Exploring the Threat of Fake News: Facts, Opinions, and Judgement

Ilan Zvi Baron*, Piki Ish-Shalom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores how fake news, variously described as misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, and post-truth threatens our pluralistic democratic life. We ask, how does fake news function in constructing a world of meaning that destabilises the conditions under which we are able to render valid political judgements in democratic life? Using the 1992 R v Zundel Supreme Court Case from Canada to explore the free speech question, and Hannah Arendt’s distinction between fact and opinion, we argue that fake news uses the malleability of language to displace fact with opinion. This displacement threatens democracy in two ways. First, fake news functions by deploying language in such a way that it is built on refuting its own ability to produce factual knowledge, and in the process the world becomes one of opinion treated axiomatically. Second, as a consequence, it renders judgement impossible because the only information that counts is opinion, whereas judgement corresponds to the public character of factual knowledge. This displacement produces a pseudo-reality where we can imagine that only people like us live here, that is, people who share our own opinions. This is a world that Hannah Arendt and Hans Jonas might characterise as thoughtless.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)620-632
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Volume77
Issue number2
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Keywords

  • Hannah Arendt
  • disinformation
  • factual knowledge
  • fake news
  • judgement
  • misinformation
  • opinion
  • post-truth

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