Christian Cecconi, Isabella Poggi

Schadenfreude, politics, and social media. Malicious joy towards politicians during the pandemic

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Schadenfreude, pandemic, politicians, social media, ingredients of emotions, emotion expressions

This work investigates Schadenfreude, the malicious joy for the misfortunes of others. This under-investigated emotion expresses a refusal to empathize with the misfortunes of others, to the point of enjoying them. Recent classification models identify three types of Schadenfreude: for Aversion, if the pleasure is due to pure antipathy towards the victim; for Injustice, if you think that the misfortune suffered by the Victims punishes them for wrongs caused in the past; and for Image, when the misfortune of others makes those who feel Schadenfreude have a better consideration of themselves or of someone or something in which they believe. The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed in 2020 is a misfortune that has aroused malicious joy in some people. The research presented here analyses 1940 expressions of Schadenfreude collected on Facebook and Twitter in 26 Italian newspapers, referred to two political leaders, an Italian and a British one, when they contracted Covid: Nicola Zingaretti, one of the leaders of the government coalition in Italy, and Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The research distinguishes cases of Schadenfreude for Aversion and Injustice towards them and singles out thirteen ways of expressing them: insults, derisions, irony, curses, negative wishes, expressions of pleasure, displeasure for a misfortune not serious enough, refusal to empathize, clarification of the wrong perpetrated or of the causes of aversion; and also, appeals to the divine, and direct references to justice and one’s aversion. The distribution of the expressions in the two types makes it possible to distinguish different motivations and levels of intensity of the Schadenfreude felt towards the two victims, differentiating the functions both of the emotion itself and of its manifestation.

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