University Scholar Series: Ryan Skinnell
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Two Truths and a Big Lie: The ‘Honest’ Mendacity of Fascist Rhetoric
Fascists don’t just come to power—they have to persuade supporters, which is to say, they use rhetoric. One key to understanding fascist rhetoric is to understand fascists’ relationship to truth. In this talk, Skinnell distinguishes between two kinds of truth: factual and fascist. Factual truth is the theoretical basis for liberal democratic institutions, but there are inherent tensions between empirical fact and democratic values, including individualism, deliberation, and compromise. Fascists amplify and exploit these tensions to advocate for fascist truth. Fascist truth prioritizes performances of sincerity and authenticity over empirical facts. In fact, Skinnell contends that lying openly and egregiously reinforces a leader’s claim to authenticity because it shows their sincere commitment to the cause. In the end, Skinnell asserts that if we want to resist the re-emergence of fascism in the 21st century, we need to understand why people find fascist rhetoric so appealing in the first place.
Due to a campus-wide internet connectivity issue during the hybrid presentation on September 22, 2021, a re-recording of the original presentation has been provided and includes questions asked in-person and via Zoom.
Date of Event
fascism, 20th century fascism, lies, liars
Rhetoric | Social Influence and Political Communication | Speech and Rhetorical Studies
Skinnell, Ryan, "University Scholar Series: Ryan Skinnell" (2021). University Scholar Series. 43.