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How can you fall for conspiracies? Rhetoric strategies employed by media authors in the discussion about alternative narratives

Fidrich, Lukas (2021) How can you fall for conspiracies? Rhetoric strategies employed by media authors in the discussion about alternative narratives.

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Abstract:This study seeks to analyse the persuasive power of conspiracy-promoting news articles, and how these persuasive techniques compare to themes found in conspiracy-critical news articles. A comparative quantitative content analysis involving 300 news articles covering the allegations that the 2020 U.S. presidential elections were systematically manipulated was conducted. Half of the corpus consisted of conspiracy-promoting articles, and the other half of conspiracy-critical articles. Each article was analysed regarding their rhetoric elements of ethos, pathos, and logos. Conspiracy-promoting articles were more likely to describe actors as good willing, but less likely to describe them as competent. Conspiracy-promoting articles were more likely to lack data elements in their argumentation, more likely to feature statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence, and less likely to feature expert evidence. Conspiracy-promoting articles were more likely to feature ambiguous language. Conspiracy-promoting articles were more likely to feature rhetorical figures and manipulations of grammatical markers in the form of capitalized words. This study adds to the literature by being one of the first to directly analyse persuasive features and techniques of a large number of conspiracy-promoting texts. Additionally, it was the first to compare the rhetoric elements found in both conspiracy-promoting and conspiracy-critical articles. Future studies might analyse investigate the effect of persuasive elements on readers’ belief and trust in conspiracy narratives promoted by news articles. Journalists gain insights into how their work differs of conspiracy-promoting authors and which similarities both types of articles share. Readers of news articles may be sensitized to see through persuasive features employed by the author to cover a lacking evidential basis to her or his claims. This study contributes to the understanding of how conspiracy-promoting narratives might influence readers in believing and trusting alternative narratives.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/87673
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