Who Wants to Talk About Refugees and Why? Foreign Interventions in German Elections
25 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 15, 2019
We use this the crisis set off by the arrival of asylum-seekers in Germany to test a theory of the use of propaganda as a strategy by a non-democratic state against a democratic state. We argue that a non-democracy on a collision course with a democracy will use propaganda discourse to punish recalcitrant elite, and will do so especially near elections while promoting frames that weaken the opponent’s institutions. We test these propositions on a corpus of half a million publications, covering Kremlin-backed media channels broadcasting in German, and German media. We find that Kremlin-backed channels are more likely to publish refugee stories near elections in Germany and that they push conspiracy theories at the expense of discussing economic or crime-related aspects of immigration. Our work has implications for the rise of propaganda discourse in Europe and beyond, and for democratic politics under foreign autocratic pressure.
Keywords: election intervention, propaganda, soft power, far-right, natural language processing
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