Chocolate, identity, and extreme speech online
An analysis of linguistic means in online comments in Croatia and Serbia
In this article the phrase “extreme speech” is used to encompass both hate speech and impoliteness. Legislation against hate speech has been passed in many countries, while work on defining phenomena related to hate speech is still ongoing. As a rule, there is no legislation prohibiting impoliteness, and thus impoliteness is often perceived as a less serious verbal offence. There is, however, a grey zone between the two phenomena, which depends on contextual factors that must be constantly explored. In this article, we explore the gray zone between hate speech and impoliteness by looking at user-generated posts commenting on seemingly uncontroversial topics such as giving chocolate to children. The context we explore is the political relationship between Croatia and Serbia, two neighboring countries in the southwest Balkans with a history of recent military conflicts that ended in 1995. The relationship between these two countries can still be described as periodically troubled. The comments we analyze were posted on two online newspapers, the Croatian Jutarnji list and the Serbian Večernje novosti. Using impoliteness theory and Critical Discourse Analysis framework we identify and analyze various linguistic means that serve as extreme speech triggers, connect them to relevant contexts and highlight the grey zone that exist between hate speech and impoliteness. Our findings show that, in their discussions, the posters used a number of linguistic means for constructing national identities that at times resulted in extreme speech. The posters often targeted individual co-posters first and very quickly moved on to target ethnic groups, thus fluctuating between impoliteness and hate speech.
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