What’s the Fuss about Post-Truth? Brian Martin

You can learn a lot by reading books about post-truth, but conclusive answers on several key issues remain elusive. In 2016, two events shocked many observers. The first was the passing of the Brexit referendum in Britain… [please read below the rest of the article].

Image credit: jef Safi via Flickr / Creative Commons

Article Citation:

Martin, Brian. 2019. “What’s the Fuss about Post-Truth?” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8 (10): 155-166. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-4Cw.

PDF logoThe PDF of the article gives specific page numbers.

Books Under Review:

Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World
James Ball
Biteback Publishing, 2018
320 pp.

Post-Truth
Lee McIntyre
MIT Press, 2018
240 pp.

Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back
Matthew d’Ancona
Ebury Press, 2017
2017 pp.

Post-Truth: Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do about It
Evan Davis
Little Brown, 2017
368 pp.

Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game
Steve Fuller
Anthem Press, 2018
218 pp.

You can learn a lot by reading books about post-truth, but conclusive answers on several key issues remain elusive.

In 2016, two events shocked many observers. The first was the passing of the Brexit referendum in Britain. Some opponents of Brexit thought the decision to leave the European Union was irrational and must have been aided by false claims. The second event was the rise of Donald Trump: his nomination as Republican candidate and then his election as president. Supporting someone who showed such a disregard for facts and logic seemed inexplicable, at least to many who opposed Trump.

In this context, the term “post-truth” suddenly became much more prominent. Oxford Dictionaries dubbed it 2016’s word of the year, providing this definition: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Brexit, Trump and post-truth provided the stimulus for an outpouring of commentary, including many books. I learned about this topic by reading a book titled Post-Truth. Then I came across others with the same title. After five books, it was time to take stock.

Here I provide summaries of these books and then comment on some of the themes they address. Though there are many more treatments of this topic, examining five book-length serious studies promises to highlight important issues as well as reveal significant disagreements and differences in perspective. Many terms in this discussion—notably post-truth, truth, facts and fake news—are contested concepts. I use them without quotes with this understanding.

Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World, James Ball

Ball is a journalist at Buzzfeed UK. He previously worked for WikiLeaks and the Guardian, and has written for the New European, Washington Post and other outlets. He has considerable experience dealing with major leaks, including that of Edward Snowden.

In his treatment of post-truth, Ball describes many processes by which “bullshit” has infiltrated discourse. Bullshit, for Ball, refers to claims that are neither right nor wrong but instead just indifferent to the truth. The danger from the proliferation of bullshit is that audiences become more suspicious of claims and end up distrusting all sources of information.

Ball provides a specific definition of “fake news”: stories fabricated to serve a purpose. Among the top fake news stories in 2016 were “Trump offering free one-way tickets to Africa & Mexico for those who wanna leave America” and “Police find 19 white female bodies in freezers with ‘Black Lives Matter’ carved into skin.”

Ball tells about teenagers in the town of Veles, Macedonia, who, lacking decent jobs, found a way to make money. They set up websites with banner ads that generated a small fraction of a cent per click. They made up outrageous news stories, aiming to appeal to audiences, attracting them to their sites.

Ball, in addressing the problem of bullshit, looks beyond fake news to a range of players. He begins with the role of politicians, focusing on Trump and Boris Johnson (before he became British prime minister), illustrating the techniques of spin and distraction that they have used to stimulate news stories serving their interests. Ball then turns to old media: newspapers, radio and television. Economic pressures, especially the rise of new and social media, have squeezed the traditional media, so they have less time and incentive to check stories. Some, like the Daily Mail, with the world’s largest online presence, run numerous stories of scandal and titillation with little attempt at ensuring accuracy, because there is more money from additional website hits.

Next are the new media, including websites like the Huffington Post and Breitbart in the US and The Canary in the UK. Most of them make their money from advertising and have little incentive to screen out popular stories of dubious provenance. In this context, Ball tells about the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, who has made a career as a provocateur, perhaps equally described as a bullshit artist.

Fake media, as described above, pay no attention to truth. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are key parts of the ecology of bullshit, propagating stories that resonate with users. Ball cites a finding that a considerable proportion of people who retweet a story do not read it beforehand.

Finally, Ball identifies audiences, aka consumers of the media, as key players in enabling bullshit. When people eagerly click on dodgy stories, they reward the originators and propagators of bullshit. Ball tells of an online news outlet set up to provide what people, when surveyed, said they wanted: quality news. The outlet soon failed: what people did was different from what they said they wanted.

