Harel, T. O., Jameson, J. K., & Maoz, I. (2020). The normalization of hatred: Identity, affective polarization, and dehumanization on Facebook in the context of intractable political conflict. Social Media + Society, 6(2).
Open access: Yes
Notes: Dehumanization removes targets from that which makes them human—thus facilitating the process of justifying harming and excluding them. In this paper, Harel, Jameson and Maoz explore how a Facebook group engages in affective polarization, leading to the dehumanization of those who are not members of the group. To achieve this, they draw from Northrup’s theory of identity in intractable conflict. Their results show that Facebook group members follow Northrup’s theory, engaging in threats, distortion (misinformation and delegitimization), and rigidification (separation, exclusion and, finally, dehumanization). In sum, this study showcases how social media platforms can support and expand processes of conflict intractability, whereby dehumanization enables the justification of harming others.
Abstract: Our study uses a qualitative analysis of social media discourse on a Facebook page to demonstrate how the phenomena of affective polarization and dehumanization are manifested through participation in a homogeneous enclave, or echo chamber. We employ Northrup’s theory of identity in intractable conflict to show how users express their desire for psychological and physical separation from the other and use dehumanizing language that normalizes potentially dangerous levels of hatred during their participation on a Facebook page. This study contributes to our understanding of the link between identity, affective polarization, and dehumanization.