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Net-authoritarianism? How web ideologies reinforce political hierarchies in the Italian 5 Star Movement

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This article responds to current critiques about the myths of digital democracy drawing on the case study of the Italian Movimento 5 Stelle/5 Star Movement (5SM) lead by comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo. We argue that the political success of the 5SM was largely dependent on a process of technological fetishism of the Net as an autonomous political agent. We also contend that this process has enabled the party leaders to build an ideology of the movement and represent the 5SM as a grassroots movement based on horizontal networks, participatory democracy, and characterized by the absence of leadership. Conversely, we claim that the digital rhetoric of horizontality, lack of leadership and spontaneity of the party is used to mask, facilitate and reinforce the authority of Beppe Grillo as political leader, thus forging a new type of authoritarianism that is supported and legitimated through the everyday construction of digital discourse.
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Keywords: 5 Star Movement; Beppe Grillo; Gianroberto Casaleggio; Italian politics; digital utopianism; net-authoritarianism; technological fetishism; web ideologies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Autonomous University of Querétaro 2: Goldsmiths University of London

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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  • The Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studies (JICMS) is a fully peer reviewed English language journal, which explores Italian cinema and media as sites of crossing, allowing critical discussion of the work of filmmakers, artists in the film industry and media professionals. The journal intends to revive a critical discussion on the auteurs, celebrate new directors and accented cinema, and examine Italy as a geo-cultural locus for contemporary debate on translocal cinema.
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