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“What Others Dare Not Say”: An Antisemitic Conspiracy Fantasy and its YouTube Audience

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Daniel Allington, Tanvi Joshi

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-53
JournalJournal of Contemporary Antisemitism
Volume3
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jun 2020
DOIs
Accepted/In press28 Feb 2020
E-pub ahead of print11 Jun 2020

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Abstract

The YouTube video-sharing platform is one of the most important sites for the dissemination of conspiracy theory, or – to give it a more accurately descriptive term – conspiracy fantasy. After surveying the historical and contemporary role of conspiracy fantasy in right-wing violent extremism, this article turns its focus to a YouTube video excerpted from a public lecture in which professional conspiracy theorist David Icke purports to expose members of a ‘Rothschild Zionist’ secret society. First, historical discourse analysis is used to situate Icke’s fantasy within the antisemitic tradition of the extreme right. Then, the reception of Icke’s fantasy is then studied through quantitative content analysis of YouTube user comments (n = 1123). Comments supportive of the video and its creator are found to outnumber comments which challenge the latter, as are comments expressing hostility to Jews or extending the video’s accusations against ‘Rothschild Zionists’ to real-world Jewish collectivities. Moreover, the most popular comments are disproportionately likely to be supportive of Icke or his video or otherwise anti-Jewish. These findings provide evidence that at least the active portion of the video’s YouTube audience may have had a tendency not only towards support of Icke’s ideas but also towards linkage of those ideas with an overtly antisemitic worldview. In addition, YouTube’s ranking of comments by popularity may be serving to insulate harmful fantasies such as Icke’s from rational challenge by rendering genuinely critical responses invisible.

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