Following the Beaten Track?
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Information operations, which are considered part of information warfare, feature prominently in contemporary debates on the quality of democracy, international relations, and the national security of highly connected democracies. However, the vectors of attack and success conditions for information warfare remain unclear, as well as the strategic motivations of malevolent actors. Alarmist voices in public debate and scholarly discourse often build their assumptions on atomistic and individualistic misconceptions of knowledge. In this paper, we introduce a perspective based on the sociology of knowledge. We utilize this framework with a mix of quantitative and qualitative text analysis methods and present a comparative study of news coverage during the 2019 European election campaigns in two countries, Germany and France. We contrast the news stream of RT (formerly Russia Today), an outlet widely perceived as a vehicle for Russian information operations, with two types of established media per case: quality press and tabloid. Results show that RT, while generally following the beaten track of public discourse, particularly emphasizes international affairs topics in its news coverage. For these subjects, we find divergent framing seeking to support Russian foreign interests in comparison with established news outlets.