Bad Faith Rhetorics in Online Discourses of Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality

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This dissertation theorizes Bad Faith Rhetorics, or, rhetorical gestures that work to derail, block, or otherwise stymy knowledge-building efforts. This work explores the ways that interventions against existing social hierarchies

This dissertation theorizes Bad Faith Rhetorics, or, rhetorical gestures that work to derail, block, or otherwise stymy knowledge-building efforts. This work explores the ways that interventions against existing social hierarchies (i.e., feminist and antiracist interventions) build knowledge (that is, are epistemologically active), and the ways that bad faith rhetorics derail such interventions. This dissertation demonstrates how bad faith rhetorics function to defend the status quo, with its social stratification by race, gender, class, and other intersectional axes of identity. Bad faith argumentative maneuvers are abundant in online environments. Consequently, this dissertation offers two case studies of the comment sections of two TED Talks: Mellody Hobson’s “Color Blind or Color Brave?” and Juno Mac’s “The Laws that Sex Workers Really Want.” The central analyses deploy online ethnographic field methods and close reading to characterize bad faith rhetorical responses and to identify 1.) trends in such responses, 2.) the net effects on other conversational participants, and 3.) bad faith rhetoric mitigation strategies. This work engages Sartre’s work on Bad Faith, rhetoric scholarship on the knowledge-building affordances of argument, public sphere theory, critical race studies, and feminist scholarship. This dissertation’s theorization and case studies illustrate the pitfalls of specific counterproductive argumentative tactics that block progress toward more equitable ways of being (bad faith rhetorics), and makes several preliminary recommendations for mitigating such moves.