Patriotic Journalism in Fake News Warfare: El País’ Coverage of the Catalan Process

Lluís Mas-Manchón, Frederic Guerrero-Solé, Xavier Ramon, Laura Grande


Patriotic journalism is a well-documented practice occurring during scenarios of international violent conflict or in response to national security threats. This article combines a framing analysis of patriotic journalism with a consideration of how fake news accusations operate as a floating signifier in political struggles. These approaches are applied to the Spanish newspaper El País’ coverage of the non-violent Catalan secessionist process towards independence. On this basis, three propositions are explained. Firstly, elite media may attempt to set the news agenda by positioning certain topics as national security threats. Secondly, elite media may apply strategic narrations to frame the Spain-Catalan issue as a conflict between two equal and homogenous parts by demonizing “them” and personalizing “us”. Thirdly, elite media can use fake news accusations to legitimize patriotic journalism practices by positioning the media outlet in question as a safeguard of truth and democracy. Exploring these propositions illuminate, first, the ultimate interests and strategies of news media groups applying a fake news accusation frame; and second, the alignment between the State and the information economy in times of conflict and crisis.

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