From Truthiness to Post-Truth: Trumpiness and its Casualties, or, bye-bye to post-Enlightenment affect studies…

Many of us are struggling to make sense of the changing relationship of news media, collective emotions, public crisis of trust, and information warfare in this era of Trumpiness.  My new research brings together the studies I have pursued throughout my career. In this frightening historical and political moment, I am working hard to bring together my inquiries into emotion, truthiness, and growing crisis of American trust in media since after 9/11, to provide an ontological account of how and when truths are produced, as an alternative to epistemological accounts. In outlining an ontological account of truth, I will be working to show how we can understand truth not as “content” but truth as an event, how truth happens.  We can now speak of the “Likelihood of Truth,” the conditions in which truths are produced, taken up.

Ironically, for those who have joined the affect theory bandwagon, excited to see emotion and affect finally given a palce on the Enlightenment stage: hold your seat.  Already we are seeing invocations of “reason,” “Enlightenment,” etc. as ways to bring back Truth.  Or, as the New York Times reifies in its recent ad, “The Truth” is making a return–arguably, for all the right reasons in an era of Trumpiness. But the progress made since the 1980s by scholars working to show how truths are produced, will now face a backlash not only from committed positivists, but from liberal and even potentially radical left sources seeking to reinstitute common truths to shore up against Trump and company.


Meanwhile, I want to highlight the work I’ve done that speaks to the zeitgeist and  history of the evolution of truthiness from the Bush Administration years to the present.  It is a mistake to consider “post-truth” a new phenomenon; as Colbert recently told us, “‘post-truth’ is just a rip off of ‘truthiness’.”

Follow me on Twitter as I am striving to note key analyses related to questions of the evolution of truthiness as we make sense of the contemporary crises of trust in credible sources and truthtelling within contexts of liberal democracies.

Here are some of my previous essays that provide backdrop to the current debates regarding “post-truth”:

“The Daily Show, Crossfire, and the Will to Truth,” Scan Journal of Media Arts Culture. Vol. 3, no. 1 (2006)

The Transmission of Political Critique after 9/11: “A New Form of Desperation”? M/C Journal 9.1 (2006)

Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times, M. Boler (2008) (Introduction, Megan Boler)

The Daily Show and Crossfire: Satire and Sincerity as Truth to Power (Chapter 17) (from Digital Media and Democracy, ed Boler, MIT Press 2008)

Boler, M and S. Nemorin. “Dissent, Truthiness, and Skepticism in the Global Media Landscape: twenty-first century propaganda in times of war,” in Oxford University Handbook of Propaganda, eds. R Castronovo and J Auerbach. (2013)

By Ian Reilly and Megan Boler

%d bloggers like this: