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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 25 - 2018, No. 3

Fake News as a Floating Signifier: Hegemony, Antagonism and the Politics of Falsehood

, , pages: 298-314[open access]

“Fake news” has emerged as a global buzzword. While prominent media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN, and Buzzfeed News, have used the term to designate misleading information spread online, President Donald Trump has used the term as a negative designation of these very “mainstream media.” In this article, we argue that the concept of “fake news” has become an important component in contemporary political struggles. We showcase how the term is utilised by different positions within the social space as means of discrediting, attacking and delegitimising political opponents. Excavating three central moments within the construction of “fake news,” we argue that the term has increasingly become a “floating signifier”: a signifier lodged in-between different hegemonic projects seeking to provide an image of how society is and ought to be structured. By approaching “fake news” from the viewpoint of discourse theory, the paper reframes the current stakes of the debate and contributes with new insights into the function and consequences of “fake news” as a novel political category.

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