Ball canvasses a few solutions. He discusses fact-checking, noting its value and its limitations: a lot of bullshit is a mixture of true and false claims, making it hard to check. Ball finishes his book with sensible suggestions for politicians, news media and consumers on reducing bullshit. Will they be listening?

Post-Truth, Lee McIntyre

McIntyre is a trained philosopher, affiliated with Boston University and Harvard University. He aims to write about philosophical matters for a general audience.

McIntyre’s short treatment is simply titled Post-truth. He covers psychological mechanisms, in particular forms of cognitive bias, that enable undermining of truth. He looks at changes in the media landscape, including social media and fake news, that foster emotional responses to information. He makes an argument that postmodernism is responsible for right-wing uptake of challenges to scientific truths.

McIntyre uses Trump to illustrate departures from truth-telling, plus many other examples, such as Newt Gingrich rejecting facts about crime. Another key illustration is climate science.

McIntyre refers to “science denial,” seemingly assuming that rejecting certain scientific findings is a “denial” of science as an enterprise or as a body of knowledge. He only examines cases in which groups with vested interests support challenges to orthodoxy—climate science scepticism is the prime example—and not those in which groups with vested interests support scientific orthodoxy. The result is a one-sided treatment: McIntyre ends up being an uncritical supporter of orthodoxy. He is keen on having truth as a foundation for belief, but does not address perversions of the scientific process.

Strangely, for McIntyre the meaning of post-truth seems to vary. He opens with the Oxford definition. In the preface, McIntyre writes, “Thus what is striking about the idea of post-truth is not just that truth is being challenged, but that it is being challenged as a mechanism for asserting political dominance” (xiv), which is not quite the same as saying facts are subordinate to emotions.

Later, he writes, “Rather, what seems new in the post-truth era is a challenge not just to the idea of knowing reality but to the existence of reality itself. … But when our leaders—or a plurality of our society—are in denial over basic facts, the consequences can be world shattering” (10). Seemingly, for McIntyre, rejecting “basic facts” is the same as denying the existence of reality. Soon after, he writes, “If one looks at the Oxford definition, and how all of this has played out in recent public debate, one gets the sense that post-truth is not so much a claim that truth does not exist as that facts are subordinate to our political point of view” (11).

After describing challenges to scientific orthodoxy, McIntyre writes “… the notion of truth itself has now been thrown into question” (27). He seems to equate questioning scientific orthodoxy with questioning truth “itself.”

In discussing the media, McIntyre presents the idea of “false balance,” in which two sides of a scientific controversy are covered even though one side is not credible. In his discussion, he treats scientific controversies as being only about science, as if scientific findings translate automatically into policy on climate or vaccination.

Chapter 6 is titled “Did postmodernism lead to post-truth?” McIntyre’s answer is yes, saying it is the godfather of post-truth. He says that one of the theses of postmodernism is that any claim to truth is an expression of power. He says postmodernism must accept some responsibility for undermining belief in the role of facts, and for the damage this causes. However, McIntyre makes no attempt to explore other explanations for post-truth, including that the same processes that led to postmodernism led to a decline in concern for officially certified facts. He refers to Alan Sokal’s submission of a spoof article to a cultural studies journal. Its acceptance was widely interpreted as showing the absurdities of postmodernist analyses of science. McIntyre says the Sokal hoax publicised postmodern ideas, which were then taken up by the alt-right. The implication, apparently, is to be careful about what you try to debunk.

Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back, Matthew d’Ancona

D’Ancona is a British journalist. He was deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph and later editor of The Spectator. He has been a columnist for the Guardian, GQ, International New York Times and the London Evening Standard.

D’Ancona is hostile to post-truth, seeing the problem as mainly in politics, with a disregard for truth as shown by Brexit and Trump’s election. He says Brexit and Trump “reflected a new and alarming collapse in the power of truth as an engine of electoral conduct” (10), though without making comparisons with earlier electoral campaigns.

He addresses the collapse of truth in institutions, the misinformation industry and fake news. D’Ancona says the old system of authorities is being replaced by networks connected by social media. He takes aim at conspiracy theories, seeing them as necessarily wrong: “In a world of relentless change and disruption, who is to say that the consolations of the conspiracist will be defeated by the cool rigours of truth” (87)? He also castigates “scientific denial,” assuming that disagreement with scientific orthodoxy is a rejection of truth.

