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Beyond Post-Communication

Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation

Jim Macnamara

While many analyses have examined disinformation in recent election campaigns, misuse of ‘big data’ such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and manipulation by bots and algorithms, most have blamed a few bad actors. This incisive analysis presents evidence of deeper and broader corruption of the public sphere, which the author refers to as post-communication. With extensive evidence, Jim Macnamara argues that we are all responsible for the slide towards a post-truth society. This analysis looks beyond high profile individuals such as Donald Trump, Russian trolls, and even ‘Big Tech’ to argue that the professionalized communication industries of advertising, PR, political and government communication, and journalism, driven by clickbait and aided by a lack of critical media literacy, have systematically contributed to disinformation, deception, and manipulation. When combined with powerful new communication technologies, artificial intelligence, and lack of regulation, this has led to a ‘perfect data storm’. Accordingly, Macnamara proposes that there is no single solution. Rather, he identifies a range of strategies for communication professionals, industry associations, media organizations and platforms, educators, legislators, regulators, and citizens to challenge post-communication and post-truth.
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2. Post-Truth, Post-Democracy … Post-Politics, Post-Capitalism, Post-Society?

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As developed societies have evolved from modernism to postmodernism—a much-debated conceptual and philosophical shift1—it has become increasingly popular to use the term post as a prefix in front of various nouns. While postmodernism involves a chronological difference from modernism, the significance of the prefix exists beyond its temporal meaning. When placed in front of important concepts, post refers to an evolution or mutation of the original in which its properties and characteristics are superseded and replaced by what are often antithetical features. In many instances, ‘post-something’ denotes deterioration or even collapse. This is the interpretation of many in contemporary societies who use the prefix post to reflect deep concerns in relation truth, journalism, democracy, politics, capitalism, and human society itself.

A Word about Hyphens

The writing style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA) that is widely applied in academic literature and used in this text declares that hyphens should not be used in words beginning with the prefix ‘post’. Postmodernism, for example, is usually not hyphenated. However, the sources of a number of the post concepts that are examined here have used hyphens, including dictionaries as well as leading media. Accurate citing suggests retention of the original terms. Furthermore, correct English in many countries requires hyphens to avoid repeated consonants, such as in posttruth. Even further, some of the terms discussed in the following are relatively new and unfamiliar. So, in the interest of readability and standardization, this text uses hyphens in terms...

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