John Keane | Media and Democracy in “The Post-Truth Era”: An Interview with Professor John Keane
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Media and Democracy in “The Post-Truth Era”: An Interview with Professor John Keane

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By LIU Moxiao


Interview Background

This article is a revised transcript of an interview with John Keane, Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), and co-founder and director of the Sydney Democracy Network (SDN). Professor Keane is renowned globally for his creative thinking about democracy, The Times ranked him as one of Britain’s leading political thinkers and writers whose work has ‘world-wide importance’. His many publications include: The Media and Democracy (1991), The Life and Death of Democracy (2009), Democracy and Media Decadence (2013). “Post-truth”, elected by Oxford Dictionaries as Word of the Year 2016 has elicited heated discussion among scholars and journalists. The transcript is the outcome of an original interview conducted on 13 December 2017. The main focus of the interview was on the relationship between the media and democracy, different approaches in interpreting “post-truth” and how to use the media to advance democracy in “the post-truth era”.



The media plays an important role in promoting democracy. Providing audiences with truthful and accurate information has always been an important function of the media in advancing democracy. However, with the advent of the “post-truth era”, the function of information provision by the media is being challenged. Based on the interview with Professor John Keane, a mere emphasis on “truth” is not the best way for democracy to protect itself against “post-truth”. According to Professor Keane, “post-truth” is a ‘recombinant’ of “lies”, “bullshit”, “symbolic buffoonery” and “silence”. In the “post-truth era”, through the establishment of multiple monitoring platforms, the media can be the supporter of “monitory democracy”. What’s more, the communication revolution and “monitory democracy” highlight the experience of the interpreted quality of the world. Although “post-truth” has the potential to destroy democracy, it also raises the question of what is truth among people and encourages a farewell to “hard truth”. If the media wants to continue promoting democracy in the “post-truth era”, it needs to help people learn how to make better interpretations and how to judge conflicting interpretations, thus cultivating reasonable and wise citizens for the development of democracy.



Post-truth, media and democracy, monitory democracy, communications revolution



LIU Moxiao is a doctoral student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University. Email:

Download the full text in Chinese in PDF here

This article has been published on The Journal of International Communication, 2018, Volume 6.