ARI-ELMERI HYVÖNEN – Careless Speech: Conceptualizing Post-Truth Politics

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Create Date9.10.2018

The notion of post-truth politics has been insufficiently conceptualized, leaving its empiri- cal viability questionable. As a response to this uncertainty, I seek to elaborate a concept of post-truth politics by comparing facts to public infrastructure, which I understand in an Arendtian fashion: as a condition that both limits and enables opinionated debate. I put for- ward an understanding of post-truth as a two-sided process brought about by mutually dependent structural factors contributing to the irrelevance of factual truths and a partic- ular political style labelled careless speech. I place post-truth in a historical context and seek to distinguish it, particularly, from Harry Frankfurt’s ‘bullshit’. Bullshit works within the mindset of carefully crafted advertisement-speak. Careless speech seeks to create confu- sion and bring democratic debate to a halt. I also explicate some key economic, cultural, and media-related factors that contribute to the emergence of post-truth politics. The third section discusses effective practices of conveying truth in the public sphere. I critically an- alyze fact-checking, (Foucauldian) fearless speech (parrhesia) and storytelling, contrasting them to ‘careless speech’, and emphasize the need to address political structures in addi- tion to more epistemologically-oriented solutions. I conclude with reflections on the eco- nomic-cultural background to factual infrastructure’s disrepair, and highlight some future lines of inquiry in IR and Political Science.

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