Fake news spread online is a clear danger to democratic politics. One aspect of that danger is obvious: it spreads misinformation. But other aspects, less often discussed, is that it also spreads confusion, undermines trust and encourages us to live in a kind of epistemic bad faith. In this talk, I will argue that it is this last aspect that captures the most pernicious effect of fake news and related propaganda. In particular, I’ll argue that its effectiveness is due in part to a curious blindness on the part of many users of social media: a kind of semantic blindness to the function of their online communicative acts. This blindness makes us not only vulnerable to manipulation to those with a better understanding of the semantic character of online communication, it indirectly undermines the political value of truth—or more exactly, the pursuit of truth, by diminishing confidence in the institutions that protect and encourage that value.
Speaker: Professor Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut)
About the speaker: Michael Patrick Lynch is a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, where he directs the Humanities Institute. His books include The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Reason, In Praise of Reason: Why Rationality Matters for Democracy and the New York Times Sunday Book Review Editor’s pick, True to Life. The recipient of the Medal for Research Excellence from the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he is the PI of Humility & Conviction in Public life, a $7 million research and engagement project aimed revitalizing meaningful public discourse funded by the John Templeton Foundation and UConn. Lynch’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Wired among others; his 2017 TED talk has been viewed over 1.5 million times. He is currently working on a book on the influence of arrogance and dogmatism in our political culture.
Registration is open here.