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Author: Mike Cole

Abstract

To conclude this book, I look at some of the ways the left can use the media to promote public pedagogies (educational activity and learning that occurs outside of educational institutions) that both challenge right-wing ideologies, and crucially also advance the cause of eco-socialism. In order to do this, it is informative to critically evaluate two axiomatic realities facing capitalism today: first, the (impending) ecological catastrophe that has been understated in everyday parlance as “climate change”; second, a massive transformation in scientific and technical innovations that has become known as the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. I will consider each in turn.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

In this conclusion, I provide an overview of the continuing relevance of each contributing author’s analysis, in light of the rapidly evolving political events of the past four years.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump
Volume Editor: Faith Agostinone-Wilson
Using a range of critical perspectives, On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump closely examines notions of “truth in crisis” leading up to and after the election of Donald Trump. The authors explore how truth is constructed along the lines of race, social class, and gender as filtered through the self-referential characteristics of social media in particular. The authors assert that the US left has shown itself inadequate to the task of confronting right wing ideologies, which have only intensified since the 2016 election, resulting in increased mobilization of white supremacist and nationalist groups.

Whether underestimating Trump by downplaying the threat of his candidacy during the primaries, trivializing the concerns of women and minorities as “identity politics,” or rushing to prioritize the free speech rights of the far-right, left academics and the media have found themselves unable to use their traditional arsenal of evidence, rational discourse, and appeals to diversity of viewpoints.

The authors assert that political resistance to the right is not a matter of playful use of signs and symbols or discourse alone and has to be fought directly and in solidarity. At this point, it is clear that Trump and his supporters have not just deployed relativism as a form of strategy, but have fully weaponized it against their perceived enemies: women, immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ people along with educational, scientific, and journalistic institutions. It is hoped that this in-depth, critical dissection of truth in the current political reality will assist in the project of resistance.

Contributors are: Faith Agostinone-Wilson, Mike Cole, Jeremy T. Godwin, Jones Irwin, Austin Pickup, Daniel Ian Rubin, and Eric C. Sheffield.
Author: Austin Pickup

Abstract

This chapter examines how the rhetoric within the Trump campaign, and subsequent administration, has epitomized a dangerous understanding of truth-telling within a modern democratic context. During the administration itself, Trump’s own reactions to the events in Charlottesville revealed a relativistic sense of truth and values with his “many sides” comments. These examples illustrate a larger contradiction within the Trump regime of “telling it like it is” and rejecting “political correctness” (speaking truth, in other words) through baseless claims on immigration, climate change, voter fraud, and many other issues, while at the same time retreating to relativism when caught in moral and epistemological crises. Using Foucault’s analysis of truth-telling in ancient Greece, I suggest that Trump represents an athuroglossos, or an endless babbler, who poses dangers to the ethical exchange of truth within democratic dialogue. Such an analysis also has important implications for the role of truth and truth-telling within social discourse and analysis, especially among researchers working from anti-foundational paradigms that may wish to clarify relational accounts of truth and contrast them with the baseless claims to truth currently espoused by Trump & co.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

This chapter explores the intersection of religion, race, and nation, with a particular focus on religion. I will argue that efforts to address the question of what to do in the face of injustice and threats to democracy must take this intersection into consideration and specifically, that a broader definition of religion is necessary as a part of that process. First, this chapter briefly outlines some of the literature regarding Trump supporters. Next, I highlight some examples of pro-Trump media, including items of print and digital culture, exploring how these media reflect that co-constitution, followed by an examination of how our understandings of religion, race, and nation might be affected as a result. Finally, the chapter closes with some preliminary considerations of how to craft a response.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

The US left, such as it is, has shown itself inadequate to the task of confronting right wing ideologies, which have only intensified since the election, culminating in the white supremacist Unite the Right torch rally at Charlottesville in August 2017 and on a larger scale, the mosque shootings in New Zealand in March 2019. Whether underestimating Trump by downplaying his seriousness during the primaries, trivializing the concerns of women and minorities as “identity politics,” or rushing to prioritize the free speech rights of fascists over the targets of their speech, the left has found themselves unable to use its traditional arsenal of evidence, rational discourse, and appeals to diversity of viewpoints. With Trump we see immediately the limits of depoliticized celebrations of relativism used as resistance, unmoored from any specific allegiance or ideological vision. What has essentially happened is that the right wing has effectively borrowed the language of the left, taking advantage of the loopholes of classical liberalism. This chapter provides an overview of key issues taken up by subsequent authors of the text.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

