Fake News, Conceptual Engineering, and Linguistic Resistance: Reply to Pepp, Michaelson, and Sterken, and Brown

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In Habgood-Coote (2019 “Stop Talking about Fake News!” Inquiry: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62(9-10): 1033-1065) I argued that we should abandon ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’, on the grounds that these terms do not have stable public meanings, are unnecessary, and function as vehicles for propaganda. Jessica Pepp, Eliot Michaelson, and Rachel Sterken (2019 “Why we should keep talking about fake news” Inquiry: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy) and Étienne Brown (2019 “’Fake News’ and Conceptual Ethics”, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, 16(2): 144-154) have raised worries about my case for abandonment, recommending that we continue using ‘fake news’. In this paper, I respond to these worries. I distinguish more clearly between theoretical and political reasons for abandoning a term, assemble more evidence that ‘fake news’ is a nonsense term, and respond to the worries raised by Pepp, Michaelson and Sterken, and Brown. I close by considering the prospects for anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian conceptual engineering.
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