Recursion theory and the ‘death tax’: Investigating a fake news discourse in the 2019 Australian election:

Carson, Andrea; Gibbons, Andrew; Phillips, Justin B.
Journal of Language and Politics

Since the 2016 US federal election, political actors have weaponized online fake news as a means of gaining electoral advantage (Egelhofer and Lecheler 2019). To advance understandings of the actors and methods involved in perpetuating fake news, this article focuses on an Australian story that circulated on and offline through different discourses during the 2019 federal election. We use content analyses of 100,000 media articles and eight million Facebook posts to trace false claims that the centre-left Labor party would introduce an inheritance tax dubbed a ‘death tax’ if it won office. To understand this evolution of ‘death tax’ discourse on and offline – and its weaponization by various actors – we draw from existing theorems of agenda setting, backfire effects, and propose our own recursion theory.