The True History of Fake News

Decades before the internet, in an era now often dubbed a golden age of media, Joe McCarthy lied about his war record to get elected to the Senate and then, after a couple of years of incompetent irrelevance, found that lying about secret Communists in government gave him an even bigger platform.

Lecture Description

Contrary to contemporary anxieties about social media and norm-busting populists, there is nothing new about the problems posed by fake news and lying politicians. Adopting a long view of twentieth-century, and focusing particularly on the First and Second Red Scares as well as the history of White Supremacy, this lecture explores previous instances in which American media and politics were shaped by demagoguery. It then discusses what, if anything, is new about our current moment – arguing that the current crisis of fake news is best understood as a byproduct of deeper crises in the political economy of journalism and political institutions. It concludes by exploring the lessons that history can teach us about how to best navigate the contemporary crisis of faith in democracy.


Mass Communications Politics

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