The contestation of hegemonic discourse through new media. The 2020 Belarusian protests
The study examines how the Belarusian opposition challenges the official discourse of Lukashenka in Telegram and simultaneously analyzes the role of new media in this process. It argues that the discourse of Lukashenka has achieved hegemony by appealing to the population through the adaptation of the Soviet ideology and through coercion, which has led to the emergence of unsatisfied societal demands, which have been analyzed in the first part of the thesis within the context of Lukashenka’s discourse. Unsatisfied demands become obvious as a result of a crisis, which, in this study is the 2020 presidential elections and the subsequent protests. In the absence of platforms through which those demands can be articulated, contestation of any hegemony becomes problematic. This was the reason for focusing on virtual environment, as, apart from high-technology solutions circumventing the governmental restrictions, it offers the opposition the much-needed freedom for articulating its demands and for displacing the existing hegemony. Apart from examining the role of new media, the main research question of the thesis is: How the contestation of hegemonic discourse of Lukashenka is being articulated and organized in new media? One of the main findings is the documentation of the demand for the reestablishment of the national identity and reconciliation with European roots. This has also led to discreditation of the elements of the Soviet legacy propagated by the official discourse. Apart from challenging the Soviet ideology, the opposition has also contested the disciplinary function of the regime, which streamlines the conduct of individuals and serves as a regime legitimizer. The second part of the analysis has focused on this aspect from the perspective of contesting brutalities committed by law enforcement officers. The last part of the thesis has examined whether the disciplinary function of the regime, manifesting itself in the form of patriarchal rhetoric in respect to women, has been challenged. Despite the initial expectations to find the elements of female empowerment, it has been found out that the patriarchal values propagated by the regime have largely remained unchallenged and that articulation of elements of female emancipation falls under the general logic of fighting against violence and oppression of the nation’s will for self-determination. This, nevertheless, significantly undermines the propagated image of the “caring state” and the masculine Sovereign praising women, although, within the context of communal attributes ascribed to them.