Which Online Counter-Publics on Facebook are Fostering Agonistic Respect? An Assessment of Counter-Publics Debating Germany’s Refugee Policy
Online publics offer new spaces for actors to counteract hegemonic narratives within mainstream publics. At the same time, they can also offer spaces for anti-pluralist movements to delegitimise their political opponents—which threatens the agonistic respect modern democracies are dependent on. This paper aims to show whether counter-publics on Facebook do in fact foster or threaten such respect. To do so, the posts of 1465 public Facebook pages and groups debating refugee policy in Germany were downloaded and analysed. Using network analysis, I identified the largest eight communities of pro- and contra-refugee pages. Using discourse analysis, I found that, on the contra-refugee side, agonistic respect for opposing positions was sparse, even in moderate pages, while on the pro-refugee side, agonistic respect is shown more often within more moderate and activist pages. I discuss possible causes for this divergence and argue how further research could enhance these findings.