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Defeating ‘Marsh Marxists’ on Florida’s Last Frontier: How Facebook Use Amplified Post-Rural White Identity Politics in the 2014 Wakulla Wetlands Campaign

Authors: John Moran*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Political Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: rural, whiteness, social media, Facebook, environmentalism, wetlands, Florida
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the grassroots politicking, especially on Facebook, over a 2014 county referendum to reinstate Wakulla County, Florida’s wetlands buffer and thus limit real estate growth. I argue that two influential and interconnected dynamics were at play during the wetlands campaign: post-rural white identity politics and Facebook use. Throughout the wetlands campaign in the rapidly suburbanizing county, identity markers associated with rurality and certain white identities remained and were politically mobilized to oppose regulation, often by outsiders invested in real estate development. Analyzing Wakulla County as a resource frontier suggests that during the wetlands campaign the villainization of “outsiders” on Facebook, and the concomitant valorization of rural white identity markers, was part of a longstanding strategy to keep the resource frontier deregulated for profit. I analyze the content of three “enemy figures” circulated in Facebook memes during the wetlands campaign: Marsh Marxists, wetlands jihadis, and hysterical women. Post-rural white identity politics was spread through the use of Facebook, in which the behavior-modifying feedback loops of an addictive consumer product amplified negative emotion in the county’s political discourse. To describe “post-rural” white identity politics refuses to take rural white populations as a priori demographic populations and instead attends to their formation, imagination, and political mobilization.

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