Technical University of Cluj-Napoca
North University Centre of Baia Mare, Romania
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT)
Invite you to take part in
The 4th International Conference of Cultural Studies
“Multiculturalism and the Need for Recognition”
with the theme:
“Fake news”, “alternative facts” and post-truth
20-23 June 2019
Call for communications
The present call for communications intends to encourage the participation of different researchers from different fields (linguistics, philology, discourse analysis, cultural studies, social work, sociology, philosophy, psychology, education, politics, etc.) to reflect upon the value of information in our globalised societies. When it comes to “fake news”, “alternative facts” and post-truth, we should first and foremost understand, analyze and ask questions about these means of mass communication, in what ways they contribute to the general confusion we are constantly facing. At the same time, we should see how and why they keep on spreading, what they are talking about, and who they are addressed to. As successful fictions, their goal can be ideological, political, technical, scientific or even community oriented. One should look at and analyze them critically, as well as develop a research direction to construct meaning and literacy.
Fake or inaccurate statements, junk news, and lies are used to misinform people through conventional mass media, digital platforms and social networks. Their huge number signifies an excessive amount of information which is sometimes ignored by some of our citizens (immune to it). Brocas and Marcineau (Brocas, A. and Marcineau A. (2018, november). Infox, mensonges et vidéos. La vérité est ailleurs. Les menteurs. p 30-33) underline the fact that at the beginning of Donald Trump’s mandate, the American press finally began to count the 2000 so-called fake news, 40 a week. However, that did not come as a surprise. Biased fake news, renewed and amplified, usually leads to a crisis of confidence towards politicians and institutions. Alternative facts reassure convictions , bring opponents into disrepute, question truthfulness and shock the individuals that notice fraud. The result of this is a lack of legitimacy in mass communication which develops into a complete lack of trust.
Are we naive to believe that truth means more than a simple opinion when we accept that advertisements might be presented as both acceptable and agreeable lies? Should we tolerate biased and hypocritical editorial decisions even though they are opposed to and denounced by some of our citizens? On the other hand, according to Venturini (Venturini, T. (2018). Sur l’étude des sujets populaires ou les confessions d’un spécialiste des fausses nouvelles. Dans Sauvageau F. et al (dir.), Les fausses nouvelles : nouveaux visages, nouveaux défis, p.23. Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval), the more denounced the news is, the faster it spreads and becomes viral, thus amplifying the problems of false public communication. So, should we rather talk about the “pollution” of public debate? The author mentioned above believes that virality, rather than falsity, should be the “signature of fake news”. Most people love to talk without reasoning as to whether the facts presented are “true” or “false”. Shall we thus take these simulacra of communication for granted, as “alternative facts”?
Nowadays, we are wondering whether the truthfulness or falsity of facts should be situated on a second position in relation to the very context people live in and which, nevertheless, has direct consequences on their feelings, hard feelings, emotions and experiences. Is this shaping of reality less pertinent than the difficulty of experiencing the everyday life in which all differences are exacerbated and the reference points have vanished? Does this confusion support and justify the right or left identity obsession which seems to prevail as traces of credibility? Is this a civic conscience crisis or the citizens’ desperate outcry in response to the uprooting of a world that is brutally transforming despite their will? Or, maybe both of them?
Thus, while being subjected to “fake news” and “alternative facts”, most of us have no alternative but to accept them. What logic would support the adherence to this type of public message, especially when this is obviously absurd or hilarious? What type of communicator chooses to insert this kind of message in the construction of his/her social vision thus deceiving all the other members of society, beyond any dignity or personal integrity? Why does one’s own ideological, political or scientific narrative have that cohesive vector which represents the answer to most of the citizens’ expectations and uneasiness? It is exactly our capacity to reflect and judge that is at stake here. Is this actually diminishing now? The creation of parallel truths founded on “fake news” and “alternative facts” casts a dim light on the truthfulness of facts and our democratic experience. In 2004, the American writer Ralph Keyes (According to the Oxford dictionary, cited by La Presse. http://www.lapresse.ca/international/201611/16/01-5041850-post-verite-le-mot-de-lannee-selon-le-dictionnaire-oxford.php) invented the term post-truth to describe a media related situation in which people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts. Can we thus speak of an alternative media system?
Does this type of communication apply to our naivety, our ignorance or our dreams about a world ready to address all our needs? We no longer check who says what and the legitimacy of the source. In addition to this, the overwhelming amount of information and escalating sources make this task a very difficult one. Ellul (Ellul, J. (1967). Histoire de la propagande. Paris : PUF) identifies the psychological need of the isolated, alone individual, lacking in resources, to get effects and repercussions in his/her own life. According to this author, this person lives immersed in the technological context of mass society, being trapped in a vicious circle: the more false satisfactions he is offered for his false needs, the more isolated, alone and resource-less he becomes, relying on the media to get those surrogates that comfort him.
But what are the causes of this world crisis of communication? How did we get to the present context of public communication?