chapter  24
14 Pages

Blasting for science

Rhetorical antidotes to anti-vax discourse in the Italian public sphere
WithPamela Pietrucci

This chapter investigates the intersections between science and activism, focusing specifically on exploring a case study situated in the overlapping space between rhetorics of science and rhetorics of resistance in contemporary public discourse. Specifically, I identify and analyse a mode of rogue resistance to populism emerging from the world of science and unfolding mostly on the Internet: ‘blasting’ posts on social media. Here, I look at Roberto Burioni’s ‘blasting’ posts targeting Italian anti-vaxxer users on Twitter and Facebook to illustrate this rhetorical antidote to pseudoscientific discourse circulating online and offline. A blastata is a social media comment or answer that can be disruptive and destructive, loud and potentially obnoxious—but also humorous or sarcastic. Depending on the context and regardless of the particular style, a blastata tends to end a social media comment feed, providing a final statement that is impossible to question: effectively it functions as a digital mic-dropping that leaves no space for rebuttal or further discussion. Scientists like Burioni have recently started blasting social media users in defense of science. Blasting is controversial as a mode of scientific communication, yet I argue that it can exemplify science’s potential in becoming a force of resistance in troubled times insofar as it has the potential to shift the attention back to science and away from pseudoscientific and populist rhetorics that disproportionately occupy the public sphere.