A SLICE OF PRAGMATISM: NAVIGATING THE PIZZAGATE CONSPIRACY, BULLSHIT AND FAKE NEWS IN THE POST-TRUTH ERA
This thesis is the first academic work to philosophically explore the connections between Pragmatic theories of truth and the phenomena of fake news and conspiracy in the post-truth era. It argues that Harry Frankfurt’s Bullshit Theory, which has recently seen a resurgence in scholarly literature about fake news, does not offer a cohesive philosophical framework for analyzing how political conspiracies emerge and why they pervade public political discourse in the United States. This study takes as its main example the conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate. This theory, which emerged on the anonymous online message board 4Chan, asserts that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were involved in a child-sex-trafficking ring run out of a D.C. pizzeria named Comet Ping Pong. This project works to prove that the Pragmatic philosophy of William James offers a better analytical system for explaining this conspiracy in three ways: first through revealing that James’s Pragmatic Method informs the creation process of Pizzagate that occurred on 4Chan, then by exploring how James’s epistemology is anticipatory of psychological theories about collective memory creation and social contagion, and finally by highlighting Richard Hofstadter’s paranoid style as a modulation of Pragmatic thought. Working at the intersection of paranoia, anonymity, collectivity, politics, and psychology, Jones closely analyzes the 4Chan boards on which the Pizzagate theory was created in order to reveal the shortcomings, and potential consequences, of analyzing modern political conspiracies through Bullshit Theory. “Bullshit” is used repeatedly in scholarly literature to describe conspiracy and fake news, but many of the qualities of Frankfurt’s “truth-indifferent” bullshitter are inconsistent with descriptions of “post-truth:” a climate in which no objective truth exists for one to be indifferent to. Jones explores how social scaffolding and political paranoia both influence and are informed by the Pragmatic process of expedient truth-verification that occurred in the case of Pizzagate. Furthermore, this thesis questions the broader implications of using Bullshit Theory to describe similar political conspiracies and fake news stories, as it may make these theories more likely to lead to violent physical action and perpetuate partisan attitudes of “post-truth.”
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Post-Recession Gentrification and Subsidized Housing Availability and Affordability Across the United States Baron, Madeline J. (Georgetown University, 2014)Gentrification, which occurs when high-income residents move into traditionally low-income areas, is a contentious issue facing many neighborhoods in metropolitan areas across the United States. This paper examines the ...