“Meanwhile I’m over here butt naked on CNN”: A multiplatform discourse analysis of the Leslie Jones hack

Caitlin Lawson

Abstract


On August 24, 2016, comedienne Leslie Jones's personal website was hacked and flooded with sexist and racist imagery stolen largely from her personal accounts. This attack came on the heels of months of online abuse from trolls on Twitter, most recently lead by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Through a multiplatform discourse analysis of the Leslie Jones hack, this paper examines the connections between platform vulnerabilities and the vulnerabilities of women, as well as the links between the rise of the alt-right and the mainstreaming of racist, misogynistic trolling behaviors. Building on Whitney Phillips’s (2015) arguments about the connections between trolling and mainstream culture, this case study maps a moment when these subcultural behaviors were becoming more dominant and provides a microcosm through which to understand the interconnectedness between digital platforms, politics and Politics, race, and gender. Utilizing a qualitative interpretation of Jean Burgess and Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández’s (2016) multiplatform issue mapping, three key themes emerged: messages of support and affirmation; the need for intervention; and the connection between this incident, systemic racism and sexism, and the rise of the alt-right. Overall, the discourse around Leslie Jones’s hack evinces the mainstreaming of both policy discourse around online harassment and the supposedly subcultural trolling culture that frequently aligns with the alt-right. While other instances of online harassment have garnered significant media attention, the hatred toward Jones surfaced at a cultural and political tipping point, speaking to larger political divides within the United States.

Keywords


celebrity, critical discourse analysis, race, gender, sexuality

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