Fake News and Revisionist History

During this week’s readings, I found myself thinking a lot about so-called “fake news.” This terminology has always bothered me a little bit because it seems to me that “propaganda” would be just as apt. Why create a whole new term for something that already exists?

As I was reading Troulliot, I started to think more about the relationship between “fake news,” “revisionist history,” and “propaganda.” I’m still not sure if they are all, at their root, the same thing. My dilemma seems to have something to do with what Pierre Nora refers to as “the acceleration of history.”

Troulliot’s rejection of contructivism is rooted in his belief that history is not just one narrative among many due to the fact that it embraces special methodology and has a disproportionate moral impact on society. I would argue that the same is true (and possibly more so) of the news. My former roommate’s Journalism degree from BU seems to have taught him at least as much methodology as any of my friends that graduated with a History degree. Similarly, it is the case that the news media has a large moral impact as well.

Both the authors that we read for this week consider (to different degrees) the relationship of memory to history. However, given that the news media now is grappling with many of the same issues that historians have been for some time, the question seems to be more accurately characterized as that of epistemology to collective understanding, or something like that.

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