Throughout the book, post-truth seems to have different meanings. Sometimes the Oxford definition seems relevant, with emotions prevailing over facts. Other times post-truth is taken to be the belief that all claims have equal validity, or that the problem is lying. For example, “When healthy pluralism is supplanted by unhealthy relativism, the cultural assumption is that all opinions are equally valid” (84).

Like McIntyre, D’Ancona traces the rise of post-truth to postmodernism: “And if everything is a ‘social construct’, then who is to say what is false” (92)? He says that when postmodernism came out of the academy, it became a mood rather than a coherent viewpoint.

The lengthy final chapter, titled “‘The stench of lies’: strategies to defeat post-truth,” contains many pious statements and quotes from prominent figures (Martin Luther King, Churchill, Lincoln) but not much in the way of an actual strategy. He says primary school students should be taught how to assess claims and that charismatic defenders of orthodoxy are needed to counter celebrity critics of vaccination. “More than ever, truth requires an emotional delivery system that speaks to experience, memory and hope” (130).

This strategy seems to have some affinity with post-truth. It seems that when people are wrong (e.g. vote for Trump or Brexit), emotion has triumphed over fact, whereas when people are right (they know the truth), it’s fine to use emotion to promote their ideas. Whether to question or support orthodoxy makes the difference.

Post-Truth: Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do about It, Evan Davis

Davis is a British broadcast journalist. He has spent many years working for the BBC, including being economics editor, a presenter for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and the main presenter for BBC2’s Newsnight.

Davis defines bullshit as “any form of communication—verbal or non-verbal—that is not the clearest or most succinct statement of the sincere and reasonably held beliefs of the communicator” (xx). This includes lying, deception, padding, waffle and gibberish. His book is an excellent treatment of the factors involved in bullshit, exploring motivations and incentives for it and ways of limiting it. He is especially good in analysing what is communicated in false statements, and in giving sensible reasons for using bullshit. Davis says the post-truth era is not all that different than what went before.

Davis encounters liberals who assume the only way people would vote for Brexit or Trump is by being hoodwinked. They are so convinced their views are correct or superior that they seek to explain why others don’t agree by invoking lying. He suggests that their worries about lies are hard to distinguish from their worries about the alleged liars and their political successes. Davis doesn’t see Brexit and Trump as necessarily reflecting on those who voted for them, noting that voters can often see through bullshit but nonetheless support positions that reflect their values.

Davis says spin is seldom just about the facts, namely about truth or falsity, but rather about the way facts are deployed. He canvasses various types of bullshit. For example, the media can give exaggerated importance to some facts, which is “bullshit through disproportion.” He describes three types of “guff”: empty assertions, obfuscation (by irrelevant facts) and gibberish (little meaning at all). He tells about phoney signals, which are imitation actions intended to be treated as real actions, for example laws passed that have no effect except to give the appearance of action.

Davis gives many examples of how messages can be conveyed even though no information is provided. For example, glossy advertising sends a message that companies are willing to spend up with the presumption that consumers will return. (If a product is known to be poor, consumers won’t return anyway, so expensive ads are pointless.) People have an incentive to attend university even if they learn nothing, because a degree sends a message about cleverness.

Plain speaking is not always desirable. Language can express more than the words: there are values embedded in word choices. For example, politically correct language sends a signal about being associated with a progressive attitude. But when people use non-PC language, Davis says if they are not trying to send a message, they shouldn’t be condemned. The attitude underlying the language is the key.

Davis says it’s easy to treat supporters of populist politicians as gullible, but more important is the use of language to signal tribal allegiance. If Trump is thinking in your way, that’s more important than factual details. Bullshit gives information about the group or category to which communicators see themselves belonging. Trump’s rhetoric signals sentiment, not facts.

The rise of identity politics leads to more bullshit, as politicians seek to show their allegiances and their respect for identities. Davis says that rather than debunking the bullshit, it is more useful to search for the sources of tribalism. In other words, rather than saying people are gullible, it’s necessary to explain why they believe certain things. Why did, for example, people believe Brexiteer cost figures rather than Remainer denials of the figures? Rather than countering false claims or questioning the intelligence of followers, Davis says it is better is to make a connection and show respect to others—the same thing that opportunist politicians do.

Davis addresses four sources of bullshit: hidden messages, human psychological weaknesses, short-termism and culture/norms. In relation to short-termism, politicians can’t get elected by taking the long view; by taking the short-term view, they are elected but foster public cynicism, and this perpetuates politician behaviour.

