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How ‘Googling it’ can send conservatives down secret rabbit holes of alternative facts

Washington Post: “Type “Russia collusion” into a Google search, and the search engine will try to guess the next word you’ll type. The first of those is “delusion…Accept the suggestion, and you’ll find yourself in a conservative rabbit hole. The first result is a New York Post opinion piece with the headline, “Democrats, get set to lose your ‘collusion’ delusions.” The next result, from the conservative site “American Greatness,” reads “Meowing Media Fuel Mass Delusion of Russian Collusion.” Several other results on the first page — including one from a bodybuilding forum — come from other conservative outlets approvingly quoting an apparent catalyst of the phrase’s popularity: Roger Stone, speaking on Fox News.

Google auto-completes search terms based on popularity, so it’s likely that “Russia collusion delusion” is driven by people turning to Google to learn more about Stone’s phrase.

For Francesca Tripodi, a postdoctoral scholar at Data & Society and assistant professor in sociology at James Madison University, the search results are a powerful tell of a phenomenon she set out to document. The “collusion delusion” results are seeking a conservative audience — which is exactly the demographic that would be more likely to search for the phrase in the first place. “No one in the mainstream media has said ‘collusion delusion,’” she said, “but that phrase has been used [by] Tucker Carlson.” Her study [Searching for Alternative Facts] was published in a Data & Society report last week…” [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.]

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