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Words as Weapons in the USA


Admission requirements

This course is exclusively for students of the Minor Disinformation and Strategic Communication in Global Media.


The regional electives in block 1 and 2 focus on information dissemination and power structures in local media landscapes.

This regional elective introduces students to the role that disinformation, framing, conspiracy theories, trolling, meme wars, and a variety of other media strategies play in American media ecologies, specifically in mainstream media outlets and on various social media platforms in the United States.

In 2018, Steve Bannon, then president Donald Trump’s chief strategist counselled: “The Democrats don’t matter, the real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” In theory, the media sift factual information and critical analysis from “the zone,” and this process may be short-circuited if the media ecosystem is saturated with ‘noise’. This noise can concern outright misinformation, but other red herrings (even if factually true) can also guide the attention away from the information the public needs in order for democracy to function. A variety of such information mechanisms and strategies have been pioneered and appropriated in the US American media landscape, often driven by entertainment and forms of play that users and media consumers voluntarily – indeed eagerly – engage in. This makes them participants in a prosumer culture in which they themselves generate media content that can have a range of political implications. This course will focus on the United States as a case study, historically, medially, rhetorically, and politically, of how words can be weaponized, particularly in the context of social media. We will focus on the dynamics of playing and gaming to analyze examples of meme culture and different forms of conspiracism.

Course objectives

Participants in this course will acquire the following:

  • An understanding of theories dealing with conspiracy theory, playing, gaming and meme culture

  • An indepth understanding of post-truth information processes, and their political implications in the US context.

  • The ability to analyze concrete samples of (social) media content in the context of their production, distribution, and reception processes in US media.

  • The ability to critically reflect on issues related to disinformation, framing, conspiracy theories, trolling, and (social) media strategies more broadly.

  • The ability to contextualize and analyze how American grand narratives are employed in disinformation efforts in the US context.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

  • Paper (approximately 2000 words): 60%

  • Active participation in class exercises: 20%

  • Blogpost (500 words): 20%

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than one tutorial means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.

End Grade

To complete the final mark, both the weighted average as well as the grade for the final paper must be >5,5.


Only for the paper and the blogpost can a resit opportunity be given.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2022 – 2023.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

To be announced on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal.


All other information.