Jacqueline Aiello

The Symbolic Instrumentalisation of the Face Mask in (De)legitimising Discourse: A Critical Study of User-Generated Online Content at the Onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the US

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, (de)legitimisation strategies, internet memes, predicational strategies, nomination strategies, social media communication.

No longer solely tools in the prevention and mitigation of the spread of diseases, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic face masks have become politically and ideologically charged symbols in the American context that have been deployed to articulate discourses of exclusion and to position people and groups as ‘the other’. The present paper adopts a critical discourse analytical perspective to examine the discursive strategies employed in popular user-generated memes and tweets that advance pro-and anti-mask stances and were shared in the first months of the pandemic in the United States. Findings reveal a tendency for pro-mask content to enact positive self- and negative other-presentation via nomination, predicational, and (de)legitimisation strategies based mainly on moral evaluation, while anti-mask memes seek legitimisation via emotive effects, the invocation of the topos of threat, and casting doubt on the intentions of institutions.

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