The Technology of Truth: Revisiting Areopagitica

By Susan S. Reilly.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the spring of 2012, Republican Congressman, Alan West, became a YouTube sensation when he announced that 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives “are members of the Communist Party.” Journalists contacted the Vice Chair of the USCP who said unequivocally that no members of the U.S. House of Representatives are members of the Communist Party. Questioned by a CNN Anchor about his false statement, West explained that he was referring to the Democratic members of the Progressive Caucus. “Communist, progressive, Marxist, statist, I’m looking at things they believe in.” In response to West’s disregard for the facts, NPR produced a segment on “the death of facts.” In that segment Mary Poovey, author of A History of the Modern Fact, explained that the Enlightenment principles of observation and counting which led to factual assertion have been replaced by computer modeling and extrapolation. Further, she said, “the Internet has made it possible for people to air opinions and make those opinions seem as credible as scientific claims.” In a subsequent New York Times article, “The Truth is Commentary,” Jack Hitt suggested that the truth now lies in the “Comments” that follow a story posted on the Internet. According to Hitt, these “glosses” becomes their own corrective knowledge. Ironically, the “death of facts” occurs at a time when Bill Adair, editor of politifact.com reports “there are so many questions about what’s accurate and what is not.” Adair explains “we tend to take the attitude that more information is better and so there is the assumption that if we put the correct information out there, the facts will prevail.” It seems that despite the increase in available facts, there is a simultaneous transformation of truth into emphatic assertion and the gloss of that assertion. This paper examines how this new interpretation of truth is reshaping the democratic process.

Keywords: Technology, Truth, Journalism, Democratic Theory, Citizenship

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.139-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 383.271KB).

Dr. Susan S. Reilly

Professor, School of Communication & Multimedia Studies, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

Dr. Susan Reilly is a international media scholar and a writer/producer of documentaries for public television. Her co-authored books include: Media Knowledge: Popular Culture, Pedagogy and Critical Citizenship and The Politics of Representation: Rethinking Media Literacy. Her documentaries included: Hometown In Peril: A Case Study of a Hazardous Waste Dump Site and The Fear Inside: Alternatives for Rural Battered Women. Dr. Reilly was a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil and Humanities Core Professor at the John E. Dolibois European Center, GR.D. Luxembourg.

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