The Public Interest Behind #JeSuisCharlie and #JeSuisAhmed: Social Media and Hashtag Virality as Mechanisms for Western Cultural Imperialism


  • Phillip Arceneaux University of Florida



hashtag, virality, Je Suis Charlie, electronic colonialism theory, international law


As social creatures, humans are highly involved in storytelling. With the continued advancement of communication systems, the mechanisms for telling the narrative of human events also have evolved. Social media and the memetic properties of hashtags’ going viral are the apex of modern, digitally mediated, storytelling tools. This critical essay discussed two hashtags, i.e., narratives, of the Charlie Hebdo Paris shooting to illustrate how hashtag virality can be a mechanism for the spread and enforcement of Western perspectives. It then explored precedents under which international law could potentially warrant regulation of such behavior. Concerned with the protection of human diversity and cultural pluralism, this essay advanced a normative course of action to facilitate social change as conceived by an interdisciplinary framework. 

Author Biography

Phillip Arceneaux, University of Florida

Phillip Arceneaux is a Ph.D. student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. His research attempts to blend the fields of communication, international relations, and law, via a critical studies lens, to address contemporary social issues as propagated by the digital nature of globalization.


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