Around the world, concerns around the alleged pervasiveness of mis- and disinformation and its potential destabilizing impact on democracies have been growing. What is often disregarded, however, is that disinformation – the intentional creation and dissemination of false information to achieve a (political) goal - is also part of a wider discursive crisis affecting the legitimacy of traditional news media. Weaponizing disinformation as a delegitimizing label can be a strategic instrument to achieve political goals, destabilize the journalistic profession, and affect citizens’ perceptions and media trust. These delegitimizing attacks towards the media, accusing them of intentionally spreading falsehoods, may in fact be more prevalent than disinformation itself, but at the same time serve as a prerequisite to (intentionally) disseminate further alternative narratives.
This PhD project aims to understand this intersection between disinformation as an informational genre and as a delegitimizing label in the relationship between politics, the media, and citizens. More specifically, it will investigate
- To what extent delegitimizing attacks from politicians resemble elements of disinformation and how they can be discursively distinguished from other forms of media references and criticism,
- what role journalists play in the disinformation crisis and how it shifts their role perceptions, as well as
- to what extent citizens are affected by and resilient to disinformation both as an informational genre and a discursive label.