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Hostile remixes on YouTube: A new constraint on pro-FARC counterpublics in Colombia

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ABSTRACT

Online video streaming marks a participatory turn in Colombia's propaganda war. To understand this shift, I analyze a video the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) produced of its kidnapping of 12 provincial parliamentarians in 2002, tracing fragments of that video as they “recombine” online in two other videos that antagonistically resignify the original. I conduct the same exercise with footage of the Colombian military's rescue of Íngrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages in 2008 and contrast its celebratory recombinations with those of the FARC video. Building on Michael Warner's theory of publics and counterpublics and Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of “re-accentuation,” I argue that “recombinatory circulation” reproduces the biases of Colombia's mass media, constraining pro-FARC counterpublics. I contextualize the circulation analysis with ethnography focused on former hostages, demobilized rebels, and military intelligence officials. Beyond Colombia, I argue for converting interactive circulation into an empirical and analytical prism to illuminate the politics of online publics.

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