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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

American political polarization around climate change is largely fueled by science denialism, and although much research investigates the impacts of ideology, little has been done on the impacts of epistemology, and more specifically, the role of conflict-conditioned narratives (CCN) in shaping epistemology. This study investigates the epistemic function of Fox News in the 2016 U.S. Election, potentially escalating conflict around climate change due to the nature of delivered narratives. Existing conflict resolution research is used as a theoretical grounding and for identifying the use of conflict narrative construction methods (CM) in online articles. This research uses a purposive approach to qualitative content analysis. Findings show the presence of these CM in Fox News’ climate change reporting, meaning that information was filtered and organized in a misleading and conflict-supporting fashion, though not explicitly incorrect. Since viewers do not have the means of testing the presented narratives on science, Fox News has an especially influential epistemic role in the portrayal of climate science. This may very well mean that viewers think (and vote) within the conflict-supporting narratives Fox News creates. Recommended followup research includes more on how epistemological structures and networks operate as power hierarchies which may have been used to empower those directing the structures rather than viewers themselves.

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