Silencing dissent in an online discussion forum of a higher education institution
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In an online forum at a higher education institution in South Africa, interventions from management in order to moderate discussions, result in antagonism and the smothering of dissident discourse. Critical poststructuralist theory, the model of communicative democratic discourse as held by Iris Marion Young, and the tenets of ideal speech as held by Jürgen Habermas, inform the study while it investigates how the internal and external moderation of the forum limit and terminate essential discourse which could be instrumental in the critical construction of meaning and the exercise of freedom of speech. The methodology of grounded theory and the approach of critical discourse analysis direct the exploration of interview transcripts and forum text. In the analysis of characteristics displayed in discursive moderating strategies, the researchers are enabled to propose a form of emancipatory moderation within the discourse which could result in better understanding among opposing parties. The hegemonous and distant character as seen in the discourse concerning current moderation is subversed to allow participatory and equal moderation for the establishment of an enabling, accepting and diverse online environment.