Abstract

abstract:

In late January of 2017, comedian and prolific Twitter user Patton Oswalt posted a satirical tweet about President Donald Trump's firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Pro-Trump Illinois real estate agent Tony Brust heckled Oswalt in a response tweet, instigating a Twitter battle that resulted in Brust deleting his Twitter and Facebook accounts and losing his job. This article defines Oswalt's social media-based comedy as a rhetoric of agitation, suggesting his comedic tweets, characterized by features of heckling and trolling, work as the highly emotional appeals of agitational rhetoric. The incident with Oswalt and Brust enriches our understanding of internet trolling and heckling and reveals the uneven power dynamics at work in Twitter's participatory culture. The platform's facilitation of multiple, permeable publics allows comedy to be a vehicle for the unregulated advancement of social agendas, the policing of dissent, and ultimately the promotion of real world change.

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