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Fake news as a floating signifier: hegemony, antagonism and the politics of falsehood
Malmö University, Faculty of Culture and Society (KS), School of Arts and Communication (K3).ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2272-7174
2018 (English)In: Javnost : The Public, ISSN 1854-8377, Vol. 25, no 3, p. 298-314Article in journal (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

‘Fake news’ has emerged as a global buzzword. While prominent media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN, and CBS, have used the term to designate misleading information spread through websites, President Donald Trump has recently used the term as a negative designation of these very ‘mainstream media’. In this article, we argue that the concept of ‘fake news’ has become an important component in contemporary political struggles. We showcase how the term is utilised by different positions within the social space as a means of discrediting, attacking and delegitimising political opponents. Excavating three central moments within the construction of ‘fake news’, we argue that the term has increasingly become a ‘floating signifier’: a signifier lodged in-between different hegemonic projects seeking to provide an image of how society is and ought to be structured. By approaching ‘fake news’ from the viewpoint of discourse theory, the paper reframes the current stakes of the debate and contributes with new insights into the function and consequences of ‘fake news’ as a novel political category.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018. Vol. 25, no 3, p. 298-314
Keywords [en]
fake news, floating signifier, misinformation, disinformation, discourse theory, Donald Trump, Ernesto Laclau
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-14340DOI: 10.1080/13183222.2018.1463047ISI: 000441651500003Local ID: 24514OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-14340DiVA, id: diva2:1417859
Available from: 2020-03-30 Created: 2020-03-30 Last updated: 2023-04-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. This Is Not Real News: Discursive Struggles over Fake News, Journalism, and Democracy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>This Is Not Real News: Discursive Struggles over Fake News, Journalism, and Democracy
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fake news has attracted significant global attention and contestation in recent years. This PhD thesis explores the explosive and oftentimes contradictory rise of fake news and dives into the discursive struggles around journalism, politics, digital media, and liberal democracy that have emerged in its wake. Through a series of interrelated publications – spanning more than five years of research – the thesis examines how and with what consequences journalistic and political actors articulate and dispute the very meaning of fake news. Through a careful and critical mapping of the discursive signification of fake news, the thesis does not only situate the issue in wider political and historical contexts; it also draws out and reflects upon its implications for the future of liberal democracies. 

Deploying detailed empirical investigations based on news content, textual analysis, and qualitative interviews, the thesis sheds light on discursive struggles around fake news within a number of distinct socio-political contexts. It dives into cases from the US and UK, where fake news first rose to prominence in 2016, as well as from Denmark, where fake news has increasingly become a topic of journalistic and political concern. 

Drawing on the ontological and conceptual framework of discourse theory, the thesis demonstrates how fake news has come to function as a floating signifier; it is a deeply political concept mobilised within conflicting hegemonic projects with fundamentally different forms of meaning. Having done so, the thesis goes on to show that fake news has not only become central in debates around lies and falsehoods but also for conflicting visions about what ‘politics,’ ‘journalism,’ and ‘liberal democracy’ fundamentally are and ought to be. Indeed, the core argument levelled in this thesis is that fake news has come to function as a prism through which wider struggles over liberal democracy and human co-habitation have become visible at a time of growing political instability. 

Taken together, the findings offered by the thesis contribute to the field of media and communication studies by addressing a pertinent gap regarding the discursive signification of fake news. Connecting the rise of fake news to structural transformations at the heart of both contemporary media landscapes and liberal democracy, the thesis moves beyond formalistic conceptions of fake news and into the highly conflictual terrain surrounding the concept.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö University Press, 2023. p. 223
Series
School of Arts and Communication Dissertation Series ; 8
Keywords
Fake news, disinformation, misinformation, journalism, democracy, digital media, discourse theory, metajournalistic discourse
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-58996 (URN)10.24834/isbn.9789178773169 (DOI)978-91-7877-315-2 (ISBN)978-91-7877-316-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2023-06-02, Auditorium C, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211 19, Malmö, Sweden, Malmö, 09:34 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-04-11 Created: 2023-03-30 Last updated: 2023-04-15Bibliographically approved

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Farkas, Johan

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