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We live in a revolutionary age of communicative abundance. New information platforms, robust muckraking and cross-border publics are among the exciting trends of our time. Yet this seminar shows why the unfinished revolution is dogged by decadent counter-trends, including the drift towards what is called ‘post-truth’: the burying of ‘objective facts’ by an avalanche of ‘appeals to emotion and personal belief’ (OED). The critics of ‘post-truth’ have a point: government secrecy and lies, corporate spin, media silence, bullshit, ‘fake news’ and other forms of gaslighting are indeed gaining ground. But there are lingering doubts. How philosophically plausible are calls for recovering ‘truth’ in our public lives? Might they be the bearer of practical solutions that are just as bad, perhaps worse, than the problem they seek to overcome? Does truth-telling have its limits? Is the political project of bidding ‘farewell to truth’ really obsolete?
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
John Keane is co-founder of the Sydney Democracy Network (SDN) and Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB). His full-scale history of democracy, The Life and Death of Democracy (2009), was short-listed for the 2010 Non-Fiction Prime Minister’s Literary Award. His book Democracy and Media Decadence was published in 2013.