This research seeks to explore the connection between news media and the state of political polarization from 2020 to 2022 following the January 6th U.S. Capitol breach. Through research of media theory and relevant data, as well as a comparative analysis of eight articles from both Fox News and CNN, this study will illustrate the oppositional agenda-setting and framing on behalf of these two outlets, as well as their role in the newest iteration of Chomsky & Herman’s (1988) theorized media propaganda filter, formerly known as “anti-communism” but now also referred to as “fear of the concocted enemy”. Their oppositional relationship moves beyond partisanship and emphasizes the difference between CNN as a system-supportive, “mainstream” media outlet, and Fox News as an anti-establishment, “alternative” media outlet. This study observes agenda-framing over false-flag theories, intelligence failures, domestic extremism, and FBI-infiltration, and analyzes how threatening events to national security can be passively utilized as a permitting factor in expanding the reach of national security intelligence agencies along with comparative examples. Finally, this study details potential paths forward in the effort to improve the state of the news media environment, such as media literacy and media plurality, for the benefit of all U.S. citizens.
Semester/Year of Award
Closed Access Thesis
Smith, Anna Grace, "The Divided States: An Exploration of the Influence of Media Agenda-Setting on Modern Political Polarization" (2022). Honors Theses. 878.