"This vitriolic discourse is happening in every aspect of our lives."


Right-wing operatives and bots, some of them Russian, were behind much of the backlash against ​"Star Wars: The Last Jedi," a new ​study claims.

You see, it's not that the movie sucked. It's not that fans felt that their franchise has been betrayed. It's been Russian bots all along.


A peer-reviewed ​paper titled "Weaponizing the haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation" was released in October by University of Southern California researcher Morten Bay. It examined tweets sent to writer and director Rian Johnson during the seven months after the film's release last Christmas.


Johnson was flooded by online criticism at the time. Many fans ​expressed anger at what they viewed as their beloved universe being co-opted by progressive messaging at the expense of narrative cogency.

In the debate that followed, a rejection of the films on artistic merits got mingled with a Men's Rights Movements-esque backlash against the films overtly feminist through-line (both on screen and ​behind the scenes).


The new study homed in on 967 Twitter accounts that had directed tweets at Johnson. It found that about one-fifth of the tweets were negative. About half of the negative comments -- 105 to be precise -- focused on political or social content, as opposed to the rest which discussed the film's aesthetics, as reported by the ​Washington Post on Wednesday. 


Immediately following the release of the study, many on the media focused on the fact that Russian bots -- the bane of Trump-era social media -- were involved in the hate-fest. But Bay told The Post that a mountain was made of a molehill. In fact, only 16 of the analyzed accounts were suspected of being Russian bots.


For Bay, the real finding is that the online backlash against the film demonstrated "right-ring political operating at work."


“There were clear signs of operatives trying to take this organic discussion and turn it into something where they could make their political point," he told The Post.


“In the 2016 election we only looked at elections and activists realms for this kind of rhetoric,” he added. “This shows it’s seeping into everything; this vitriolic discourse is happening in every aspect of our lives.


Director Johnson reacted to the study on Monday.

Although Bay clarified that the backlash most likely did not affect the movie's earnings, some, including Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni, wondered if someone should be held accountable for lost ticket sales.

Moreover, despite the fact that only about 2 percent of the accounts in the study were suspected of being Russian bots, many Liberals saw Bay's study as proof of the dangers of the Kremlin's Twitter influence.



But right-leaning podcast host and Star Wars fan Dave Rubin wasn't convinced.


Germania is a staff writer at Pluralist.

You can reach her on ​Twitter.