Davis refers to the Lombard effect: when there’s background noise, people speak louder. The same sort of effect occurs in public discourse: people want most of all to be heard, leading to noisier debates in which no one listens. For example, media releases about scientific findings are often exaggerated, leading to news stories with similar exaggerations. Exaggeration is seen as necessary to obtain coverage. The Lombard effect can be countered by installing sound-absorbing materials. Similarly, in public discourse, the implication is to argue more softly and show empathy for views of others.

I enjoyed Davis’s careful analysis of bullshit. His approach is one of fostering understanding rather than condemnation.

Post-Truth: Knowledge As a Power Game, Steve Fuller

Fuller founded the journal Social Epistemology and, as you might expect, provides a distinctive approach, quite different from the other post-truth books considered here. Fuller’s Post-truth is a high-theory tour of Western thought, drawing on a range of thinkers: Plato, Socrates, Pareto, Herman Kahn, Popper, Kuhn, Weber, and many others.

Fuller sees post-truth as a constant feature of struggles over both knowledge and politics. Post-truth for Fuller means questioning the assumptions underlying the discussion. As Fuller puts it, “My own way of dividing the ‘truthers’ and the ‘post-truthers’ is in terms of whether one plays by the rules of the current knowledge game, or one tries to change the rules of the game to one’s advantage” (53).

One of his key ideas is “modal power,” which is the power over the terms of debate or, in other words, over what it’s possible to think or say. Epistemologically, post-truth refers to a refusal to accept dominant knowledge-game rules. Claims are up for grabs, and so are the foundations for making claims. Many commentators see this as dangerous, citing Brexit and Trump, but Fuller sees the positive side: a more participatory engagement with knowledge. He dismissively refers to claims based on expert status as “rent-seeking.”

Rather than deferring to authorities, in the post-truth world non-experts assert their role in public discussions. This is a type of democratisation of knowledge politics. Fuller uses the term “protscience,” referring to people developing their own understandings of science.

The very concept of post-truth is part of the post-truth game: it asserts the dominance of the traditional set of rules. Controlling the rules is the goal of those who decry challenges to authorities.

The book is argued around a contrast between the lion and the fox. “The lions treat the status quo’s understanding of the past as a reliable basis for moving into the future, whereas the foxes regard the status quo as possessing a corrupt understanding of the past that inhibits movement into a still better future” (2). The lion represents the epistemological experts; the fox represents a questioning of orthodoxy, pointing to its biases.

Fuller argues that philosophy has engaged with post-truth throughout its history. However, academia, being broken into disciplines, is ill-suited for post-truth inquiry, because existing assumptions about knowledge systems are accepted. He criticises science studies for retreating from its early engagement with post-truth analysis. Fuller says the military-industrial complex, with its “will to knowledge,” is better placed to open up new areas for investigation.

General Comments

For years, indeed decades, I have been reading about the processes of persuasion (Cialdini1984) and propaganda, biases in media coverage (Bennett1996; Borjesson 2002; Davies 2008) and weaknesses in human perception and cognition (Kahneman 2011). Reading these books on post-truth gave me an added appreciation about the issues involved in the current information environment.

Numerous individuals and groups use information as a tool to advance their agendas. Those who are most successful at this have increasingly targeted weak points in the chains between sources and recipients of information. Advertisers, politicians, campaigners and advocacy groups take advantage of the squeeze on the mass media, which makes it harder for journalists to check claims and provide context. They take advantage of the openings provided by social media, in particular the incentives of advertisement-based platforms. They take advantage of people’s automatic ways of processing information without careful and conscious analysis.

Those with more money and power are better placed to promote their interests in these ways. Others join in too, such as the Macedonian teenagers who made money by creating false stories.

Collectively, the post-truth books provide a diversity of views about some crucial issues. One disagreement is about whether today’s information environment, especially the degradation of a commitment to truth, is anything new. Some authors say yes, others no. Having studied some historical episodes and read some classic works in the area, my preliminary conclusion would be that information manipulations are long-standing, but new technologies and platforms have somewhat changed the opportunities for these manipulations.

Vance Packard (1957) exposed attempts to covertly influence consumers in his classic book The Hidden Persuaders. Going back further, the first newspapers were filled with what we would now call fake news (Wu 2016). It is also salutary to study the rise of propaganda, which can be traced to British government efforts to mould public opinion during World War I, efforts from which the Nazis took lessons a couple of decades later.

