Conspiratorial Framing : Framing as a Tool in the War on Information
Abstract: This research aims to understand the frames used by conspiracy theorists by establishing a new pathway in media framing, or in other words a media framing micro-theory, called conspiratorial framing. The aims are accomplished through a critical analysis of the case of Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist, and InfoWars, the media channel through which Jones operates. Through frame analysis, accomplished by implementing the methods of thematic content analysis and visual analysis then applying frame analysis to the results of those methods, this research explores the ways Jones and InfoWars give meaning to the events portrayed in the conspiracy theories perpetuated on InfoWars programs. The qualitative data analysis in this research, constituted by thematic content analysis and visual analysis, uses open coding to extract themes from transcribed data while the methodological guidance of frame analysis, supplemented by theories regarding representation and reality construction, provides a theoretical background for this research. These methods and methodologies are applied to the empirical material of 14 YouTube videos. The thematic content analysis is applied to transcriptions of the videos, and the visual analysis is performed on the videos themselves. The 14 videos, published on YouTube between the years of 2011 and 2017, total about two hours of richly dense content. This dissertation culminates in the development of the “conspiratorial framing” grounded theory, defined by the establishment of a typology of conspiratorial frames present in and extracted from InfoWars broadcasts. The conspiratorial framing typology that this research develops consists of five thematic frames, which are fearmongering, disdaining institutions, nationalism, demonizing political others, and methods of validation. This research not only contributes to media framing, but also, and arguably more importantly, to the broader fields of thought regarding media representation and the mediated construction of reality. By adding the new facet of conspiratorial framing to the current understanding of the media landscape—as defined by the complex web of intertextuality between not only different facets of media, but also media and the consumer—a better understanding can be gained of how information is presented, re-presented, and ultimately understood in this digitally mediated world. This focus on conspiracy theories as part of the mediated web of our digital world will ultimately help shine a light on the nature of truth, fact, and reality.
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