By Kregg Hetherington
The idea that we might be entering a “post-truth” era is a crisis for liberal democracies because it reveals the tenuousness of a proposition that many people in North America and Europe have taken for granted, at least since the end of the Cold War. For the sake of argument, I’ll call that proposition “truth politics.” It claims that the appropriate way of governing a population is with recourse to empirically verifiable facts. Part of the difficulty with understanding the Trump phenomenon, and its correlates in other Western democracies, is how suddenly it has revealed the positionality, and the fragility, of this proposition. The rabbit hole this opens is deep for believers in truth politics, since it undermines the very tools for thinking critically about politics at all. What we assumed to be the ethical standard governing the realm of political debate turns out to be part of the debate itself, one position among many others in a realm whose standards are suddenly up for question.
From the outside, however, the situation is less strange, and it’s therefore useful to think about places and times where truth politics is not taken-for-granted. Paraguay is one of those countries that staunchly refuses to conform basic liberal assumptions about truth in government. Continue reading “The End of Truth Politics in Paraguay”
By Pablo J. Boczkowski & Eugenia Mitchelstein
On January 25, just five days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon said “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while (…) The media here is the opposition party.” Three days later, President Trump tweeted “The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!”
These two episodes are consistent with the campaign communication strategy at the top of the Republican ticket and signal that neither President Donald Trump nor his staffers and loyalists plan to change course, at least during the early stages of his presidency. They thus raise the question: how might a confrontational stance between the government and the mainstream media affect the public’s perspective on their trust in politicians and the news? This post examines the practices, interpretations, and experiences of audiences to ascertain what could happen in a given certain set of circumstances—rather than laying out what should happen according to different ideals of public behavior. In this sense, our focus is different from, and complementary to, a normative approach.
Since there is no precedent of this level of confrontation in recent U.S. history, we will answer this question by drawing on our research in Argentina over the past decade to imagine possible scenarios based on some key findings. Although Argentina and the United States are different countries with diverging institutional histories, there are arguably some emerging similarities between the administrations of Presidents Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his spouse Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) in Argentina and the initial stages of Donald Trump’s presidency. In fact, Guillermo Moreno, Secretary of Commerce to both Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández, and one of the most powerful figures in both administrations, said in an interview that Donald Trump “is a Peronist (…) and is doing everything we did.” Continue reading “When the Media Become the Opposition”