Manufacturing Islamophobia: Rightwing Pseudo-Documentaries and the Paranoid Style

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Rightwing organizations in the United States have produced and circulated a number of videos which exaggerate the threat Islamic militants pose to ordinary citizens in the West. These videos owe a great deal to the frames established two decades earlier in religious right campaigns against homosexuality. This article provides a textual analysis of these videos and their production, showing how they manifest "heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy," which Richard Hofstadter characterized as the "paranoid style." We term these films "pseudo-documentaries" because while they utilize some of the conventions of the documentary genre - claims to "fairness and accuracy," the use of "experts," and the incorporation of news footage, testimonies, and "facts" - they are produced by political interest groups and are expressly made to persuade and mobilize through distortion. A comparison of homophobic and Islamophobic videos reveals continuities in rightwing rhetoric, as well as strategic shifts, and indicates the emergence of an increasingly fragmented, pluralized, and privatized political sphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-396
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Communication Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • documentary film
  • ideology
  • knowledge production
  • racism
  • stereotype


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