This paper investigates how health-related disinformation and conspiracy theories (CTs) about masks were constructed in the US in the roughly eighteen months since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. It examines the anti-mask discourses propagated by different actors using different media – renowned conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, users who signed an online petition against school mask mandates, and anti-mask activists speaking at Board of education meetings – to create a more comprehensive view of the processes involved in the delegitimization of scientific, political, and mediatic authority, and the development and perpetuation of alternative truths. These discourses were analyzed principally by means of critical discourse analysis (CDA), and specifically the strategies of self- and other-presentation (Reisigl, Wodak, 2001; van Dijk 2000; Wodak 2011) and of (de)legitimation (Reyes 2011; van Leeuwen 2007). Findings suggest that these anti-mask actors leveraged extant conspiratorial beliefs and distrust of authorities to foster anti-mask sentiment, cast doubt on the interests served by key political and scientific figures, and question the veracity of the information imparted by left-leaning news networks, government institutions, and the scientific community, undermining trust in health recommendations.

“Don’t Mask the Truth”. Analyzing Anti-Mask Discourses Advanced by a ‘Trusted Expert’ and Activists Acting On- and Offline

Jacqueline Aiello
2022-01-01

Abstract

This paper investigates how health-related disinformation and conspiracy theories (CTs) about masks were constructed in the US in the roughly eighteen months since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. It examines the anti-mask discourses propagated by different actors using different media – renowned conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, users who signed an online petition against school mask mandates, and anti-mask activists speaking at Board of education meetings – to create a more comprehensive view of the processes involved in the delegitimization of scientific, political, and mediatic authority, and the development and perpetuation of alternative truths. These discourses were analyzed principally by means of critical discourse analysis (CDA), and specifically the strategies of self- and other-presentation (Reisigl, Wodak, 2001; van Dijk 2000; Wodak 2011) and of (de)legitimation (Reyes 2011; van Leeuwen 2007). Findings suggest that these anti-mask actors leveraged extant conspiratorial beliefs and distrust of authorities to foster anti-mask sentiment, cast doubt on the interests served by key political and scientific figures, and question the veracity of the information imparted by left-leaning news networks, government institutions, and the scientific community, undermining trust in health recommendations.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11386/4810177
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