Strategic Conspiracy Narratives: A Semiotic Approach, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Strategic Conspiracy Narratives

A Semiotic Approach, 1st Edition

By Mari-Liis Madisson, Andreas Ventsel


196 pages

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Hardback: 9780367030988
pub: 2020-06-30
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Strategic Conspiracy Narratives proposes an innovative semiotic perspective for analysing how contemporary conspiracy theories are used for shaping interpretation paths and identities of a targeted audience.

Conspiracy theories play a significant role in the viral spread of misinformation that has an impact on the formation of public opinion about certain topics. They allow connecting different events that have taken place in various times and places, and involve several actors that seem incompatible for bystanders. This monograph focuses on strategic-function conspiracy narratives in the context of (social) media and information conflict. It explicates the strategic devices in how conspiracy theories can be used to evoke a hermeneutics of suspicion – a permanent skepticism and questioning of so-called mainstream media channels and dominant public authorities, delegitimisation of political opponents, and the ongoing search for hidden clues and coverups. The success of strategic dissemination of conspiracy narratives depends on the cultural context, specifics of the targeted audience and the semiotic construction of the message. This book proposes an innovative semiotic perspective for analyzing contemporary strategic communication. The authors develop a theoretical framework that is based on semiotics of culture, the notions of strategic narrative and transmedia storytelling.

This book is targeted to specialists and graduate students working on social theory, semiotics, journalism, strategic communication, social media, and contemporary social problems in general.

Table of Contents



1. Semiotic conflicts in strategic communication
Conceptualising the conflict of meanings
On the specificity of the informational influencing on social media
Information conflicts and strategic narratives

2, A semiotic approach to conspiracy theories
Studying conspiracy theories spreading on the Internet
The functions of identity creation in conspiracy theories
The semiotic approach to conspiracy narratives

PART II. Semiotic analysis of strategic Soros conspiracy narratives

3. Strategic Soros conspiracy narratives in politics, marketing and alternative knowledge
Strategic construction of conflict in conspiracy narrative
George Soros - the Grand Old Scapegoat of contemporary conspiracy narratives
The strategic devices of the Soros conspiracy narratives

4. The main meaning-making mechanisms of strategic conspiracy narratives
Conspiracy theories as a trigger of affective communication
Transmedial strategic conspiracy narratives

Conclusion and future direction

About the Authors

Mari-Liis Madisson received her PhD in Semiotics and Culture Studies from the University of Tartu, Estonia in 2016. She is a Research Fellow at the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu and a visiting Research Fellow at School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy And Politics at the Queen´s University Belfast, UK. Her research combines cultural semiotics, political semiotics, communication & media studies. Her research interests lie in online culture, conspiracy theories, information influence activities, extreme right communication. She is the author of The Semiotic Construction of Identities in Hypermedia Environments:The Analysis of Online Communication of the Estonian Extreme Right (2016).

Andreas Ventsel is a senior researcher of semiotics at Tartu University, Estonia. He holds an MA degree and a PhD in Semiotics. He teaches a range of subjects in semiotics, society and politics, cultural theory and research seminars. His research is interdisciplinary which includes semiotics, discourse theory, visual communication, rhetoric and political analysis with particular focus on the post-structural political thought. Since 2007 Ventsel has participated in several research projects in the fields of semiotics, visual studies and strategic communication. He has presented the results of research on these topics in around 100 academic articles and has been the editor of several both Estonian-based and international scientific journals. He is the author of Towards Semiotic Theory of Hegemony (2009).

About the Series

Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories have a long history, and exist in all modern societies. However, their visibility and significance are increasing today. Conspiracy theories can no longer be simply dismissed as the product of a pathological mind-set located on the political margins.

This series provides a nuanced and scholarly approach to this most contentious of subjects. It draws on a range of disciplinary perspectives including political science, sociology, history, media and cultural studies, area studies and behavioural sciences. Issues covered include the psychology of conspiracy theories, changes in conspiratorial thinking over time, the role of the Internet, regional and political variations and the social and political impact of conspiracy theories.

The series will include edited collections, single-authored monographs and short-form books.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory