Listening to lies and legitimacy online: A proposal for digital rhetorical listening

L. Corinne Jones


As people scream past each other in an increasingly polarized public sphere, fake news emerges as problem for reception on the Internet. While scholars have posited rhetorical listening as a strategy to bridge these differences in off-line spaces, it has not been fully explored online. Online spaces are becoming increasingly salient and important to theorize though, since polarized groups often communicate and miscommunicate on the Internet. Using the fake news that circulated in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as a case study, I demonstrate some of the complications for rhetorical listening that arise through algorithms, interfaces, and performances that perpetuate the spread of fake news. As such, I call for more robust digital listening practices and theories that account for complications of the Internet. I conclude that individuals, platforms, and institutions can all actively promote rhetorical digital listening practices. However, we also need to think about other motivations besides ignorance for spreading fake news.

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