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“The system is rigged against me:” exploring a white supremacist community on 4Chan and perceptions of white supremacy at the University of Pittsburgh

Shultz, Aryssa (2019) “The system is rigged against me:” exploring a white supremacist community on 4Chan and perceptions of white supremacy at the University of Pittsburgh. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Digital technologies have provided people with new tools to interact and build community. With the rise of the internet in the 1960s, and the World Wide Web in the 1990s, people with access to the internet have communicated across large distances at faster speeds than ever before. In the present digital era, people form meaningful communities in chat rooms, online games, and through social media. The web has also provided tools for racially-based communities to grow and thrive. This study examines one such online community: the white supremacist message board “Politically Incorrect” on the website I conducted Participant Observation in this community to understand how this community defines membership and belonging, and I analyzed one discursive symbol that is important to them: the “redpill.” This symbol represents community members’ belief in white genocide, and the way they cope with the negative emotions that are intertwined with this belief. Through my analysis of the redpill symbol, I explore the complex and emotional nature of ideology, and how it works to build our identities and sense of community, while also empowering us to act. This research exemplifies one way that white people are making sense of their whiteness online, especially whiteness centered around white supremacy.
The online portion of my research is supplemented with interviews conducted at the University of Pittsburgh. I interviewed five students and two administrators to gain a sense of how those in my community are thinking about and dealing with white supremacy in their own lives, as well as how the University handles discrimination. I then compare the ways Left-leaning students and people against white supremacy think about and discuss dealing with white supremacy, with the feelings of social isolation expressed by those on “Politically Incorrect.” Through my analysis, I show that the immediate backlash to white supremacy may be fueling the emotions that lead white people to build community through white supremacy. This study concludes with suggestions for future research inquiries in the name of understanding, and ultimately decreasing, white supremacy, as well as an analysis of my own emotional experiences in conducting this research.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Shultz, AryssaALS350@pitt.eduALS3500000-0002-3554-1435
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairYearwood, Gabbyyearwood@pitt.eduyearwood
Committee MemberBlee, Kathleenkblee@pitt.edukblee
Committee MemberMalin, Brentonbmalin@pitt.edubmalin
Committee MemberHughey,
Thesis AdvisorYearwood, Gabbyyearwood@pitt.eduyearwood
Date: 26 April 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2019
Approval Date: 26 April 2019
Submission Date: 18 April 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 124
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: white supremacy, critical race studies, gender studies, internet studies, social media, whiteness, digital technology, cyberspace, race, hate crimes, anthropology, community building, white nationalism, the web, the internet, intersectionality
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2019 19:29
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2019 19:29


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