Popular Thinking in Political Campaigns

Waking From the Dream of Total Victory in the Contests for Public Truth

This essay first appeared in Civil American, Volume 3, Article 1 (January 19, 2018), https://www.philosophersinamerica.com/2018/01/19/waking-from-the-dream-of-total-victory/

Can academics support the democratic struggle not just to critique fake news, but also to engage the public in the stories that make those false facts appealing?

The Oxford English Dictionary named “Post-Truth” its Word of the Year for 2016.  The dictionary cites “appeals to emotion or personal belief,” which have gained more influence than “objective facts … in shaping public opinion.”  The sober scholars of the OED spotlighted this word not to glorify this way of thinking, but to call attention to a disturbing trend.  In 2005, Stephen Colbert had already identified “truthiness” as the posture of public figures who “feel the truth” even in the face of contrasting facts and reasons.  The particular items of recent history are new, such as the claim that Democrats have been managing a ring of pedophiles out of the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in Washington, DC, but fabricated news has always been the exaggerating cousin of political spin.  The multiplication of media outlets appealing to diverse clusters of people has made it particularly difficult to sort out corrupted truths from authentic stories.

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Popular Thinking in Political Campaigns

What We Can Learn from Fake News

FakeNewsAn earlier version of this article appeared in History News Network, July 23, 2017, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166400 , and in The Huffington Post, July 25, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-we-can-learn-from-fake-news_us_597764e7e4b0940189700cd0

False facts provide clues about the stories that make the fakery seem true.

Fake news has both producers and consumers.  Stories like the one about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump for president are eye catching, but fake news can really only generate much power when a lot of people believe it.  Without that, it is just so much sputtering, and can even backfire on the perpetrators by smearing them with a reputation for dishonesty or for being just plain crazy.  Continue reading

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Popular Thinking in Political Campaigns

Mining for professional experience and for various political answers

April 2005

On Saturday, March 19, I took a day trip to the nation’s Capital—actually I was only there an hour, and I never really left town. I testified at a Model Senate hearing, and for a few moments, it felt a little like being in Washington.

Stetson’s Model Senate was initially formed in 1970, and is still going strong today as the oldest collegiate-level model senate in the country. For more on Paul Croce’s experience there, click here!

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Popular Thinking in Political Campaigns

Why do we bother voting at all?

October 2003

The average citizen is receiving mixed messages when it comes to voting. One, a civic message, is clear: Voting is a special right in a free society; it is the citizen’s chance to have a voice about decisions made on us. Some even add, with patriotic fervor, that it is a public duty.

A more subtle and perhaps more powerful message is the one that whispers, “Why bother?” This is the message not of the civics textbooks, but of everyday life and of the politics-watching that, for many of us, is the limit of our political involvement.

What is so important about our civic duty? Read on here.  

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