Following Michel Foucault’s work, what is the status of truth, knowledge, and power in the Trump era of “alternative facts” where “fake news media” is “the enemy of the people?” In answering this question through an assessment of news media, this paper explores Foucault’s concepts of power/knowledge and the constitutive role they play in constituting “truth” in the public sphere. Since facts are never self-evident, knowledge is always a process of production in the interests of a group situated within a social system of power relations. Facts are resources that are linked together—articulated— within specific social contexts for particular ideologies, politics, and practices. As a result, this paper explores the construction of facts, how facts are inserted into discourses and discursive formations, which become power/knowledge regimes. To parse opinion from empirical evidence, relativism from objectivity, dominant from subjugated knowledges, authoritarianism from truth-telling, we must return to fundamental Foucauldian questions: What is the function and value of truth? How does truth exercise power? What are the effects that truth produces? These questions provide a springboard to examine the realm of news media as the conduit through which information is circulated to communicate, interpret, explain, and critique the world around us.
Black Hawk Hancock is an Associate Professor of Sociology at DePaul University. His recent publications on Media include "Learning How to Fiske: Theorizing Power, Knowledge, and Bodies in the 21st Century." In John Fiske Power Plays, Power Works, 2nd Edition (Routledge 2016) and "Learning How to Fiske: Cultural Analysis as Counter-History, Cultural Literacy, and Public Policy." In John Fiske Media Matters: Gender & Race in U.S. Politics, 2nd Edition (Routledge 2016).