New book explores inflationary media's role in the Trump phenomenon

November 18, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. - As the transition of power begins in Washington and the nation continues a collective discussion on the outcome of the presidential election, a new book is adding valuable insight to the dialogue through its exploration of the media conditions that allowed for the Donald Trump phenomenon to take place.

"We started writing this book three years ago," says David Castillo, University at Buffalo professor of Romance languages and literatures and director of the university's Humanities Institute. "You could now in hindsight think of this book as a prediction, not necessarily of Trump himself, but the Trump phenomenon."

"Medialogies: Reading Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media," co-authored with Johns Hopkins professor William Egginton, is already being praised. The esteemed European philosopher Santiago Zabala says, "Every epoch demands, expresses and is determined by a book. Most of the time these texts are noticed years after the fact.... But 'Medialogies' will have an immediate impact."

Medialogies is ultimately a book about reality literacy and its authors stress the need to invest in a renewed understanding of how news is constructed and presented. Failing to move toward a more enlightened approach is to remain trapped in the framed reality of media silos, they say.

"The most dangerous promise of the market society today is the claim that we have a right to our own reality," says Castillo. "Yet this is precisely what the 24-hour media cycle has produced and reality is actually being lost in the rising prominence of this new media culture."


The result is what the authors call a "crisis of reality" brought on by inflationary media.

Castillo says the media is inflationary not because of a single message, but because its cumulative effect alters world views. Democracy is unsustainable in an environment where basic facts are ignored and people listen only to those opinions that agree with their own.

"President Obama alluded to this in his final State of the Union Address when he mentioned how the Soviets beat the U.S. into space At the time, no one denied Sputnik or the science responsible for it," says Castillo. "But today polls show that most Americans deny climate change even though the scientific community is in near consensus about its threat.

"If we're going to have a conversation about climate change or other serious issues we have to realign the border between the visible and the invisible."

We've done it before.

Four hundred years ago, different media brought a similar crisis, according to Castillo.

"This is the very focus of the entire culture of the early modern period, particularly in Spain," says Castillo. "It's a reflection on the border between appearance and reality and differing ways in which mainstream culture and contesting versions of that culture imagine what's visible and invisible."

The authors see Miguel de Cervantes as a model for critical humanist thought because of his perspective on the media of the first inflationary age.

"When mass media first created a crisis in the concept of reality through the emergence of mass theater, the printing press and new perspectives in painting, Cervantes developed special insight into how the media framed not only what we see, but what we want to see," says Castillo. "His response was not to deny reality but to show how the world can present different versions of reality and how to develop the power to attune minds to actively read reality as opposed to passively receiving it."

Today we see a possible parallel in comedians like Stephen Colbert, who coined the term "truthiness," to refer to the phenomenon where reality is ignored in favor of individual truths.

Even Silicon Valley is trying to edit reality as it works on developing technologies like "smart glasses" or "smart contact lenses" that remove "disturbing sites" from our vision, "like homeless people," according to the futurist Ayesha Khanna.

"When did you last hear about land devastation in Africa? Or garbage being dumped in the oceans? These are among the truths already outside our frame of reality," says Castillo.

"We're already wearing those glasses," he says.

Castillo says the choice to remain in these media silos, protected and ignorant to what might challenge our world view, makes people complicit in their own blindness.

"As hard as it may be to engage in reality literacy, we can't afford not to," says Castillo.

University at Buffalo

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to