Publication details

Trump and circumstance: introducing the post-truth claim as an instrument for investigating truth contestation in public discourse



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Information, Communication & Society
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Economics and Administration

Keywords claims analysis; populist communication; postfactual; post-truth; Trump; Twitter
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Description The idea of post-factual politics has become increasingly relevant for describing current political and societal developments. Though research on the topic has been blooming, we lack a common framework and systematic tool to map and analyze post-truth communication. Therefore, our paper advances the adaptation of claims-making for the analysis of how actors relativize the truth and use discourses of untruthfulness to attack their opponents, constructing their own versions of reality. We extend the affinity between populism and post-truth to conceptualize truth contestation in two aspects: (1) the antagonistic anti-elite constructions of accusations of creating and spreading false information and lies, (2) the emphasis on emotionality and negativity over facts and expertise. Building on a communication-centered approach to populism, we define key content and stylistic characteristics of post-truth claims to study the contestation of truth in political communication in a systematic way. Taking the Twitter communication of Donald Trump as a prime example, we illustrate the employability of our approach via a pilot study on the longest period of shutdown in US history (22 December 2018–25 January 2019). As a result, we introduce claims analysis as an approach that can be usefully adapted to study post-truth discourses.
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