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Everywhere All the Time: Targeted Individuals, Platforms, and Rhetoric

Beresheim, Daniel (2022) Everywhere All the Time: Targeted Individuals, Platforms, and Rhetoric. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Over the past decade, there have been numerous disclosures about the extent to which people’s electronic communications are being surveilled and used for other purposes without their knowledge. Events such as Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance or the Cambridge Analytica scandal have evoked widespread concern about diminished privacy in contemporary life. One group in particular takes the possibility of surveillance very seriously. “Targeted individual” (TI) is a self-applied descriptor employed by people who believe that they personally are being watched and harassed by the intelligence community. TIs allege that they are followed by what they term “gang stalkers” in public. They describe having their homes broken into and bugged by these shadowy actors. TIs even claim that voices are forcibly projected into their minds through “voice-to skull” technology, which they term “v2k.” The TI movement owes a large part of its growth to online communities and media production. In such outlets, TIs often plea for freedom from their harassers. The tension emerging from TIs’ calls to be left alone and their appearance in the semi-public space of online platforms calls for a theoretical intervention.
This dissertation, utilizing insights from psychoanalysis, rhetorical theory, and media studies, argues that one generative way of understanding the TI movement is as a kind of psychotic cultural structure. More specifically, through tending to the movement’s media production, I examine how the TI narrative becomes elevated to a level of significance such that it becomes an all-encompassing explanation for occurrences in an adherent’s life. By focusing on newspaper editorials, the r/gangstalking subreddit, and YouTube videos that showcase the TI experience, I argue that scholars should tend to conspiracy theory as something practiced. In the case of TI media, part of that practice is the production and circulation of media about their experiences. I conclude with a consideration of the possibility of moderating media connected to the TI movement alongside other contemporary conspiracist movements, such as QAnon and those who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. I ultimately argue that content moderation does not change the underlying relationship that adherents have to such beliefs.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Beresheim, Danieldfb19@pitt.edudfb190000-0002-4641-8125
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMalin,
Committee MemberKuchinskaya,
Committee MemberMatheson,
Committee MemberLi,
Date: 16 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2022
Approval Date: 16 June 2022
Submission Date: 6 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 248
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: psychoanalysis, Lacan, conspiracy theory, online community
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2022 11:51
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2022 11:51


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