Review Post-truth (a review)

original work by EVAN DAVIS reviewed by BARRY TOMALIN

In an age of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-facts’, Evan Davis’s Post-Truth is a useful guide for teachers and researchers in language media analysis, discourse analysis, developing critical awareness and critical thinking skills. Evan Davis is a leading British broadcaster and presenter of current affairs programmes on TV and radio and is an experienced and informed interpreter of ‘fake news’. In his introduction, he writes that post-truth is ‘an expression of frustration and anguish from a liberal class discombobulated by the political disruptions of 2016’, referring to the Trump presidency and the British BREXIT vote. The book is divided into three sections. Section 1 usefully defines the key terms of fake news, post- truth, alternative facts and ‘bullshit’. He identifies five types of ‘bullshit’, explains each type and gives examples. In Section 2 he asks how it happens. A key issue in reporting is time. It may be possible to fool people in the short or even medium term but in the long term, the truth normally comes out. Section 3, the final section, discusses the culture of ‘fake news’ and how it can become the norm and also how we can improve our response to it. As Davis explains, ‘Communication can be informative even if is not true; it can be persuasive even if it is not informative; it can be effective in the short term even if it is not persuasive in the long term. And, if everyone is doing it, it can be irresistible, even if it is not effective.’ The final chapter of the book, entitled ‘The Discerning Listener’ explores what we can do about it and how to develop our own critical analysis skills.

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