Under the shade of rumour refutation : a critical analysis of #PoliceRefuteRumour campaign on Chinese social media
Abstract: Rumour refutation is a series of campaigns that the Chinese authorities invest in combating 'the overflow' of network rumours, especially since 2017. These campaigns reflect the Chinese's knowledge of rumour as false and harmful. Among which #PoliceRefuteRumours on social media platform Weibo is one of the most typical forms conducted most explicitly and exposed problematically. Through a qualitative text analysis to #PolicRefuteRumours with theories of mythologies, discourse and civic culture, this research argues that the concept of rumour, although appearing concrete and specific, is ambiguous in its signification in the text of rumour refutation. Elements of factuality, harmfulness, subjectivities etc., overdetermine its meaning in a contingent sense. It is a floating signifier that obtains meaning in specific social contexts meanwhile implies the tendency for the prevails of a designated discourse. Such distortion from the ambiguous denotations to the specific concept of rumour is naturalised through a mythical mechanism. The tension between texts based on the concept of rumour is a site for antagonisms that alternative interpretations exclude each other. However, such antagonisms show an asymmetrical manner for the uneven dispersion of struggles and the unbalanced discursive positions. In the name of the knowledge of the truth, rumour refutation is the hegemonic resolution of this antagonism accompanied by institutional violence. The legitimacy of such hegemonic intervention is argued an ideological manipulation of power and truth claims. Under such circumstances, by noting for the civic character of rumour, it is stressed that the hegemony projected in the rumour refutation text is about the conflicts between different modes of civic participation. Whereas rumours stand for an active mode of participation that remarks intervention and citizenship as rights, rumour refutation represents a normative mode of limited participation that emphasises consensus and citizenship as responsibilities. This project of normative participation in refutation text refers to the authorities' ideal of efficient civic communication with limited tolerance to the disorder of contested alternatives. It argues that the hegemonic intervention results in an ideological and mythical discourse that refers to the accordance with the normative society that authorities expect rather than the factual precision and authenticity. Therefore, such discourse of rumour refutation can not necessarily resole ambiguity. Instead, it may hinder citizens from proper ways of active participation in civic life and harm its purpose of communicative efficiency.
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