Seize the Means of (Logical) Induction
The consequences of enlightenment rationality on the philosophically liberal (but not necessarily politically liberal) subject combined with the memetic and viral qualities of internet social media have enabled the present decline of the American right into fascism. In an ironically postmodern turn of events, specific opinions and beliefs are now worth discussing simply because they have been voiced. This depressingly authoritarian state of affairs is inherent in the nature of the media itself and has been since the syndication of narratives was enabled by the printing press. We call the process of excising this authoritarianism on the individual level “education.” The internet has allowed this process to expand and accelerate indefinitely, but the fundamental structure of authoritarian media has not changed. Cribbing Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s critical analysis of radio as a communicative medium in the chapter of their book Dialectic of Enlightenment titled “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” provides a sufficient understanding of the authoritarianism inherent in modern news of all kinds, authentic and fake:
The step from telephone to radio has clearly distinguished the roles. The former liberally permitted the participant to play the role of the subject. The latter democratically makes everyone equally into listeners, in order to expose them in authoritarian fashion to the same programs put out by different stations. No mechanism of reply has been developed, and private transmissions are condemned to unfreedom.
Consequently, the normative epistemic force of modern tech-enhanced propaganda in the form of fake news is too high in any single context on the web; the natural give and take of conversation enabled by egalitarian media aided on Facebook by the reduction of personality to an advertising identifier. This speaker-listener dichotomy is enforced by authoritarian media and it becomes philosophically problematic when used for nefarious purposes as with fake news. People of integrity must constantly assert themselves as subject in these contexts by calculating the relative virtues of relinquishing the discursive freedom of critical rejoinder, and the resulting value is contingent on their ability to resist objectification through careful research and response. Such a calculation is difficult and time consuming, so heuristics for trust have been developed. The New York Times and certain other traditional sources are not trusted because they are branded and old but because they are often correct, and they apologize for being incorrect. Traditional outlets have earned the trust of listeners in this tradeoff through carefully offloading the diligence of integrity, but having been labelled as “biased” they are now unable to do communicate this tradeoff and the responsibility to destroy propaganda now falls to the audience.
In the epistemic America envisioned by Anderson Cooper 360, the lies and deception of fake news are just a different perspective on a complex issue. Consider why this vision is lacking. Refuse to be objectified by the people you trust for your news, and try to ensure that your critical outlook is respected and maintained throughout.
If I wanted to be clever, I could deliberately breach your trust in me at this point by declaring that I acted in bad faith in writing this, but the last election has proved that the stakes of unintentionally spreading propaganda and sowing distrust in this manner are too high to risk such a diversion. Instead I will ask that you do not trust me because I have spoken but because I want you to take this understanding of criticism and use it to decide for yourself whether what I say is correct.