The most disheartening outcome of the election was the profound disregard for racism as a key factor motivating Trump supporters, from leftist and liberal commentators and academics who then found themselves slammed upside the head with reality. Among the most flawed race-free analyses is the “economic anxiety” thesis: that people voted for Trump not because of racism, but because they were deep down “worried about the economy.” The economic anxiety thesis is often attached to recommendations for liberal politicians to move away from identity discourse and only emphasize issues that white voters will respond to, though this is couched in universal terms as part of a whitewashing project. This chapter critiques the received truth of the economic anxiety thesis from a classical Marxist perspective, dialectically examines its origins in the work of Thomas Frank and David Brooks, and posit how it serves to normalize white supremacist discourse and the current administration’s personnel and policies.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump
Author: Jones Irwin

Abstract

While liberal conceptions form the bedrock of politics in bourgeois democracies, it has been argued in recent times that we are seeing the emergence of threats to such liberalism, most especially from the emergence of a “new right” or “alt-right” discourse and politics. Whether identified with the rise of Trumpist politics in the US or a pro-Brexit politics in the UK, the respective movements are also characterised as representing a change in how we understand the relation between discourse and ideology and thus a change in how we conceptualise the “political.” Here, the designation of “post-truth” has come to symbolise this supposedly new approach to politics and ideology. For the purposes of this essay, I will explore two such instances of “post-truth” across the political spectrum. In the case of right-wing discourse, I will focus on the attempt of Italian fascism in the mid-twentieth century. Rather than being a simplistic or knee-jerk authoritarianism, we will see how fascism can rather be interpreted as quite a complex and somewhat self-contradictory political and philosophical phenomenon. With regard to left-wing critique, I will look at how Althusser (developing Marx’s insights), and what becomes known as Althusserianism, sets up a very complex architectonic of truth.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

This chapter takes up a discussion of President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter and its impact on truth-telling and truth claims via an analysis of the revolutionary idea of pragmatic truth as proposed by William James and Neil Postman’s understanding of technology’s impact on meaning making. James’ argument is contained in this brief but eloquent phrase in his lectures on Pragmatism: “Truth happens to an idea.” That is, truths of and in the world are not pre-existing, anti rem, ready-made (as both idealists, rationalists, and even realists would have us believe); rather, truth develops in relationship to human context and human need. Or, as James says it, truth is determined by its practical or “cash value.” Following this discussion, the chapter turns its attention to technology and Neil Postman’s theory of its impact on meaning making as presented most completely in his book, Amusing ourselves to death. Postman’s argument will be turned on Donald Trump’s favorite social media “advancement,” Twitter. What happens to the truth understood pragmatically when it is presented in a character-limited technology which, as all technologies do, has a built-in/inherent ideology? The chapter concludes that such a technology bastardizes pragmatic truth to the point of extraordinary danger and limits or eliminates any true meaning making, pragmatically or otherwise.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump

Abstract

In this chapter, I explain how K-12 and university educators can assist their students in becoming critical and cognizant voices in American society. In order to accomplish this, I discuss the “Trump Effect” in K-12 schools in the United States and how Trump’s racist, immature posturing has negatively affected everyone from Latinx high schoolers to Jewish students on college campuses. I explain the concept of willful ignorance and how Trump has mastered his method of leading the country in ways that have been both harmful to critical thought as well as dangerous to American citizenry. The importance of dialectical thought in US schools and how it is vital to an informed and democratic populace, is also addressed. This chapter asserts that it is each teachers’ job—nay obligation—to teach students to think dialectically in order to fight against Trump and his racist, exploitive policies and beliefs.

In: On the Question of Truth in the Era of Trump