The Birth of the Post-Truth Era: A Genealogy of Corporate Public Relations, Propaganda, and Trump

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 35 (2):130-146 (2021)
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In the early 20th century, the most numerous and well-funded institutions in the United States—corporations—used public relations to make a widespread and fundamental change in the way they constitute and regulate their relations of knowledge with the public. Today, we can see this change reflected in a variety of areas such as journalism, political outreach, social media, and in the ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ administration of Donald J. Trump. This article traces practices of corporate truth-telling and knowledge production across three periods I will call the personal, the legal, and public relations, which are roughly coincident with the antebellum period, the Gilded Age, and the 20th century, respectively. In sum, what can be found in public relations and now broadly across society, is that relations of knowledge have come to be refigured as relations of power, subordinating traditional epistemological concerns like justification and belief in favor of government and control.

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Cory Wimberly
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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