Many early efforts at opinion management were based on trial and error. With the development of empirical psychological research, the efforts of opinion manipulators can be based on research. If anything is new today, it is the more systematic use of research findings to improve efforts to understand (and persuade) audiences (Stephens-Davidowitz 2017). Facebook and Google are doing this regularly, with no requirement for research ethics review and no obligation to publish their findings or even the existence of the research.

  Ball McIntyre d’Ancona Davis Fuller
Sex Male Male Male Male Male
Occupation journalist scholar journalist journalist scholar
Location UK US UK UK UK
Brexit extensive discussion mentioned extensive discussion extensive discussion extensive discussion
Trump extensive discussion extensive discussion extensive discussion extensive discussion mentioned
Postmodernism not mentioned responsible for post-truth responsible for post-truth not mentioned not mentioned

Table 1. Comparison of Post-Truth Authors’ Stands

The authors differ concerning the origins and significance of a post-truth era. McIntyre and D’Ancona assign some responsibility to postmodernism; it may be relevant that they are also very concerned about challenges to authority. Ball does not mention postmodernism, instead identifying changes in the media and technology as key factors. Davis and Fuller do not see the contemporary scene as fundamentally different from earlier ones.

A central theme in most discussions of post-truth is that people are making irrational decisions. Indeed, the Oxford definition identifies the primacy of emotion over logic as the essence of post-truth. No doubt most people make many decisions influenced more by emotion than by facts and logic.

In some sober post-truth discussions, there is an assumption that the quality or rationality of a person’s thinking can be judged by their views. Specifically, if you disagree with orthodoxy, it must mean your thinking is flawed.

This is most obvious in discussions of Brexit and Trump. Several authors seem to assume that voting for either is irrational, given that they spend many pages discussing the lies of the Brexiteers and even more pages discussing Trump’s casual attitude towards facts. Are writers who deplore Brexit and Trump letting their views about the correct decision influence their analyses? They spend far less, if any, time analysing the lies of Remainers and the spin in Clinton’s campaign. Even more revealingly, they do not give voters much credit for being able to see through campaigning spin.

It is quite possible for voters to recognise or ignore campaign attempts to manipulate opinions, and yet still vote for Brexit or Trump. As Davis notes, Trump, through his lies and exaggerations and bullshit, signalled his values, and many voters might have voted on the basis of those values even while recognising Trump’s mendacity.

The same assumption that rationality can be judged by conclusions is shown in comments about two scientific issues: climate change and vaccination. Those who are labelled “climate denialists” or “anti-vaxxers” are assumed to be swayed by emotion or vested interests, because any rational person would accept the science of climate change and vaccination. The implication is that disagreeing with scientific orthodoxy is a sign of poor thinking.

The conflation of poor thinking with questioning scientific orthodoxy is made possible by dichotomising choices and ignoring the role of values. The choice is presented as either accept climate science or reject it, and as either support vaccination science or reject it. Yet any close examination of these issues reveals a range of complications.

It is possible to believe that global warming is occurring yet argue that human activity plays only a minor role. Or that anthropogenic global warming is occurring but rapidly cutting greenhouse gas emissions is not the best way of responding. Or that anthropogenic global warming may or may be occurring but there are independent reasons for supporting a rapid shift away from fossil fuels to renewables. It is possible to believe that global warming is probably not occurring, but nevertheless there is a small chance that it is, and it makes sense to take drastic measures to avoid a future catastrophe. These sorts of beliefs can be the outcome of a careful reasoning process, but they are invisible in the usual assumption that climate denialism is irrational.

The same applies to vaccination. It is possible to believe that most vaccines are beneficial to most people, yet it is wise to space out vaccinations, or to avoid a few of them. Or that most vaccines are beneficial to most people, yet to oppose vaccination requirements to attend school. Or that many vaccines are unnecessary but coercive measures to promote vaccination are warranted to ensure that the most contagious vaccine-preventable diseases are controlled. As with climate change, these sorts of beliefs can be the outcome of a careful reasoning process but are invisible to commentators who see only pro-vax or anti-vax.

The assumption that supporting Brexit or Trump, or questioning scientific orthodoxy on climate change or vaccination, is based on emotion rather than rationality, suggests that the alarm about post-truth is due to allegiance to authorities, whether this be traditional political elites, the quality mass media or the scientific establishment.

Ignoring or questioning the views of experts is far from new. For decades, at least in the US, politicians have promoted policies with little regard for the views of significant numbers of experts, and much of the public has followed along. Examples include crime (Christie 1994), drugs (Dhywood 2011) and terrorism (Herman 1982), each of which has involved a so-called war.

