Deep stories, nostalgia narratives, and fake news: Storytelling in the Trump era
- 792 Downloads
Characterizing Trump supporters either as “duped” by Fox News or as speaking from their lived experience misses the fact that both are true. We draw on scholarship on narrative and on the media to trace the ways in which elite-produced stories simultaneously reflect and forge a political common sense. We argue that narrative’s allusiveness (the fact that stories work by calling up other stories) helps to explain why stories produced by media elites come to feel as if they reflect people’s experience. The fact that people often share stories as a way of building collective identity, for its part, helps to explain why stories’ plausibility may be relatively unimportant to those people. Both features of storytelling are intrinsic to the form, but their political effects have been sharpened by two significant changes in the media landscape: the rise of right-wing media outlets and the profusion of user-shared digital news. We trace these developments as a way to make sense of Trump’s electoral support.
Keywordspolitics narrative media public opinion
Our thanks to the editors, two anonymous reviews, Edwin Amenta, Colin Bernatsky, Tania DoCarmo, Shela Duong, and Kelly Ward for their valuable advice on revising the article. Polletta also thanks her fellow members of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Study for helping her to develop some of the ideas in the article.
- Berry, J.M. and Sobieraj, S. (2014) The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bonilla-Silva, E., Lewis, A. and Embrick, D.G. (2004) ‘I did not get that job because of a black man…’: The story lines and testimonies of color-blind racism. Sociological Forum 19(4): 555–81.Google Scholar
- Bump, P. (2016) How Fox News fans keep Donald Trump afloat. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/07/12/how-fox-news-fans-keep-donald-trump-afloat/?utm_term=.98606730ea4c, accessed 24 January 2017.
- Byers, D. (2014) Savage dominates Hannity in key markets. Politico. http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/02/savage-dominates-hannity-in-key-markets-183513, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Campion-Vincent, V. (2005) Organ Theft Legends. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press.Google Scholar
- CNN. (2017) President Trump reads ‘The snake.’ http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/04/30/president-trump-read-the-snake-orig-vstan-new.cnn, accessed 9 May 2017.
- Cramer, K.J. (2016a) For years, I’ve been watching anti-elite fury build in Wisconsin. Then came Trump. Vox. http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/11/16/13645116/rural-resentment-elites-trump, accessed 24 January 2017.
- Davies, D. (2016) Fake news expert on how false stories spread and why people believe them. NPR: Fresh Air. http://www.npr.org/2016/12/14/505547295/fake-news-expert-on-how-false-stories-spread-and-why-people-believe-them, accessed 26 January 2017.
- De Fina, A. (2003) Identity in Narrative: A Study of Immigrant Discourse. Vol. 3. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.Google Scholar
- Golshan, T. (2016) Trump’s fake controversy about Clinton’s emails getting an Iranian scientist killed, explained. Vox. http://www.vox.com/2016/8/9/12410882/clinton-emails-trump-iranian-scientist-executed-amiri, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Guo, J. (2016) Donald Trump didn’t ‘hoodwink’ his voters, says professor who has spent nearly a decade researching them. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/15/donald-trump-didnt-hoodwink-his-voters-says-professor-whos-spent-nearly-a-decade-researching-them/?utm_term=.18a6c1d47386, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Hochschild, A.R. (2016) Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
- Jamieson, K. and Cappella, J. (2008) Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Johnson, E. (2017) How Trump blew up the conservative media. Politico, May/June. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/21/trump-conservative-media-breitbart-fox-news-wall-street-journal-215035, accessed 9 May.
- Kapferer, J.-N. (2013) Rumors: Uses, Interpretations, and Images. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2016) News use across social media platforms 2016. 26 May 2016. http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Serwer, A. (2011) Fox news’ paranoid alternate universe. Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/09/fox-news-paranoid-alternate, accessed 24 January 2017.
- Silverman, C. (2016) Here are 50 of the biggest fake news hits on Facebook from 2016. Buzzfeed, 30 December 2016. https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/top-fake-news-of-2016?utm_term=.vd7XmJPDq#.wy0kgrobN, accessed 9 May 2017.
- Spargo, C. (2017) Slow and steady wins the (ratings) race. Daily Mail UK. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3895284/Slow-steady-wins-ratings-race-Megyn-Kelly-tops-Bill-O-Reilly-rated-cable-news-program-key-demo-October.html, Accessed May.
- Sundar, S.S. (2016) Why do we fall for fake news? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/why-do-we-fall-for-fake-news-69829, accessed 7 December 2016.
- Tashman, B. (2016) 58 Donald Trump conspiracy theories (and counting!): The definitive Trump conspiracy guide. Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/58-donald-trump-conspiracy-theories-and-counting-definitive-trump-conspiracy-guide, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Tavernise, S. (2016) As fake news spreads lies, more readers shrug at the truth. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/us/fake-news-partisan-republican-democrat.html, accessed 26 January 2017.
- Trump, D. (2016a) Transcript of Donald Trump’s economic policy speech to Detroit Economic Club. The Hill. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/campaign/290777-transcript-of-donald-trumps-economic-policy-speech-to-detroit, accessed 7 May 2017.
- Trump, D. (2016b) FULL SPEECH: Donald Trump in Tampa, Florida. The Hill. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/292520-full-speech-donald-trump-in-tampa-florida, accessed 7 May 2017.
- Trump, D. (2016c) Read Donald Trump’s speech on jobs and the economy. Time. http://time.com/4495507/donald-trump-economy-speech-transcript/, accessed 7 May 2017.
- Trump, D. (2016d) Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript. Politico. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/full-transcript-donald-trump-nomination-acceptance-speech-at-rnc-225974, accessed 7 May 2017.