The Interplay between Right-Wing Alternative Media, Mainstream Media, and Republican Political Elites in the United States
Keywords:right-wing counterpublics, alternative media, networked public sphere, discursive resonance, news event clustering, agenda setting
Right-wing anti-establishment sentiment has enabled the mainstreaming of alternative media outlets across Europe and the United States. Earlier research has quantified the public recognition of these media actors through web traﬀic rankings, direct social media engagement (e.g., reactions, comments, shares), and topic overlap with establishment counterparts. We demonstrate a computationally scalable approach which (1) sharpens the analytical unit from topic (e.g., “immigration”) to specific news event (e.g., “migrant caravan traveling from Honduras”) and (2) enables the temporal ordering of the same news event appearing among media and politicians. Our method uses a combination of URL matching, word embedding similarity metrics, and network-based event
detection techniques. We draw two main findings from a dataset of articles from 13 U.S. right-wing media outlets and (re-)tweets by congressional Republicans from 2016 to 2020. First, we identify a clear shift in politicians’ media consumption from left- to right-wing outlets. While established-right outlets made the largest gains (30% to 42% of all (re-)tweets), alternative-right outlets also grew from 2% to 5%. Second, we identify increasing content alignment among established- and alternative-right outlets as the URL-to-dyad ratio is almost halved over the time period. Finally, we present a proof-of-concept for detecting media outlets’ indirect political alignment.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Wai Lam Wong, Damian Trilling
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