YouTube, a web platform with more than 2 billion individual monthly users, is a media powerhouse. However, despite various YouTube content creators garnering attention for their connection to rising global right-wing populism and hate groups— including viral creator PewDiePie, a Swedish gamer— the platform's ability for political discourse has been little studied. Thus, this paper, aided by theory on 'anti-publics', contemporary right-wing populism, and social identity, begins to unravel the complexities of political discourse in this particular online community. Through the analysis of sixty-thousand comments from six of PewDiePie's most popular videos, this project affirms that YouTube in this context does not prescribe to the majority of elements of a Habermasian public sphere as in the original definition. However, PewDiePie's community does present aspects of an anti-public sphere through the iteration of right-wing populist narratives and an emphasis on the creation of strong social identities.
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Thesis advisor: Pickup, Mark
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