TRUTH: A new book on documentary practices post-9/11 begins with an often-repeated (idealistic) blaming of the media for the election of Trump, but develops into a complex analysis of how digital culture shapes our political realities
Nina Trige Andersen
Nina Trige Andersen is a historian and freelance journalist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: October 27, 2019
Where Truth Lies: Digital Culture and Documentary Media after 9/11
Author: Kris Fallon
University of California Press, USA

There is a very particular tiredness connected to the claim that the media were to blame for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. It has been repeated as a self-evident fact so often that it is barely worth considering the meaning of such a claim anymore.

What is worth noting is that the claim is rarely, if ever, put forward by people outside of the media universe. People who make a living from producing, publishing or analysing media and media content tend to grossly overrate their power and blatantly overlook the life experiences that shape ordinary people’s political minds.

In a sense, Kris Fallon’s new book Where Truth Lies: Digital Culture and Documentary Media after 9/11 falls within this tradition of detached understanding of how the world works and why: «In 2016, when real-estate heir and reality television figure Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected president of the United States, media were to blame», is how Fallon opens his account. Honestly, I almost canceled my scheduled review right there. I predicted 200+ pages of utter boredom and restless irritation.

Luckily – probably motivated by the catchy title of the book – I hung on for a few more pages and soon realised that this was indeed something else. Fallon did not persuade me that media were to blame for the election of Trump – or, we must assume, that media would have been to thank had he not been elected. But he did persuade me that a critical analysis of the current media landscape in light of the historical development of documentary practices and digital technologies is both timely and politically relevant.

Generalised confusion

The empirical point of departure for Fallon’s venture into the vicious struggle over truth that marks contemporary media landscapes is the American government’s announcement that terrorism could only be fought if the good guys went over to «the dark side».

In hindsight, Fallon writes, the then vice president Dick Cheney’s remarks after the 9/11 attack in 2001 about having to «spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world» foretold, as Fallon tells us, a «long period of deep political turmoil and conflict over events yet to come, events that included revelations of secret prisons, torture, human rights abuses, over a hundred thousand civilian casualties, two wars abroad, and an unprecedented erosion of …

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