Aaron Andrews

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Gaines Hubbell

Committee Member

Joseph Conway

Committee Member

John Saunders


Freedom of speech., Conspiracy theories., Censorship., COVID-19 Pandemic 2020-, War of the worlds (Radio program)


In 1938, Orson Welles and his theatre group broadcasted an adaptation of War of the Worlds in the style of a breaking newsflash. The result produced a panic across America as millions believed they were under attack by an alien army. In 2020 during a global pandemic, millions of Americans turned to social media for news and updates, only to be the victims of conspiratorial posts that suggest the virus is part of a nefarious plot for world domination or to steal the Presidential election. In this thesis I will argue that the COVID-19 conspiracy theories share aspects of imagination, manipulation of authenticity, and I will demonstrate how each play on real epistemic ideas in order to create a false narrative. I will exhibit how these shared elements create a necessity for regulation of mass communication based on Benjamin Franklin’s own principles on free speech and censorship.



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