Brian M. Goss - Dissed Information: Beyond Fake News & Toward a Theory of Weaponized Flak Discourses in the 21st Century - 10/04/2019

About the lecture

Recently, much attention has been devoted to fake news. However, in its 2018 report on fake news, the term has been judged as too vague to be especially useful by the United Kingdom’s House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (see pdf). On a structural view, one may add that the concept of “fake news” does not extend far enough into an institutional account of the current informational environment... a term that is more useful, is 'flak'. 

This presentation is part-and-parcel to the first book-length treatment of flak (scheduled for publication in 2020) that develops the concept beyond its origins in Edward Herman & Noam Chomsky’s 1988 “Propaganda Model” (Manufacturing Consent). In the brutal concision of two words, flak can be characterized as “political harassment”. In the case of flak-in-discourse, flak may assume the form of political attacks made in bad faith that harm reputations and are indifferent (or hostile) to empirical fact. Flak-in-action is not wholly distinct from flak-in-discourse but extends to actions such as lawsuits or attempts to sanction an institution or person’s professional standing and functioning. In each case, flak is distinct from the discourses and procedures around scandal that, as John B. Thompson observes, pivot on ascertaining the truth (Political Scandal). By contrast, flak generates noise and ruins reputations by weaponizing (dis)information in a context of political conflict without a concomitant concern with divining truth; accusation collapses into conviction and the truth is left to play “catch up”. 

The presentation takes a structuralist approach to flak by examining organizations that have been established and funded for the purpose of generating a steady stream of flak for further dissemination. I will examine case studies from flak factories that pose as journalistic (Project Veritas) or ostensible “think tank” environments (Heritage Foundation); organizations that are dedicated, by design, to assaying to bring flak discourses into the mainstream of political discourse.

About the speaker

Brian Michael Goss (Ph.D., University of Illinois, 2000) is appointed as Professor in the Department of Communication at Saint Louis University’s Madrid, Spain campus. His teaching and research revolve around mass media and has implicated texts and the structuring structures of contexts vis-à-vis journalism, film, television, cartoons, popular magazines and blogs. Along with publishing approximately three dozen journal articles and book chapters, he is the author of three books: Global Auteurs: Politics in the Films of Almodóvar, von Trier and Winterbottom (2009), Rebooting the Herman and Chomsky Propaganda Model in the Twenty-First Century (2013) and The Rise of Weaponized Flak in the New Media Era: Beyond the Propaganda Model (forthcoming in 2020). He is also the co-editor of Identity: Beyond Tradition and McWorld Neoliberalism (2013, with Christopher Chávez) and Talking Back to Globalization (2016, with Mary Rachel Gould and Joan Pedro-Carañana). 

Practical information

Time: Wednesday 10 April 2019  at 12am
Place:  Lokaal M.102 (Stadscampus, Gebouw M, St-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen) route/map
Language: English

Participation is free, but online registration is mandatory