Archive | Vol. 11/2018 | No. 2
Krasmann, Susanne; Hentschel, Christine [Publishing editor]
"Truth is where the funny lies" : on the desire for truth in serious times
Hentschel, Christine; Krasmann, Susanne
What can contemporary satire tell us about the desire for truth and the po- litical as well as the mechanisms of sense-making in a “post-truth” era? In this introduction to the special issue on the “desire for truth and the politi- cal” we sketch a number of features of an emerging and fragile regime of truth. We argue that the crumbling certainty over truth’s role in democratic politics has brought about the rise of a range of agencies, devices, and ethics that aim to restore the power of truth in different ways. While fact checking, moralizing, or calls to reason mark such a desire for truth in standard politi- cal communication, we explore political satire as a more vivid approach to the relationship between truth and the political, one that works by mobiliz- ing a range of affective and imaginative registers. Focusing on segments of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that satirize President Trump, we see the damaged truth-democracy-arrangement unpacked in its funniest, most outrageous, and serious articulation.
The problem of post-truth : rethinking the relationship between truth and politics
‘Post-truth’ is a failed concept, both epistemically and politically because its simplification of the relationship between truth and politics cripples our understanding and encourages authoritarianism. This makes the diagnosis of our ‘post-truth era’ as dangerous to democratic politics as relativism with its premature disregard for truth. In order to take the step beyond relativ- ism and ‘post-truth’, we must conceptualise the relationship between truth and politics differently by starting from a ‘non-sovereign’ understanding of truth.
The cautionary use of fakes
In recent years, academic fakes have routinely been planted in order to discredit academic genres and subdisciplines. In line with Richard Rorty’s late pragmatist attempt to identify ‘cautionary’ and ‘metalinguistic’ uses of the truth predicate, I suggest we ascribe such fakes a ‘cautionary’ function, thereby explaining and partly defusing them. The predicate ‘is true’ high- lights both the justification-transcendence of truths as well as their relativ- ity to a specific language or vocabulary. While the cautionary use of ‘true’ re- minds us of possible errors, the cautionary use of fakes reminds us that we may have invested in a problematic vocabulary. Academic fakes point out a lack of critical self-correcting procedures in academic vocabularies, yet at the same time can obstruct their innovative potential at too early a stage. Fakes highlight the fact that academic discourse is not just an industry that produces truths (or falsehoods), but should also be seen as an endeavour to generate new truth value candidates.
The rationality of post-truth thinking
Can post-truth thinking be rational? In order to answer that question I develop, in the first part of this article, a non-pejorative understanding of post-truth thinking, namely as the systematic underestimation of the epis- temic value of the expert discourse as compared to one’s individual delib- eration in relation to politicized factual issues in an environment without secure epistemic rules. Everyone significantly underestimates how more re- liable academic discourse, say, is compared to individual epistemic means. In post-truth thinking this underestimation concerns questions the answers to which allow for predictions about political affiliation. In answering such questions—about the truth of the theory of evolution, say—almost everyone has to draw on the testimony of others one regards as being trustworthy. Oftentimes one finds these trustworthy people in his or her social media filter bubbles. Post-truth thinking happens when one has to inform oneself in social or alternative media for which we currently lack safe epistemic rules of thumb or heuristics. “Post-truth thinking” seems to imply indif- ference about truth or rationality. Against this assumption I argue, in the second part, that post-truth thinking can be regarded as being rational, at least in the sense of “bounded rationality”. After all, everyone has to rely on the testimony of others in almost all fields of knowledge. In non-ideal cir- cumstances, which are characteristic for post-truth thinking, it is rational, in navigating social and alternative media, to follow epistemic rules well- established in other domains. These rules often speak for believing what emerges in one’s filter bubble.
Affekte der Wahrheit : über autoritäre Sensitivitäten von der Aufklärung bis zu 4Chan, Trump und der Alt-Right / Mühlhoff, Rainer [Autor:in] – 2018
Based on a theory of affectivity and subjectivity, this article analyzes differ- ent affective sensitivities behind authoritarian styles of politics. Following the late work of Michel Foucault, I formulate a concept of political subjec- tivity that describes the emergence of (new) forms of political articulation as a result of an interplay of individual affective sensitivities and media- technical structures of public communication. To illustrate the theoretical points, the article starts from a brief outline of affective subjectivation in the context of the discourse ethics of (German) Enlightenment. Then I will discuss the emergence of political subjectivities in the context of the elec- tion of Donald Trump as the 45th US President in 2016. As I will argue, the current rise of right-wing populism and the Alt-Right movement shows a political impulse aimed at disturbing and destroying the established politi- cal apparatus. This can be theorized as a form of authoritarian mobilization based on the activation of a cynical and destructive authoritarian sensitiv- ity. While this sensitivity must be distinguished from a civic and indignant form of authoritarian sensitivity, both forms resonated in a symbiotic af- fective interplay that emerged out of a complex strategy of media guerilla around the election of Donald Trump.
Forms of veridiction in politics and culture : avowal in today’s jargon of authenticity
The forms of political populism that are flourishing around the world, in extreme right-wing versions, but also in left-wing versions, are often dis- missed as ignorance, fake news, and demagoguery. However, those analy- ses often focus only on the content of the claims made by populist lead- ers rather than on the forms of ‘veridiction’ and the ethical practices and forms that constitute ‘populism’. In this article some theoretical tools bor- rowed from Foucault’s diverse work on ‘veridiction’ and truth-telling, and also from Adorno’s 1960s critique of existentialism, are deployed to try to understand the forms and techniques that constitute populist leaders as ‘authentic’ and thus as close to the people and as not contaminated by dis- credited institutions. Authenticity is created through very specific forms of truth-telling, as is shown with the example of the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford—in analysis with broader implications.
Information as truth : cybernetics and the birth of the informed subject
What is the specific subjectivity of the computer age? Donna Haraway and Katherine Hayles suggested that the spread of computers and the post World War II discourses of cybernetics and information theory enabled us to construe subjects as cyborgs or posthumans. This paper offers another perspective that regards subjectivity in relation to the central conceptual innovation cybernetics introduced—information. Cybernetics and informa- tion theory first of all enabled a new understanding of humans as informed subjects—subjects, for whom the feedback of information is a specific way to manifest truth. By help of Michel Foucault I will conceptualise subjectiv- ity and its relation to information as a specific regime of truth. This regime presently gains enormous momentum as is evident by practices such as self- tracking but also the growing importance of information or data in general.
Ute Tellmann: Life and money : the genealogy of the liberal economy and the displacement of politics, New York: Columbia University Press 2017 / Folkers, Andreas [Autor:in] – 2018
Rainer Mühlhoff: Immersive Macht : Affekttheorie nach Spinoza und Foucault, Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag 2018 / Fink, Felix [Autor:in] – 2018
Kasten Schubert: Freiheit als Kritik : Sozialphilosophie nach Foucault, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag 2018 / Ruhnau, Janina [Autor:in] – 2018