Angus R. Burgin is an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, where his research and teaching explore problems at the intersection of ideas, politics, and markets in the United States and the Atlantic world since the late nineteenth century. His last book, The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression (2012), examines the transformation of market advocacy over the middle decades of the twentieth century. It received the OAH Merle Curti Award and the Joseph J. Spengler Prize from the History of Economics Society. He is currently writing a book on the language of technological revolution since the Second World War, including discussions of automation, entrepreneurship, globalization, cyberspace, and neoliberalism.
The presidency of Donald Trump provoked an enormous literature on a "crisis of truth" in American politics and public discourse. Some have attributed his success in disseminating lies to "postmodernism," and a declining faith in truth and objectivity; others have associated it with the fragmented media landscape fostered by the internet. This lecture provides a critical assessment of these narratives, arguing that they rely upon a nostalgia for earlier forms of the "public sphere" that few, upon scrutiny, would now find viable or desirable.