Democratic backsliding is understood in political science as state-led debilitation of democratic institutions, rules, and norms. Autocratic control of media constitutes a core mechanism in authoritarian regime consolidation. Mass communication theory nevertheless offers ways to conceptualize media complicity beyond serving as tools of intimidation and censorship. Autonomous and semi-autonomous media representations of politics impact the capacity for responsive governance, consent of the governed, and ultimately the security of democracy. Following a discussion on implications of backsliding for normative theory, we identify promising points of connection between backsliding theory and mass communication. We conclude with an overview of the contributions to this special issue, “Media and the Future of Democracy.”.
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