 

In our view, the main limitation of Griffin’s account of groupuscules is the undertheorization of communication both within and among groupuscules. Too little attention has been directed to the primary mechanisms of meaning-creation, which organize navigation on the groupuscular information field and the development of hierarchies. In this article we aim to supplement Griffin’s theory of the groupsucule by means of a cultural-semiotic approach, particularly through the concepts of the semiosphere and the code text. 

Focusing on meaning-creation by the groupuscular extreme right, one can examine groupuscules communicating in the internet environments as different semiotic wholes, or semiospheres: these can be specific posts, popular discussion topics, or the network as a whole. The semiotic wholeness of a groupuscule is guaranteed by a boundary. By means of the boundary, a groupuscule can distinguish itself from its semiotic other, filter information from outside, and restate this in its own language. Groupuscules of the extreme right bring those people together who use the web medium both for the formation and the confirmation of their personal racial/ethnic identity. Their relatively marginal status as a „public voice“ can be explained by the fact that on the webpages we examined, a dominant strategy for identity formation was creating the image of an extreme rightist as a sufferer or victim. They often presented themselves as persecuted and unjustly excluded from public discussions. In the communications of the Estonian extreme right, the designated antagonists are the mainstream media, the European Union, and its corrupt politicians. 

In terms of its internal structure, the groupuscular extreme right is heterogeneous. When a specific groupuscule enters interaction with other extreme right cells, it is no longer identical with itself, since its identity is largely determined by connecting with other groupuscules; that is, its particularity only emerges through communication with other groupuscules. The Estonian extreme right groupuscules we studied are relatively well known publicly in the so-called local counterculture; some of their articles are frequently commented and cited (on the pages we studied, reciprocal reference and quotation was frequent). 

However, in every semiotic whole, dominants or nuclei develop, which, compared to more marginal semiotic units are usually more rigidly structured. Similar nuclear structures also play an important role in groupuscular identity formation, where, in the course of communication, certain topics become major themes that unify many groupuscules, and begin to determine the meaning-formation of the semiotic units that belong to it. For example, in the case of the topic of ratification of ACTA (The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), a reference to extensive corruption among various administrative units of the European Union percolates through the Estonian groupuscules (on a broader level, a reference to the decadence of liberalism and the new world order). 

On another level, opinion leaders emerge on the groupuscular field; their postings are read most often, and their ideas are referenced most often. On the Estonian groupuscular field, the most cited sources are the blogs „DeCivitate“ and „The Nationalist“. It seems that if Griffin points out that groupuscular information networks lack a „center-periphery“ relation, then he bases that claim on 1) the technological characteristics that structure the web environment. However, he does not take into account 2) the relativity of the centre-periphery opposition and 3) the hierarchical nature of the processes of signification themselves and their role in organizing groupuscules. We attempt to explain groupuscules’ relatively hermetic meaning-creation by using the cultural-semiotic term code text, which is an invariant system of connections originating in the shared memory of a community, the role of which is conceptualizing specific fragments of information and locating them in habitual patterns of meaning. 

The self-descriptions of right-wing groupuscules are largely built around the code text of a conspiracy theory, which allows the representation of one’s ideological opponents as extremely ill-intentioned or ignorant, and themselves, by contrast, as moral and heroic. The code text that narrates the decline of the liberal-democratic world constellates narratives of a conspiratorial world system, in which the cause of every event can be explained by the „evil“ intent of the conspirators. Groupuscules do not limit themselves to passive complaining about the decadence of the prevailing world order; often ideas are expressed of radically reforming this decadent world order, which should in turn lead to the rebirth of nation-states. The specificity of the code text leads participants in the extreme right to perceive causal connections between events that have occurred in different places at different times, and which seem totally unconnectable in the eyes of outsiders. Those phenomena that do not fit the code text, and which could make way for other explanations for sociocultural realities are virtually invisible in the self-descriptions of gropusucules, and are relegated to the periphery as unimportant. 


Keywords


paremäärmuslus, võrgusuhtlus, Roger Griffin, kultuurisemiootika, semiosfäär; extreme right, network communication, Roger Griffin, cultural semiotics, semiosphere

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v12i15.12113

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