College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



social media, extremism, fake news, post-truth, conspiracy theory


This thesis examines the utilization of social media platforms (particularly Facebook & Twitter) by political actors, contemporary media, and ordinary people to disseminate false or misleading information. Furthermore, it examines how social media have aided in the mobilization of previously unpopular extremist social/political movements in the US. This research provides a rich historical account of news media and its dissemination technology. Additionally, the thesis looks to several theories to show that these events are best understood as examples of larger processes endemic to modern capitalist societies. Utilizing news media and archival records to create event catalogs, this research illustrates how fake news spreads though social media using three distinct events, the birther conspiracy, the pizzagate conspiracy, and a Russian attempt to sow discord in US politics. Finally, this research shows how several virtual “imagined communities” utilized social media to mobilize physically in one of the largest white nationalist rallies in recent memory. In contrast to similar works, this thesis demonstrates how social media in conjunction with alternative media have created competing knowledges defined by political discourses that now routinely conflict in profound ways.