The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time

Workman Publishing
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The award-winning host of WNYC’s On the Media explores disinformation in the age of Trump, with a look toward what we can do about it.

From her front-row view of today’s events, journalist Brooke Gladstone shares her insights on what she calls our ever-growing “trouble with reality.” As Gladstone shows us, reality was never what we thought it was. There is always a bubble, people are always subjective, and we are all prey to stereotypes. That makes reality actually more vulnerable than we ever thought. But then came Donald J. Trump and his team of advisors.

For them, as she Gladstone says, lying is the point. The more blatant the lie, the easier it is to hijack reality and assert power over the truth. Drawing on writers as diverse as Hannah Arendt, Walter Lippmann, Philip K. Dick, and Jonathan Swift, Gladstone dissects this authoritarian strategy and shows how the Trump team mastered it, down to the five types of tweets that Trump uses to distort our notions of what’s real and what’s not.

Thankfully, Gladstone also offers hope. There is a time-tested treatment for moral panic. And if history is a guide, there is also the inevitable reckoning. Brief and bracing, The Trouble with Reality shows exactly why so many of us didn’t see it coming, and how we can recover both our belief in reality—and our sanity.
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About the author

Brooke Gladstone is the co-host and editor of the Peabody Award–winning radio show and podcast On the Media from WNYC Studios, heard by well over a million people each week. She’s also author of The Influencing Machine, a comic book treatise on two millennia of media madness. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Workman Publishing
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Published on
May 16, 2017
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Pages
97
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ISBN
9781523502622
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Rhetoric
Political Science / Political Process / Media & Internet
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The election of Donald Trump and the great disruption in the news and social media.

Donald Trump's election as the 45th President of the United States came as something of a surprise—to many analysts, journalists, and voters. The New York Times's The Upshot gave Hillary Clinton an 85 percent chance of winning the White House even as the returns began to come in. What happened? And what role did the news and social media play in the election? In Trump and the Media, journalism and technology experts grapple with these questions in a series of short, thought-provoking essays. Considering the disruption of the media landscape, the disconnect between many voters and the established news outlets, the emergence of fake news and “alternative facts,” and Trump's own use of social media, these essays provide a window onto broader transformations in the relationship between information and politics in the twenty-first century.

The contributors find historical roots to current events in Cold War notions of "us" versus "them," trace the genealogy of the assault on facts, and chart the collapse of traditional news gatekeepers. They consider such topics as Trump's tweets (diagnosed by one writer as “Twitterosis”) and the constant media exposure given to Trump during the campaign. They propose photojournalists as visual fact checkers (“lessons of the paparazzi”) and debate whether Trump's administration is authoritarian or just authoritarian-like. Finally, they consider future strategies for the news and social media to improve the quality of democratic life.

Contributors
Mike Ananny, Chris W. Anderson, Rodney Benson, Pablo J. Boczkowski, danah boyd, Robyn Caplan, Michael X. Delli Carpini, Josh Cowls, Susan J. Douglas, Keith N. Hampton, Dave Karpf, Daniel Kreiss, Seth C. Lewis, Zoey Lichtenheld, Andrew L. Mendelson, Gina Neff, Zizi Papacharissi, Katy E. Pearce, Victor Pickard, Sue Robinson, Adrienne Russell, Ralph Schroeder, Michael Schudson, Julia Sonnevend, Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Tina Tucker, Fred Turner, Nikki Usher, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Silvio Waisbord, Barbie Zelizer

From hashtag activism to the flood of political memes on social media, the landscape of political communication is being transformed by the grassroots circulation of opinion on digital platforms and beyond. By exploring how everyday people assist in the promotion of political media messages to persuade their peers and shape the public mind, Joel Penney offers a new framework for understanding the phenomenon of viral political communication: the citizen marketer. Like the citizen consumer, the citizen marketer is guided by the logics of marketing practice, but, rather than being passive, actively circulates persuasive media to advance political interests. Such practices include using protest symbols in social media profile pictures, strategically tweeting links to news articles to raise awareness about select issues, sharing politically-charged internet memes and viral videos, and displaying mass-produced T-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers that promote a favored electoral candidate or cause. Citizens view their participation in such activities not only in terms of how it may shape or influence outcomes, but as a statement of their own identity. As the book argues, these practices signal an important shift in how political participation is conceptualized and performed in advanced capitalist democratic societies, as they casually inject political ideas into the everyday spaces and places of popular culture. While marketing is considered a dirty word in certain critical circles -- particularly among segments of the left that have identified neoliberal market logics and consumer capitalist structures as a major focus of political struggle -- some of these very critics have determined that the most effective way to push back against the forces of neoliberal capitalism is to co-opt its own marketing and advertising techniques to spread counter-hegemonic ideas to the public. Accordingly, this book argues that the citizen marketer approach to political action is much broader than any one ideological constituency or bloc. Rather, it is a means of promoting a wide range of political ideas, including those that are broadly critical of elite uses of marketing in consumer capitalist societies. The book includes an extensive historical treatment of citizen-level political promotion in modern democratic societies, connecting contemporary digital practices to both the 19th century tradition of mass political spectacle as well as more informal, culturally-situated forms of political expression that emerge from postwar countercultures. By investigating the logics and motivations behind the citizen marketer approach, as well as how it has developed in response to key social, cultural, and technological changes, Penney charts the evolution of activism in an age of mediatized politics, promotional culture, and viral circulation.
A seminal shift has taken place in the relationship between Internet usage and politics. At the turn of the century, it was presumed that digital communication would produce many positive political effects like improvements to political information retrieval, support for public debate and community formation or even enhancements in citizen participation in political decision-making. While there have been positive effects, negative effects have also occurred including fake news and other political disinformation, social media appropriation by terrorists and extremists, ‘echo-chambers’ and "filter bubbles", elections influenced by hostile hackers and campaign manipulation by micro-targeting marketing. It is time for critical re-evaluation.

Designed to encourage critical thinking on the part of the student, internationally recognized experts, Jan A.G.M. van Dijk and Kenneth Hacker, chronicle the political significance of new communication technologies for the promotion of democracy over the last two decades. Drawing upon structuration theory and network theory and real-world case studies from across the globe, the book is logically structured around the following topics:

Political Participation and Inclusion

Habermas and the Reconstruction of Public Space

Media and Democracy in Authoritarian States

Democracy and the Internet in China

E-government and democracy

Views of democracy and Internet use

Underpinned by up-to-date literature, this important textbook is aimed at students and scholars of communication studies, political science, sociology, political communication, and international relations.

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