Should we really be worried if the proliferation of bullshit makes people distrust all sources of information? Perhaps so if distrust means uniform outright rejection, but informed scepticism, with careful checking of sources, seems healthier than automatic trust. Furthermore, although trust in institutions is declining, arguably it is being replaced by distributed trust, namely trust maintained in networks (Botsman 2017).

What to Do?

Most of the authors give advice on what to do about lies, fake news, bullshit and other features attributed to the post-truth era. Who will be listening?

Few politicians are likely to read careful studies of post-truth and then change their personal styles. Indeed, given the analysis of the incentives for producing bullshit, it seems implausible that rational analysis can make much of a difference.

Journalists and editors are another prime target for advice. Davis, for example, advises media to keep doing what they’ve always been doing, and not take exceptional measures in the face of bullshit. Given that Ball, d’Ancona and Davis are journalists themselves, maybe their recommendations will have some weight among their colleagues. Even so, the pressures on the mass media, so well described in these post-truth books, show no sign of slackening.

Then there are consumers of information. Will they, or rather we, be listening? The authors’ discussions of fake news, spin, cognitive shortcomings and the media landscape are informative. Following the advice given by Ball, McIntyre, d’Ancona or Davis will lead information consumers to be much more wary about whatever information comes their way and more reluctant to quickly share it with others. However, the readership of these and other accounts of bullshit, fake news and so forth is likely to be relatively small. Indeed, the readers most interested in these books are likely to be already attuned to the problems. Even to read an entire book is not that common these days, compared to relying on news bites and social media feeds.

Perhaps there is hope, though, in segments of the population that have a stake in careful thinking. This includes some parts of the scholarly world and some social movements. For example, the climate movement has a strong incentive to challenge the spin of governments and companies with interests in continuing greenhouse gas emissions. Some in the movement are prone to their own exaggerations and dogmatism, but because most citizen campaigners are operating altruistically—they are volunteers acting in the interests of future generations—they have less incentive to spin their way to social change.

A final word, from Davis, who says most bullshit comes from friendly sources: “The act of consenting to someone else’s beliefs, and have them consent to ours, is satisfying; and because it is so, it stops us questioning the nonsense that others post” (280). Be aware and beware.

Acknowledgements
Kurtis Hagen and Sergio Sismondo provided many valuable comments on drafts.

Contact details: Brian Martin, University of Wollongong, bmartin@uow.edu.au

References

Ball, James. 2017. Post-truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World. London: Biteback Publishing.

Bennett, W. Lance. 1996. News: The Politics of Illusion, 3rd edition. New York: Longman.

Borjesson, Kristina, ed. 2002. Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of the Free Press. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Botsman, Rachel. 2017. Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together—and Why It Could Drive Us Apart. London: Penguin.

Christie, Nils. 1994. Crime Control as Industry: Towards Gulags, Western Style. London: Routledge.

Cialdini, Robert B. 1984. Influence: How and Why People Agree to Things, New York, Morrow.

d’Ancona, Matthew. 2017. Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back. London: Ebury Press.

Davies, Nick. 2008. Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. London: Chatto & Windus.

Davis, Evan. 2017 Post-Truth: Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do about It. UK: Little, Brown.

Dhywood, Jeffrey. 2011. World War-D: The Case against Prohibitionism. A Roadmap to Controlled Re-legalization. US: Columbia Communications.

Fuller, Steve. 2018. Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game. London: Anthem.

Herman, Edward S. 1982. The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda. Boston: South End Press.

Kahneman, Daniel. 2011.Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

McIntyre, Lee. 2018. Post-Truth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Packard, Vance. 1957. The Hidden Persuaders. New York: David McKay.

Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. 2017. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are. New York: HarperCollins.

Wu, Tim. 2016. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads. New York: Knopf.



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1 reply

  1. A couple of small points:

    First, I do discuss ‘postmodernism’ intermittently in the Post-Truth book, though it’s true I don’t assign it an overriding role in the emergence of the post-truth condition.

    Second, given the observation that all the post-truth books seem to be written by men, in fact there is book by a woman on post-truth that has already received a lot of attention in Sweden and will soon be coming out in English. Its author is Professor in Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Stockholm: Asa Wikforss. You can find more about her here: https://iai.tv/articles/asa-wikforss-why-do-we-resist-knowledge-auid-1245. She’s a formidable debater!

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