This Roundtable is organised in conjunction with the ECPR Research Network on Political Communication.
According to political observers the ‘truth’ has had a hard time in recent political developments. From Brexiteers proclaiming that they've had enough of experts, to fake news seemingly propagated by both ends of the political spectrum, to so-called 'alternative facts' proliferated by the Trump administration, many commentators propose that we now live in times of post-truth politics. Moreover, it appears that public scrutiny has shifted from politicians to traditional media, who face harsh resentment from enraged citizens, such as German Pegida-followers shouting Lügenpresse at German mainstream media.
Populists are increasingly gaining support; and mainstream politicians fear that the media contribute to the polarisation of politics and society. Social media in particular is accused of nourishing so-called echo chambers in which citizens are no longer exposed to diverse opinions or objective news.
On the other hand, investigative journalism in particular continues to have a highly respected position in society, and is still considered an authoritative voice, as, for instance, the considerable rise in subscriptions to the New York Times or the Washington Post in 2017 suggests. Moreover, democratic protests for press freedom in countries such as the US, Poland or Hungary offer evidence of societal resistance against the institutionalisation of post-truth politics.
With a view to the upcoming major elections around the world, in particular the 2018 midterm elections in the US, and the 2019 European parliamentary elections, these developments are thus of high societal and academic relevance. However, critics of the post-truth thesis warn not to overemphasise apparent effects on political behaviour and provide counter-evidence to the alleged trends by asking alternative questions such as:
Is fake news indeed a new and global phenomenon?
Are these worries mainly fuelled by the fear of economic survival by the (mainstream) media themselves?
And, are individual citizens indeed less likely to be exposed to diverse opinions and, respectively, more likely to be misinformed; or are individuals nowadays not more entrapped in so-called ‘filter bubbles’ than before?
These and many more questions will be addressed during this Roundtable, in which scholars of political communication and journalism discuss the latest developments with respect to post-truth politics, scrutinise its effects and analyse implications for future research.