On February 26 at 2 pm in THH 271, Professor Michael Gorham, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Florida, will speak on: “Scumbags, Trolls, and the Battle for Civil(ized) Discourse on the Russian-language Internet.”
Anyone who has been paying close attention to Russian politics over the past four years can attest to the heightened attention devoted to public language and the internet as sources of verbal, cultural, and political contamination. According to one policy watch group, in just the past year, some 20 different pieces of draft legislation have been introduced to restrict, control, monitor, or otherwise regulate the Russian-language internet (Runet). This talk examines how and why commonly held attitudes toward language help shape the perceptionof degradation, pollution, anarchy and all-permissiveness, beginning with the phenomenon of “scumbag language” (iazyk podonkov) and extending to Putin’s recently embraced civilizational discourse. This perception, in turn,has made Russian internet culture vulnerable to symbolic associations with all sorts of taboo or otherwise socially unacceptable behavior, and has thus provided rhetorical justification for regulating, reigning in, repatriating, and ultimately censoring Runet-based civil discourse— even as pro-Kremlin trolling and social networking initiatives seek to muddy the civilized waters still further.