Chapter 5: Fake News and Alternative Facts – A Constructivist Critique of the Current Right-Wing Populist Will to Truth

Stefan Neubert, Kersten Reich


This chapter focuses on rhetorical strategies employed in right-wing populist discourses like the talk about “fake news” and “alternative facts” most prominently used in the Trump campaign and in the first year of his presidency. We discuss what is at stake in current politics regarding the relation between power and truth and propose some perspectives for critical reflection. First, we explore the concept of truth from a pragmatist and constructivist perspective. We argue that there is a fundamental and necessary distinction between relativism and arbitrariness. Second, we consider the role of facts and scientific results in culture and society and the role that markets play in the distribution and dissemination of information and beliefs in a consumer society. We refer to Foucault’s critical concept of the “will to truth” in order to argue that there are standards and procedures regarding facts and beliefs in modern society – e.g., practices that have shown their relative success in the hard and soft sciences – that must be defended against arbitrary assults by right-wing propaganda. We conclude by considering the necessary connection between a plurastic concept of truth and democratic politics in the face of the current right-wing attempts to establish a regime of truth that is fundamentally detrimental to democracy.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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