When Libyan youth took to the streets in a populist uprising in 2011, which became known as the 17 February 2011 revolution, many Libyans thought they were on the verge of removing one of the most vicious dictators of the twentieth century, Muammar Gaddafi, and building a new democratic state. Gaddafi responded forcefully, hoping to eliminate the movement in its infancy. But clashes between Gaddafi’s forces and those who took to streets soon turned into a civil war, during which Libyan society was split into two major groups: one supporting the uprising, the other the regime. In addition to armed conflict, these warring groups regarded each other with contempt, generated slander, and accused each other of betrayal, using words and phrases in a discourse of hate speech. This vocabulary of hate manifested in demonstrations and social media. Eight months later Gaddafi was dead, and the political system he built over four decades collapsed. But the war did not stop: yesterday’s allies became enemies, competing for political and economic gains. The number of contesting groups expanded as different clans, tribes, and cities joined the fray for personal gains. Strategies and techniques first used during the Libyan uprising were applied in the civil war, and are still manifest today. Every militia has a Facebook page, owns a television station, or has access to one. These media have been widely used to spread hate speech and to widen the rift between neighbors, creating refugees and internally displaced people. At least five cities became ghost towns during the uprising. When the concept of subculture first appeared in the sociological literature, it referred to members of a group that behaved according to a set of values and norms that deviated from those of mainstream society. Reviewing the language of militia members and their supporters that is articulated in social media or on television, it becomes obvious that such language has devolved into hate speech, creating social fragmentation among Libyans. This language has created a new set of values and norms in Libya that are different from preexisting mainstream Libyan culture. The new language has created a subculture of hate, which serves to sustain and accelerate continuing divisions within Libya, while further fragmenting the social fabric of the country.

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