Stop talking about fake news!

Josh Habgood-Coote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
864 Downloads (Pure)


Since 2016, there has been an explosion of academic work that fixes its subject matter using the terms ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’. In this paper, I argue that this terminology is not up to scratch, and that academics and journalists ought to completely stop using the terms ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’. I set out three arguments for abandonment. First, that ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ do not have stable public meanings, entailing that they are either nonsense, context-sensitive, or contested. Secondly, that these terms are unnecessary, because we already have a rich vocabulary for thinking about epistemic dysfunction. Thirdly, I observe that ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ have propagandistic uses, meaning that using these terms legitimates anti-democratic propaganda, and risks smuggling bad ideology into conversations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
Early online date11 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2018


  • Fake news
  • post-truth
  • philosophy of language
  • nonsense
  • context-sensitivity
  • metalinguistic negotiation
  • propaganda
  • applied philosophy of language


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