Reactionary attitudes: Strawson, Twitter, and the Black Lives Matter Movement

In Fernando Aguiar-Gonzalez & Antonio Gaitan (eds.), Experimental Methods in Moral Philosophy. Routledge (forthcoming)
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On 25 May 2020, Officer Derek Chauvin asphyxiated George Floyd in Minneapolis — a murder that was captured in a confronting nine-minute bystander video that set off a firestorm of activity on online social networks, in the streets of the United States, and even worldwide. These protests captured the collective rage, dissatisfaction, and resentment personally and vicariously experienced towards the widespread systematic injustice and mistreatment of African Americans by police and vigilantes. The scale of these protests, both online and in the streets, has been estimated to have far exceeded the civil rights marches of the 1960s (Buchanan et al. 2020). Considering the widespread extent of these protests, our research aims to analyse conflictual intergroup moral dynamics in terms of the reactive attitudes expressed by distinct online communities on Twitter. This paper examines the extent to which the Strawsonian (1962) reactive attitudes framework is applicable to the Twitter discourse around the Black Lives Matter protests reignited by the murder of George Floyd. In particular, we argue that the Strawsonian framework is inadequate to understand a range of prevalent attitudes expressed in this discourse — attitudes that we call reactionary as opposed to merely reactive. Reactionary attitudes include counter-indignation on behalf of the accused rather than Strawsonian indignation on behalf of the victim of a moral wrong. We document the expression of such attitudes among the right-wing participants in the online discourse about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Author Profiles

Marinus Ferreira
Macquarie University
Mark Alfano
Macquarie University


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