DOI: 10.1075/ip.00106.alt ISSN: 2542-3851

Humorous but hateful

Thulfiqar H. Altahmazi
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


The paper explores the interplay of impoliteness, ethnic/religious humor and multimodality in online contexts. The argument advanced in the paper is that anti-Muslim memes are instantiations of ethno-religious humor that creatively incorporate linguistic impoliteness and visual dysphemism in manners that potentially propagate Islamophobia online. The analysis of a specialized corpus of memes suggests that multimodal impoliteness in these memes is mainly triggered by marked implicitness, reinforced by visual reference to targets. The humor-generating incongruity in these memes is often based on the anomalous juxtaposition of verbal and visual cues expressing ethnic and religious stereotypes, in ways that make the values expressed in these stereotypes easily acceptable. Such multimodal impoliteness creatively incorporates entertainment with emotional coercion, aiming at like-minded participants in the potential presence of targets. This constitutes a form of plausibly deniable incitement, meant to instigate attitude change and intimidate the victims, which consequently blurs the conceptual distinction between jocular abuse, impoliteness and hate speech.

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