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Special Issue 2019, 49.3

The Blood of Patriots: Symbolic Violence and “The West”

Abstract: This article considers how demagoguery gives meaning to violence by providing a symbolic, expressive outlet for resentment resulting from real or felt precarity. This rhetorical process redirects frustrations away from the entities and sociopolitical structures responsible for creating precarity, and towards a scapegoat. Rather than examining demagoguery as rhetoric produced by an individual rhetor or consumed by an audience of the masses, the author explores the “meso-level” of demagogic discourse: the organizations called into existence and motivated by individuals’ shared identification with a symbolic struggle against an imagined Other. This phenomenon is illustrated through a close reading of the Proud Boys, a multi-national fraternal organization that uses an aesthetic of libertarianism to advance a fascist politic.

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