The new pervasiveness of political deceit and misinformation, combined with allegations of ‘fake news,’ has introduced the notion of ‘factless facts,’ an uncharted territory for administrators, the public sector, the media, the concept of public values, and the citizenry. The ultimate outcome of such falsehoods and the intentional blurring of the line between legitimate critique and intentional lies is that the public will find it increasingly difficult to hold public officials to account, or to trust anything that is said. Corruption, fraud, and the misuse of public resources is substantially easier when using such ploys. With mounting evidence of the Russian government's interference in both the US and other democracies, the need to address the misinformation campaign seems more pressing than ever.
With examples as diverse as blood libels and witch trials, to alien conspiracies and the eyesight-enhancing properties of carrots, history is replete with ‘truths’ unburdened by facts, misinformation, and disinformation. And yet, despite such a long history, it was in 2016 when these longstanding, often latent, concerns went mainstream. Two changes in the nature of fake news explain the dramatic increase in interest: firstly, so-called ‘new media’ was leveraged to share fake information on a previously unimaginable scale; and secondly, then-candidate Donald J. Trump began to use the term ‘Fake News’ to refer to a wide range of media, including outlets with a reputation for factual accuracy. The former makes it increasingly difficult for citizens to know what is factual, posing a fundamental challenge to democracy, and the latter makes it nearly impossible for the public and media to hold governments to account. If facts are seen as an anachronism, trust in governments could decline further.
The relatively limited amount of analysis regarding political deceit from an ethical standpoint leaves academics, policymakers, and the public with little guidance on how to ensure integrity in the public sector.
This symposium issue of Public Integrity aims to fill this informational gap by examining the issue of ‘political communication unburdened by facts,’ and its implications for public sector ethics. Among other issues, the symposium will provide crucial discussion of questions such as: Does this growing deceit genuinely represent a qualitative shift in the form of falsehoods? Is ‘fake news’ corrupt? Does it undermine the quality of governments, and in what way? Does this phenomenon have measurable implications, and will it have implications for broader indices of good governance?
We welcome original manuscripts grounded in theoretical, qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research. These may include surveys, ethnographies, and articles that illuminate the unique legal, ethical, and governing challenges administrators in the public sector are facing given widespread political deceit. Manuscripts may also investigate the consequences of not addressing the issue, including the impact of climate change deniers, pseudoscience, and grand lies in public life. Manuscripts may also examine the ethical problems that arise when the public uncritically shares false information merely because they agree with the content. Manuscripts from a variety of fields will be considered, including but not limited to political science, ethics, communication, management, nonprofits, governance, psychology, law, public policy, business, and public administration
The special issue seeks manuscripts of a maximum of 4,000 words, including references. If you would like to be considered for inclusion in this Symposium, please send an abstract with full contact information before May 15th 2018 to Dr. Haris Alibašić and Dr. Jonathan Rose, Symposium Editors, at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Authors will be notified by June 15th, 2018 of the acceptance of their abstracts. The deadline for submitting final manuscripts is October 1, 2018.