Impoliteness (Hate Speech/Incivility)

Authors

  • Katharina Esau

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.34778/5b

Keywords:

impoliteness, rudeness, politeness, respect, disrespect, insulting language, vulgarity, aggressive language, incivility, civility

Abstract

The variable impoliteness is an indicator used to describe violations of communication norms. These norms can be social norms established within a society, a culture or parts of a society (e.g. a social class, milieu or group). In this sense impoliteness is associated with, among other things, aggressive, offensive or derogatory communication expressed directly or indirectly to other individuals or parties. More specifically name calling, vulgar expressions or aspersions are classified as examples of impolite statements  (e.g. Papacharissi, 2004; Seely, 2017). While some scholars distinguish between impoliteness and incivility and argue that impoliteness is more spontaneous, unintentional and more frequently regretted than incivility (e.g. Papacharissi, 2004; Rowe, 2015), other scholars include impoliteness into the concept of incivility and argue that the two concepts have no clear boundaries (Coe, Kenski, & Rains, 2014; e.g. Seely, 2017). In many studies a message is classified as impolite if the message contains at least one instance of impoliteness (e.g. a swear word). The direction of an impolite statement is coded as ‘interpersonal’/‘personal’ or ‘other-oriented’/‘impersonal’ or sometimes also as ‘neutral’, meaning it is not directed at any group or individual.

Field of application/theoretical foundation:

Impoliteness is a broader concept of violations of norms in communication that, in digital communication research, is often referred to in studies on incivility. Politeness can be related to theories on social norms of communication and conversation, for example conversational-maxims (Grice, 1975), face-saving concepts (Brown & Levinson, 1987; Goffman, 1989) or conversational-contract theories (Fraser, 1990).

References/combination with other methods of data collection:

Impoliteness is examined through content analysis and is sometimes combined with comparative designs (e.g., Rowe, 2015) or experimental designs (Muddiman, 2017; Oz, Zheng, & Chen, 2017). In addition, content analyses can be accompanied by interviews or surveys, for example to validate the results of the content analysis (Erjavec & Kovačič, 2012).

Example studies:

Research question/research interest: Previous studies have been interested in the extent, levels and direction of impoliteness in online communication (e.g. in one specific online discussion, in discussions on a specific topic, in discussions on a specific platform or on different platforms comparatively).

Object of analysis: Previous studies have investigated impoliteness in user comments on political newsgroups, news websites, social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), political blogs, science blogs or online consultation platforms.

Timeframe of analysis: Content analysis studies investigate impoliteness in user comments focusing on periods between 2 months and 1 year (Coe et al., 2014; Rowe, 2015; Seely, 2017). It is common to use constructed weeks.

Level of analysis: Most manual content analysis studies measure impoliteness on the level of a message, for example on the level of user comments. On a higher level of analysis, the level of impoliteness for a whole discussion thread or online platform could be measured or estimated. On a lower level of analysis impoliteness can be measured on the level of utterances, sentences or words which are the preferred levels of analysis in automated content analyses.

Table 1. Previous manual content analysis studies and measures of impoliteness

Example study

Construct

Dimensions/Variables

Explanation/
example

Reliability

Papacharissi (2004)

impoliteness
(separate from incivility)

name-calling

e.g. “weirdo”, “traitor”, “crackpot”

Ir= .91

aspersion

e.g. “reckless”, “irrational”, “un-American”

Ir= .91

synonyms for liar

e.g. “hoax”, “farce”

N/A

hyperboles

e.g. “outrageous”, “heinous”

N/A

non-cooperation

-

N/A

pejorative speak

-

N/A

vulgarity

e.g. ”shit”, “damn”, “hell”

Ir= .89

sarcasm

-

N/A

all-capital letters

used online to reflect shouting

N/A

impoliteness

Ir= .90

Coe et al. (2014)

impoliteness
(included in incivility)

name-calling

mean-spirited or disparaging

words directed at a person or

group of people

K-α = .67

aspersion

mean-spirited or disparaging

words directed at an idea,

plan, policy, or behavior

K-α = .61

reference to lying

stating or implying that an

idea, plan, or policy was disingenuous

K-α = .73

vulgarity

using profanity or language that would not be considered proper (e.g., “pissed”, “screw”) in professional discourse

