Truth and Democracy: Journalism, Politics, Social Science

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Greg NIELSEN, Concordia, Canada
Journalism (real and fake) and the fate of democracy (its truths and post-truths) has become a hot topic around the world. A veritable political and media storm has social critics and pundits perplexed as to how to explain many of today’s events. The storm has spread out from the unexpected results of the American presidential elections along with the return of right wing populism, islamophobia, white supremacy, and the subsequent series of attacks on immigrants, DACA, LGBTI, and many other vulnerable communities. It comes with a return of ethnic nationalism and the Brexit referendum, a new Cold War, and the globally publicized impeachment (“constitutional coup”) of the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff just as much of South America is sliding into the breech. These examples are not simply explained as a shift toward some new authoritarianism, but in many instances the fabulous denial of social facts journalists, politicians and social scientists are expected to trust in order to produce democracy.

This paper seeks to update Bourdieu’s insights into the intersecting fields of journalism, politics, and social science in this new context. In many ways, for example, the political and media storm around the world has occurred because the strengths in these fields have given way to their weaknesses. Many believe the political field is weakened to the point of absurdity (endless spin) and that journalism’s professional culture (as gatekeeper) of values of accuracy, reliability, autonomy, and truth are simply a cover for the interests of the most well off. The social science ``thinkers` have not been able to dam the storm surge either perhaps because of their own long divisive debate over the relations between knowledge, truth and power. Are these the failures of multiple fields? Systems? Or the crisis in one planetary mode of production?