Stop Talking About Fake News! by Joshua Habgood-Coote

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What, if anything, does "fake news" or "post truth" actually mean? Are they thinly veiled political strategies that do as much harm to democracy as the things they attempt to describe? And if so why did so many academics and philosophers get caught up in using a series of terms with such serious problems?

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According to all these diagnoses, communication using ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ is problematic. If the terms are nonsense, any communication using these terms simply fails. If they are contested we face problems with talking across contexts, and if they are contested, we face the possibility of mistaking metalinguistic disputes for first order disagreements. ‘Fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ are perhaps better off than ‘bryllg’ – we do at least have some sense what kinds of things might constitute their extensions – but they are very different from established terms with clear meanings like ‘cat’ and ‘blue’. Some basic questions about the extensions of these terms are up in the air. I haven’t come down on which diagnosis is correct – people with different views in the philosophy of language will be attracted to different diagnoses – but I think that because it is the worst outcome, we should take extremely seriously the possibility that ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ are nonsense. This suggests a short argument for abandonment: if we want to be sure that we are saying something by our sentences, we should avoid using ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’.