Fake news as a floating signifier: hegemony, antagonism and the politics of falsehood

Johan Farkas, Jannick Schou

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


“Fake news” has emerged as a global buzzword. While prominent media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN, and Buzzfeed News, have used the term to designate misleading information spread online, President Donald Trump has used the term as a negative desig- nation of these very “mainstream media.” In this article, we argue that the concept of “fake news” has become an important component in contemporary political struggles. We show- case how the term is utilised by different positions within the social space as means of dis- crediting, attacking and delegitimising political opponents. Excavating three central moments within the construction of “fake news,” we argue that the term has increasingly become a “floating signifier”: a signifier lodged in-between different hegemonic projects seeking to provide an image of how society is and ought to be structured. By approaching “fake news” from the viewpoint of discourse theory, the paper reframes the current stakes of the debate and contributes with new insights into the function and consequences of “fake news” as a novel political category.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJavnost - The Public: Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)298–314
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2018


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