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Whitney Phillips

Assistant Professor of Digital Platforms and Ethics
Office: 202 Allen Hall
City: Eugene
Research Interests: US politics and popular culture, media ethics, media history, public debate and controversy, humor studies, religion and politics, rightwing media cultures, moral panics, conspiratorial belief, narrative and identity, true crime media


Drawing from a strong humanities background–including cultural studies, folklore studies, and creative approaches to writing–my methodological orientation is conjunctural. I explore how things connect together; how consequences/accidents of history give rise to norms, beliefs, and assumptions that translate into actions at the individual and societal level. The purpose of the work is to identify what is happening, why things are that way, what consequences exist for whom, and what should be done in response. 


Recurring areas of interest include the ethics of amplification (“to share or not to share”), ambivalent play and humor, the connections between pop culture and politics, public debate and the rhetoric of controversy, the power of narratives to shape belief and identity, and how mental health and overall wellness impact how we communicate and what media we watch, listen to, love, and rail against. Specific research topics have included trolling (including its political articulations), political memes, best practices for reporting on false and harmful information, best practices for navigating difficult political conversations, digital ethics and literacy, and histories of rightwing media. 


In the Media Studies program at SOJC, I teach Intro to Media Studies, Media Ethics (with a true crime focus), Cross Cultural Monster Narratives, and courses on elections during presidential and midterm election cycles (including the 2024 presidential election). I am a core faculty member in the Folklore Program.  



  • PhD in English with a folklore structured emphasis (digital culture focus) from the University of Oregon (2012)
  • MFA in creative writing from Emerson College (2007)
  • BA in Philosophy from Humboldt State University (2005)


In 2023, I published my fourth book, Share Better and Stress Less: A Guide to Thinking Ecologically about Social Media (Candlewick Press/MITeen), for young adult readers. It draws ​​from a series of ecological metaphors–redwood root systems, land cultivation, and hurricanes–to explain how and why information pollution spreads across social media and to help readers avoid causing harm accidentally. The book also explores the relationship between stress, overwhelm, and wellness (how we’re doing) and problematic communication (what we’re sharing).

My forthcoming book (Spring 2025), The Shadow Gospel: How Anti-Liberal Demonology Possessed US Religion, Media, and Politics, is co-authored with political science and religion scholar Mark Brockway of Syracuse University. It provides a novel account of religious influence in the US and shows how the culture wars as a political framework–essentially, a secularized version of the Apocalypse, described in the book as Revelation Lite–was conjured by intensely overlapping rightwing and Evangelical media messages stemming back to the Cold War. The historical account presented in The Shadow Gospel helps contextualize contemporary events and discourses including the January 6th, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, satanic conspiracy theorizing, and moral panics over "wokeness."


Major published works include:

  • The Shadow Gospel: How Anti-Liberal Demonology Possessed US Religion, Media, and Politics (The MIT Press, 2025), co-authored with Mark Brockway
  • Share Better and Stress Less: A Guide to Thinking Ecologically about Social Media (Candlewick Press/MITeen, 2023), co-authored with Ryan Milner
  • You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape (MIT Press 2021), co-authored with Ryan Milner
  • “The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists, and Manipulators Online.” Data & Society, 2018
  • The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online (Polity Press 2017), co-authored with Ryan M. Milner
  • This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (MIT Press 2015).

Book chapters, articles, and cultural critiques include:

  • W. Phillips, M. Brockway, and A. Ohlheiser. 2022.  “The Term ‘White Christian Nationalism’ is on the Rise. Here’s What Journalists Should Know about Using It.” Nieman Journalism Lab.
  • W. Phillips. 2022. “How to Cope with Political Panic.” NBC.
  • W. Phillips and C. Wardle. 2021. “Disinformation Goes to Hollywood: Four Lessons from Journalism.” First Draft News.
  • W. Phillips. 2021. “Whose Anger Counts? ” Boston Review, January.
  • W. Phillips. 2020. “Light Disinfects: A Cultural History and Critique.’” Georgetown Law Technology Review, Special Issue on Network Ecologies.
  • W. Phillips. 2019. “It Wasn’t Just the Trolls: Early Internet Culture, ‘Fun,’ and the Fires of Exclusionary Laughter.” Social Media and Society’s 2K. April.  
  • W. Phillips. 2018. “Am I Why I Can’t Have Nice Things?: A Reflection on Personal Trauma, Collective Play, and Ethical Sight.” In A Networked Self and Love, ed. Zizi Papacharissi. London: Routledge.
  • W. Phillips and R.M. Milner. 2018. “Ghosts in the Machines: How Centuries of Technological Play with Death Has Helped Make Sense of Life.” In A Networked Self: Birth, Life, and Death, ed. Zizi Papacharissi. London: Routledge.

Media Coverage

I have written numerous popular press pieces for publications such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, NBC, and Slate, including the work I published in my WIRED magazine Ideas column. I regularly provide expert commentary on national and global news stories and my work has been profiled by the Columbia Journalism Review, Niemen Journalism Lab, and Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy, among many others.

Honors and Awards:

I have been invited to deliver dozens of talks and have given a number of national and international keynotes focused on a range of journalism and communication topics, including journalistic ethics, K-12 media literacy education, and the relationship between wellbeing and information sharing. I’ve also had the opportunity to present my work to Congressional and other governmental entities and am regularly asked to provide ethics consultation for national and global news outlets. My first book, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, was awarded the Association of Internet Researchers' Nancy Baym best book award.