Reframing Online: Ulster Loyalists Imagine an American Audience
Ó Dochartaigh, Niall
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O' Dochartaigh, Niall (2009) Reframing Online: Ulster Loyalists Imagine an American Audience. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 16 (1),102-127.
This article examines one initiative aimed at taking advantage of new technologies to build new transnational connections between a political movement in the ¿homeland¿ and a diaspora population in the United States. It analyzes an initiative by Ulster loyalists in Northern Ireland to mobilize Americans of Ulster Protestant descent in support of their cause, while simultaneously attempting to undermine the American support base of their Irish nationalist opponents. By contrast with Irish nationalists, Ulster loyalists have never had significant support networks in the United States. This attempt to mobilize a distant diaspora has met with little success. This article argues that loyalist understandings of their imagined audience in the United States are built on a misleading caricature of Irish-American support networks for Irish republicans. These misunderstandings direct loyalists towards a strategy that places undue weight on the role of homeland propaganda in converting shared ancestry into political support for ethnic compatriots in the 'homeland' to the neglect of more fundamental factors in the mobilization of transnational support networks. The article argues that new technologies are of minimal significance for the mobilization of transnational support networks on the basis of shared ancestry in the absence of other fundamental conditions for mobilization. However, the new technologies allow movements to learn more about distant and little-understood support pools. The reflexive character of online interaction is illustrated by the way in which at least some loyalists have begun to explore other bases for transnational co-operation.
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