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Yang, Yunkang, and Lance Bennett. “Interactive Propaganda: How Fox News and Donald Trump Co-Produced False Narratives about the COVID-19 Crisis.” In Political Communication in the Time of Coronavirus, 1st ed. Routledge, 2021.


This chapter proposes an interactive propaganda model that accounts for a novel development in the role of media in a struggling American democracy, namely the co-production of systemic disinformation between government and media to influence public opinion and behavior. Using the coronavirus crisis as a case, we found that the interaction between the Trump administration and Fox News that produced persistent disinformation about hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19 included four elemental processes: (1) both Trump and Fox actively monitoring the information environment to identify propaganda material; (2) Trump and/or Fox cueing the other with the manufactured disinformation; (3) both sides monitoring and amplifying each other; and (4) both addressing criticism and adjusting for areas of conflicting interest. Different from traditional propaganda as top-down communication that typically flows from government to media and other societal echo chambers, interactive propaganda may be a political communication pattern that marks a shift toward an illiberal regime where the state forms partnerships with the media to consolidate its rule.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.