[Doctorow-L] Column: "Fake News is an Oracle": how the falsehoods we believe reveal the truth about our fears and aspirations

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Jul 1 12:55:13 EDT 2019

 For many years, I've been arguing that while science fiction can't
predict the future, it can reveal important truths about the present:
the stories writers tell reveal their hopes and fears about technology,
while the stories that gain currency in our discourse and our media
markets tell us about our latent societal aspirations and anxieties. In
Fake News is an Oracle, my latest Locus Magazine column, I use this tool
to think about the rise of conspiratorial thinking and ask what it says
about our world.

Fake news is another important barometer of our societal pressure: when
we talk about conspiratorial thinking, we tend to do so ideologically,
asking ourselves how it is that the same old conspiracy theories have
become so much more convincing in recent years (anti-vax is as old as
vaccination, after all), and treating the proponents of conspiracies as
though they had acquired the ability to convince people by sharpening
their arguments (possibly with the assistance of machine-learning systems).

But when you actually pay attention to the things that
conspiracy-pushers say, there's no evidence that they're particularly
convincing. Instead of ideological answers to the spread of
conspiracies, we can look for material answers for the change in our
public discourse.

Fake news, in this light, reveals important truth about what our
material conditions have led us to fear (that the ship is sinking and
their aren't enough life-boats for all of us) and hope (that we can get
a seat in the lifeboat if we help the powerful and ruthless push other
people out).


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