Searching for Alternative Facts is an ethnographic account drawn directly from Dr. Francesca Tripodi’s research within upper-middle class conservative Christian* communities in Virginia in 2017. Dr. Tripodi uses Christian practices of Biblical interpretation as a lens for understanding the relationship between so-called “alternative” or “fake news” sources and contemporary conservative political thought.
“They critically interrogate media messages in the same way they approach the Bible, focusing on specific passages and comparing what they read, see, and hear to their lived experiences.
I term this media interrogation process scriptural inference.”– Francesca Tripodi
Key findings include:
On media consumption and interpretation:
On “fake news” and ideological bias:
"By applying the practices of scriptural inference to Google searches, this report also implicates Google in reaffirming people’s existing beliefs." – Francesca Tripodi
This work comes from Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, which examines how groups use the participatory culture of the internet to turn the strengths of a free society into vulnerabilities.
*For a full explication of these self-identifications and definitions in the context of this study, please refer to the full methods section in Appendix A as well as the report copy; specifically, page 8 and the footnotes on pages 5, 6, and 8.