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Accepted Paper:

“I hope they die”: Moral superiority and eugenicist fantasies in the social media of social distancing  
Lee Gensler (CUNY Graduate Center)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates how a facebook group dedicated to science literacy and public health has become a site of conflict around wishing death on those who fail to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines. Who deserves care, and what does it mean when caring comes to justify a disregard for human life?

Paper long abstract:

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing ecosystem of facebook groups has emerged where people come together to vent about government inaction, share screenshots of posts they disagree with, laugh at memes, and ask each other how to stay safe. These groups are explicitly committed to caring deeply about public health and safety and act as semi-public spaces where people perform their identity as good, caring, and science-literate people.

But they are also often sites of conflict over wishing death upon those who fail to adhere to the same standards. Eugenicist fantasies about who the virus will or should kill are a frequent occurrence and require constant policing by moderators and admins within these spaces. They often focus on ideas of IQ, evolution, Darwinism, and the prevailing sense that some people don’t deserve to live or reproduce. As such, they open up questions about how people can weaponize care for one’s own life as a way to justify wishing death on others; how these online spaces enable this discourse; and who, exactly, is empowered to perform indignant disregard for the lives of others.

To answer these questions, I draw on eight months of digital ethnography conducted in one of these groups, where I have taken on the role of moderator, observed the group as it has grown to over 23,00 members, and interviewed the other members of the group’s admin and moderation team.

Panel Heal10b
Care, responsibility, and COVID-19 social restrictions II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -