Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication

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The Jay Blumler Lecture 2017: ‘From the Ministry of Truth to post-truth politics: Populism and the new crisis of public communication’, Professor Silvio Waisbord

Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall. All welcome. 

The 2017 Jay Blumler Lecture will be given by Professor Silvio Waisbord from George Washington University, USA. The title of the lecture is: ‘From the Ministry of Truth to post-truth politics: Populism and the new crisis of public communication’.


Abstract

For much of the past century, communication scholarship has assumed a perfectly structured public order with distinctive media systems, a dominant and cohesive press atop the information pyramid, and neat divisions between media producers and consumers. Such an order has had enormous flaws for cultivating a vibrant and informed citizenship; it shaped “the crisis of public communication”, as Blumler and Gurevitch eloquently put it.

In the spirit of Jay Blumler’s work, I suggest that we are now confronted with a new crisis driven by unprecedented structural changes in the production, circulation, and consumption of public information. The current chaos of public communication raises different challenges that cannot be fully captured by old diagnoses. Collapsed news gatekeeping and a fractured communication commons set new problems, namely, the spread of misinformation, the fragmentation of truth-telling, and the selective avoidance and partisan trust of media and information.
Whereas the Orwellian Ministry of Truth, a centralized operation firmly articulated with political and socio-economic interests, was a metaphor for the ills of public communication in the 20th century, the concept of “post-truth politics” captures the current troubles. “Post-truth” refers to the mainstreaming of factless convictions impervious to corrections and constant disinformation by myriad institutions and groups. Such conditions provide ground for the thriving of post-truth politics that populism embodies – the rejection of progressive principles underpinning democratic communication. They make truth-telling, tolerant, and reasoned communication as a common public project uncertain, if not forever compromised.

Biography

Silvio Waisbord is Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, USA. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Communication and former Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics. His recent books include News of Baltimore: Race, Rage and the City(edited with Linda Steiner, Routledge, 2017), Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights (edited with Howard Tumber, Routledge, 2017), and Media Movements: Civil Society and Media Policy Reform in Latin America (with Soledad Segura, Zed, 2016). He has lectured and worked in more than 30 countries, published 13 books, and written over 100 journal articles, book chapters, and newspaper columns. He serves in the Advisory Board of the Latin American program of Open Society Foundations. He holds a Licenciatura in sociology from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, San Diego.

About the Jay Blumler Lecture 

The annual Jay Blumler lecture was set up in honour of Professor Jay Blumler who has played a central role in establishing media research in the UK. His work is particularly concerned with the role of the media in democratic life and the values of public service broadcasting. Professor Jay Blumler is Emeritus Professor at the School of Media and Communication and will be present at the lecture.

Event Information

This is a free event (no need to book). It will be followed by a drinks reception.

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