Post Truth, or the Cultural Logic of Late Racism

Curator's Note

The concept of the “post truth” operates as an alibi that betrays the fact that the phenomenon had minimal impact on voters of color. For instance, CNN reported that White voters supported Trump by a 20% margin of 57% to 37% respectively, whereas Blacks voters supported Clinton by a 81% margin of 89% to 8% respectively. Likewise, though “post truth” concepts have been used to explain low voter of color turnout, other factors such as the 2013 weakening of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 offer more explanatory power. For instance, the North Carolina Black early voting turnout in counties suffering from voter suppression efforts was only 72% the level of 2012, in contrast to 91% for unimpaired counties.

Hence, if we are to reconcile the fact that the concept of the “post truth” seems to operate most powerfully on White populations and that the lower voter of color turnout had more to do with conventional political measures, then we must take account of the racial politics of the “post truth.” Indeed, my contention is that the “post truth” is just another concept in the long history of propaganda research that inadequately takes account of the fact that propaganda seems to work well on some populations and not others. To rectify the inadequate explanatory power of the “post truth,” I urge media theorists to take seriously the critical race theory concept of interest convergence and the rhetorical concepts of narrative probability and narrative fidelity to understand why we must stop referring to the “post truth” as anything other than the cultural logic of late racism.

For if narrative probability is contingent upon how well the story resonates with culturally accepted norms of good reasoning, then we ought to explore the foundation of those culturally accepted norms of narrative fidelity. Interest convergence offers an analytic for exploring this foundation of the “post truth,” for to paraphrase the words of Derrick Bell: the racial realities of people of color will not be recognized when it does not converge with the interests of Whiteness. Hence, as you watch this video of Kellyanne Conway, I ask that you think about how interest convergence serves as the criteria by which she establishes the narrative fidelity—and by extension probability—of her claims.


Thank you for your post! I enjoyed your framing of "post truth" as "the cultural logic of late racism," and I would venture further that this cultural logic extends beyond racism to various forms of oppression. Although your post focuses specifically on how the concept of "post truth" interacted with voters of color, your linking of "post truth" to a cultural logic of oppression also invokes discussions of post-modern subjectivities. As Jameson explained, Western Culture entered into a phase of "post-modernity" that de-centered the subject, leading to a crisis where "truth" became merely a relative position and not an apriori distinction. Chela Sandoval also greatly points out that this particular "post-modern" subjectivity is very similar to that experienced by post-colonial subjects. That being said, post-modernity--in liberating the oppressed through the de-centering of power--inevitably led to our contemporary moment of "post-truth," where hegemonic power re-captures dominance (ala Gramsci) by sanctioning the use of rhetorical tools like "alternative facts" that can co-exist alongside reason and established knowledge, legitimizing hypocritical and unreasonable positions. I call this inevitable because, by de-essentializing "truth," post-modernity sanctioned moral relativism and meta-modernist (, which I denigrate a selective post-modern philosophy, out of fear) conceptions of self-justified, personal "truths," which can now been seen as having as much relative value as those truths espoused by more traditional forms of knowledge creation. However, I will admit that there is something liberating (albeit sinister and very Dennis the Menace-y) about not having to justify eating meat while believing in universal equality. So, just as post-modernity promised freedom, it also paved the way for this moment of increasing oppression. Unfortunately, I think we've only just entered this particular phase and can expect the next 20 years to be replete with a bludgeoning force that authorizes"post truths," furthering majority agendas and marginalizing the rest. In the age of information, it appears that in popular culture it matters less what is "right" and "true" and matters more that we can find greater bulks of data. Being in a marginal subjective position myself (although, nowadays, who isn't?), I propose a strategy of data dumping, where we oppose this dominating force by generating more, and more, and more information, including misinformation--just not in our scholarship or tax returns.

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