K-α = .91

pejorative for speech

disparaging remark about the way in which a person communicates

K-α = .74

impoliteness/incivility

K-α = .73

Rowe (2015)

impoliteness
(separate from incivility)

name-calling

e.g., “gun-nut”, “idiot”, “fool”

κ = .82

aspersion

comments containing an attack on the reputation or

integrity of someone or something

κ = .72

lying

 

comments implying disingenuousness

N/A

vulgarity

e.g., “crap”, “shit”, any swear-words/cursing, sexual innuendo

κ = 1

pejorative

comments containing language which disparage the manner in which someone communicates (e.g., blather, crying, moaning)

κ = 1

hyperbole

a massive overstatement (e.g.,

makes pulling teeth with pliers look easy)

κ = .75

non-cooperation

a situation in a discussion in terms of a stalemate

κ = .66

sarcasm

-

κ = .71

other impoliteness

any other type of impoliteness

κ = .72

impoliteness

κ = .78

Seely (2017)

impoliteness
(included in incivility)

insulting language

name calling and other derogatory remarks often seen in pejorative speech and aspersions

K-α = .84

vulgarity

e.g. “lazy f**kers”, “a**holes”

K-α = 1

stereotyping of political party/ideology

e.g. “typical lying lefties”

K-α = .88

stereotyping using “isms”/discriminatory language

e.g. “if we don’t get rid of idiotic Muslim theologies, we will have growing problems”

K-α = 1

other stereotyping language

e.g. “GENERALS LIKE TO HAVE A MALE SOLDIER ON THEIR LAP AT ALL TIMES.”

K-α = .78

sarcasm

e.g. “betrayed again by the Repub leadership . . . what a shock”

K-α = .79

accusations of lying

e.g. “typical lying lefties”

K-α = .80

shouting

excessive capitalization

and/or exclamation points

K-α = .83

impoliteness/incivility

K-α = .81

Note: Previous studies used different inter-coder reliability statistics: Ir = reliability index by Perreault and Leigh (1989); K-α = Krippendorff’s-α; κ = Cohen’s Kappa

 

Codebook used in the study Rowe (2015) is available under: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369118X.2014.940365

 

References

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coe, K., Kenski, K., & Rains, S. A. (2014). Online and Uncivil? Patterns and Determinants of Incivility in Newspaper Website Comments. Journal of Communication, 64(4), 658–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12104

Erjavec, K., & Kovačič, M. P. (2012). “You Don't Understand, This is a New War! ” Analysis of Hate Speech in News Web Sites' Comments. Mass Communication and Society, 15(6), 899–920. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2011.619679

Fraser, B. (1990). Perspectives on politeness. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(2), 219–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(90)90081-n

Goffman, E. (1989). Interaction ritual: Essays on face-to-face behavior. New York: Pantheon Books.

Grice, P. H. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and Semantics: Speech acts (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic Press.

Muddiman, A. (2017). : Personal and public levels of political incivility. International Journal of Communication, 11, 3182–3202.

Oz, M., Zheng, P., & Chen, G. M. (2017). Twitter versus Facebook: Comparing incivility, impoliteness, and deliberative attributes. New Media & Society, 20(9), 3400–3419. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817749516

Papacharissi, Z. (2004). Democracy online: Civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups. New Media & Society, 6(2), 259–283. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444804041444

Rowe, I. (2015). Civility 2.0: A comparative analysis of incivility in online political discussion. Information, Communication & Society, 18(2), 121–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.940365

Seely, N. (2017). Virtual Vitriol: A Comparative Analysis of Incivility Within Political News Discussion Forums. Electronic News, 12(1), 42–61. https://doi.org/10.1177/1931243117739060

Published

2021-03-26

How to Cite

Esau, K. (2021). Impoliteness (Hate Speech/Incivility). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis. https://doi.org/10.34778/5b

Issue

Database

User-Generated Media Content