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Brendan Hawkins
Dr. Kathleen Yancey
Digital Revolutions
9 October 2017
Circulation Map Reflection
Fake news is credited with affecting the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and its reverberations
are still felt now, as Facebook testified just last week in congressional hearings about whether or
not and to what extent Russian agents may have used the social media platform to influence the
election. The issue of if fake news influenced the election is controversial in itself, but we should
also pay attention to the underlying issues of skepticism towards expertise and how the American
populace circulates media. Margaret Sullivan quotes professor Nikki Usher who suggests that we
call lies what they are and avoid the tag news, which can give fake news some credibility
(The Rise and Fall of Fake News). Notably, none of this was reported in traditional media. In
conversations, Facebook feeds, reposts, etc. I never noticed critical attention paid to the history
or larger context of fake news. Though my evidence is anecdotal, most media conversations
focus on the current state or possible ramifications of fake news, which I draw from news
analyses and reports from hours of NPR synthesis (aka news roundup) podcasts.

As my circulation map should make clear, the media that I found provided more context, yet it
suggests effort on my part to develop the perspective. I had to go outside of my social media
liberal echo chamber to get this perspective. I had to pull the content I needed to build
perspective, whereas social media pushed media in the form of opinions, reports, and comedy at
me constantly. Though there were many undecided voters in the populace, Americans had strong
opinions about both major party candidates. The right side of my circulation map depicts media
that found me. However, I sought out a fuller picture of the fake news scandal that was either an
undercurrent or a waterfall saturating the 2016 mediasphere and American culture. Thanks
mostly to NPR, which turned me to some podcasts and news sites affiliated with NPR, I found
On the Media. OTM analyzes not the news but the reporting on the news. It is metacommentary
and rhetorical analysis of news reporting. OTM provided perspective for me, leading me to find
out that the fake news and post-truth sentiment in the U.S. has a history that can be traced
through anti-intellectualism as far back as the founding of the country.

During the 2016 election, I did not have cable. I do have Facebook and access to YouTube as
well. The fact that I did not have television access did not limit my exposure to the election buzz
and the controversies, mainly because social media drove much of the issues surrounding the
election. (No, not the policy issuesgeez!those are so pass, Hillary.) It was fairly clear to me
then, and certainly clear to me know, that navigating social media (and broadcast media too to
some extent) in 2016 required a lot of media literacy. Im not alone either: On the Media reports
that most Americans get news from Facebook. In their podcast, The Rise and Fall of fake
News, they report that Craig Silvermans study suggests a strong correlation between news and
social media practices: Fifty-five percent of people said they had gotten news on Facebook in
the last 30 days, and 56% of people said they had gotten news from broadcast TV (The Rise
and Fall of Fake News; see map links). The issue is tied not only to politics but also to news
media consumption and to the 2016 word of the year, post truth. The implications here are that
belief rather than fact drives peoples decisions. Some conversations in the media in 2016-17
discussed what to do about the issue of fake news. The right side of my circulation map points to
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several newsworthy items like Melissa McCarthys Saturday Night Live character Spicey, who
became a cultural reference for a tired left-leaning part of the country. The fake news that was
reported even drove a man to fire shots into a restaurant because he had to check for himself to
see if Clinton was holding kidnapped children there. His investigation style could have been
through media literacy, cross-referencing multiple sources to figure out that the source he read
was faked. Instead, he drove to a different state and is now in jail.

As I was tracing connections, I started to see the potential for radical relativism emerging from
echo chamber social media. Socially constructed concepts, such as (from recent readings)
Toulmins examination of how effective discourse is redefined by each field, are deconstructed
even further if we look at the post-truth/fake news/alternative facts connections in map
circulation map. The possible ramifications of post-truth are an eroding sense of commonality in
dialogue. If we cannot agree on facts or that experts know more than we do, then we must
negotiate further and further back in language to arrive at things that we do agree on to dialogue
further. This points to a radical style of relativism, wherein we must delve back to argue what
constitutes a fact and how they are gathered and verified and who can do this believably.
Epistemology in the post-truth paradigm may shift even further towards radical relativism and
overlap less with social constructivism as social circles interact/overlap less frequently.