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“Insights from South Asia – Post-truth and Public Opinion in Pakistan” by Anam Kuraishi

June 16, 2021 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

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Author: Anam Kuraishi (University of Essex)

Abstract: Although there exist numerous conceptualisations of post-truth, a gap in literature remains with regards to empirically illustrating it. This gap is present due to the lack of operationalisation of the term ‘post-truth’. This paper deals with this limitation; it discusses ‘post-truth’ as an adjective whereby certain attributive traits (Lacanian psychoanalytic elements of lack and fantasy intertwined with the element of emotionality) are associated with the term allowing us to evaluate and categorize texts and narratives as ‘post-truth’. It then extends the discussion towards understanding the sustenance of post-truth narratives by conducting a priming experiment whereby individuals are primed on ‘post-truth’ texts to analyse the consumption pattern of post-truth narratives, that is, the resonance with the attributive traits reflective in post-truth narratives leading to the acceptance of such narratives as being truthful. The main research question addressed within this paper is: How do post-truth narratives inform decision making for the individual in accepting and believing the narrative to be truthful? I contextualise my theoretical reasonings for acceptance of ‘post-truth’ narratives within the analytical frameworks of socialization theory and how the Lacanian psychoanalytic elements of lack and fantasy are experienced in informing the decision making process of accepting certain narratives to be truthful. The independent variable is the post-truth text – the post-truth primes. The dependent variable is the acceptance of the post-truth text as being truthful. Such an experiment is a useful on two fronts. First, it allows us to illustrate the decision making process of an individual – why they perceive certain narratives to be truthful and accept them as such. Second, this acts as a pilot case study for replication studies focused on illustrating the interplay of post-truth narratives with decision making processes in order to discern the consumption patterns of (post-truth) discourses. The ‘post-truth’ primes used in the survey experiment are based on an extensive evaluation and categorization of 1205 news articles and opinion pieces covering news pertaining to major incidents and trending political issues and election speeches from the three major English newspapers (Dawn, The News International, The Express Tribune) circulated in Pakistan for three electoral years (2008, 2013 and 2018). The chosen primes have been analysed through the lens of the fantasmatic logic (Glynos and Howarth 2007) and Lacanian logic of lack and fantasy allowing us to separate texts which can be categorized as ‘post-truth’ to be used as primes in the experiment. The empirical illustration through the online experiment further extends the application of the theoretical components of post-truth in practice. It also contributes to the emerging literature on post-truth by shifting the focus towards ethnically and religiously diverse, politically stable developing democratizing countries.

Discussants: TBD.

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