The Responsibilities and Obligations of STS in a Moment of Post-Truth Demagoguery

  • Steve G. Hoffman University of Toronto
Keywords: authoritarianism, demagoguery, fact checking, knowledge democracy, post-truth, scientific facts


Scientific expertise and the free press have come under sustained partisan attack with the political ascendance of right-wing nationalism. This has put some science and technology studies (STS) scholars in the difficult position of defending the legitimacy of science while maintaining a characteristic agnosticism toward “the facts.” In this essay, inspired by a reading of Noortje Marres’s (2018) critique of fact-checking services, I seek to relieve some of the background anxiety I sense that perhaps STS research paved a path for the rise of right wing authoritarianism and “post-truth” politics. We are not dealing with a process of fact making in this environment, at least not of the scientific variety. Instead, we are dealing with political demagoguery. As scholars, we should therefore equip ourselves with the appropriate analytic and technological tools, and as many as possible, for engaging this political moment.

Author Biography

Steve G. Hoffman, University of Toronto

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology

University of Toronto (Mississauga campus)

24 Jul 2018