I am a cooperating partner in one grant proposal under review with the German Science Foundation (DFG), filed on August 2nd, 2019, Conspiracy Theories as a Strategy of Political Communication: A Comparative Study of Modern Propaganda - Verschwörungstheorien als Strategien politischer Kommunikation: Eine vergleichende Studie moderner Propaganda
In many countries, conspiracy theories have seen a proliferation and resurgence in visibility in recent years. Still, not much is known as to the political use of conspiratorial narratives by political elites, who may use conspiratorial tropes to change the informational environment available to the public, thereby affecting opinion-formation. When do strategic political actors seed or promote conspiracy theories to advance their political goals? When are such conspiratorial strategies likely to pay off? Who uses other informational strategies to benefits one's agenda, like misinformation or outright propaganda? There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that political actors foster conspiracy theories to mobilize domestic audiences or to interfere in foreign elections. Not much is known as to the when, how and what exactly is promoted where. The proposed project seeks to systematically theorize and analyze the recent spread of political conspiracy narratives in Europe in recent years. In the project, we develop formal models of the strategic use of conspiracy theories, building on the literature on propaganda, information design and Bayesian persuasion. Second, we use data on print and online media news content to describe and analyze the spread of conspiracy narratives in six European countries in the past decade. We use automatic text analysis methods (text mining, natural language processing). The project will contribute to answering the broader questions as to how conspiracy narratives affect political discourses, politics and policy-making, and the functioning of liberal democracies more generally.
Total Budget proposed: EUR 283,000
Picture: WissenschaftsForum Berlin am Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin office of DFG