Abstract for “Digital Rhetoric/Digital Media in the Post-Truth Age” Symposium

So here’s a new thing I thought I’d try: Instead of simply sending off abstracts to conferences and waiting in equal parts silence and anticipation, I might as well share my idea on here first, and see what sort of feedback I get.

CFP for “Digital Rhetoric/Digital Media in the Post-Truth Age”

In an era of visceral partisanship and deepened tribalism within America’s governing institutions—a national dissension concomitant with the emergence of digital media—critics tend to focus on the myriad topics that our citizenry seems increasingly to come to no agreement over; nonetheless, such disagreement often functions to conceal unacknowledged ideological and technological consensus. Presaging the current debate by a decade, Jacques Rancière has coined the term “post-politics,” since taken up by the likes of Slavoj Žižek and Chantal Mouffe, to describe a civil condition wherein properly political debates, about distribution of power and definitions of the common, have been replaced by a broad acceptance of technocratic neoliberalism as the proper ruling order, à la Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis. In my proposed presentation—entitled “Post-Truth Politics is the Truth of Post-Politics”—I will contend that the epistemological instability of a post-truth situation is a symptom of the social stagnation within a post-political condition, and that both are fundamentally structured by modernity’s dominant rhetorical order of digital communication. Over the course of my talk, I will build off of the critical vocabulary provided by Rancière to outline what I see as the ideological and rhetorical conjuncture that underlies America’s contemporary institutional breakdown, demonstrating how the public’s inability to agree on basic facts or values is predicated upon our institutions having ideologically agreed to a neoliberal, technocratic complex. In brief, my argument will proceed in three basic turns: First, I will show how the emergence of post-truth politics coincides with the replacement by digital technologies of print media, which had originally laid the rhetorical groundwork for the American ideographic community. Second, I will indicate the constitutive relationship between a post-truth rhetorical landscape and post-political configuration, illustrating how the dissensus of the former social condition relies upon the underlying, if unconscious, consensus of the latter. In a final turn of the screw, I will return to the digital roots of the contemporary ideological configuration in order to demonstrate how, just as print media formerly provided the ground of the national imaginary—what Benedict Anderson called modern “print nationalism”—today the post-truth/post-politics complex is similarly structured by a logic of (online) posting and leads to what I describe as “post nationalism.”

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