Introduction 
1 April 2022

As a translation of the expression ‘fake news,’ on October 4th, 2018 the Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language opted for the word ‘infox,’ a neologism juxtaposing the words ‘information’ and ‘intoxication,’ a quite fitting contraction of the two words given that if ‘fake news’ has always been around, it currently pervades the social field. To what do we owe this growth? This is what issue16 of Psychoanalysis.today, the final thematic issue  of our online review, proposes examining. A closing number will reprint the articles which have left their mark on the journal. And this is not fake news!

The recent eruption of the notion of ‘post-truth,’ named word of the year 2016 by the Oxford English Dictionary, profoundly interrogates the relations between politics and truth. It betrays a situation in which emotions and opinions replace the reality of facts, go along with talk of every kind, and fire all and any debate. Even if lying has always existed in politics (Hannah Arendt, ‘Lying in Politics’), in 2016 its growth underwent an explosion with the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, events analyzed in two articles in this number. The appearance of the term ‘alternative facts’ seems to have made any feeling of shame and guilt in these two world leaders vanish. 

Wilhelm Skogstad, in his article ‘The “Long Legs” of Lies and Brexit,’ examines in detail how an unsparing use of the lie led the British population to vote in favor of Brexit. Objective truth and subjective truth become confused in the rejecting of scientific knowledge to the advantage of beliefs. 

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, in her text ‘Are You Not Ashamed?,’ develops her remarks based on the anti-establishment and defiant attitude of a segment of the American population in response to two events: on the one hand, the election of Joe Biden to the presidency of the United States and, on the other, the health recommendations by experts during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here lying reached a perverse dimension. She wonders if psychoanalysis is capable of containing the regressive movement of American society towards mass psychosis. 

In support of his remarks, José Carlos Calich, in ‘A Psychoanalytic View on Fake News,’ bases himself on Jean Laplanche’s translational model with reference to the concept of the mytho-symbolic. Contemporary myth, that of post-truth and absolute freedom, has led to the emergence of important societal changes: the predominance of a ‘contemporary tribal’ structure, the illusion of unlimited pleasure, and the logic of domination. How may we remedy the culture of narcissism and the disdain of the other? How might psychoanalysis analyze this latest cultural discomfort? 

Patrick Merot, in ‘Is the Unconscious Fake News?’, analyzes the complex relationship we all maintain with truth. Any event may only become historical fact through the perception we attribute to it, which leads Freud to distinguish between material reality and psychic reality. Fake news and conspiracy theories seem to go hand in hand, but doesn’t this feeling of being misled originate in the confusion between the notions of power and authority?

In his article entitled ‘Fake News and the Landscape of Psychotherapy,’ Dr. Isaac Tylim, starting from a clinical situation, takes up the question of fake news in the analyst-patient relationship from a novel perspective.

Eduardo Gastelumendi, in his article ‘Fake News: Living with Eyes Closed,’ asserts that while false news has always existed, today’s, in our interconnected world, is somewhat different. It gives prominence to the use of defense mechanisms which negate external reality. This phenomenon ought to make psychoanalysts ask questions and incite them to take part in public debate. 

Alice Lombardo Maher, in ‘Humanity: A Race of Remarkable Killers,’ analyzes the inner forces driving humans to kill each other, whether symbolically or truly. Alice Lombardo Maher encourages us to think about this destructive behavior in order to eradicate it.

Todd Essig, in his essay ‘From Post-Truth to Post-Empathy,’ alerts us to the harm which the loss of the notion of truth brings about in our contemporary culture. Psychoanalysis is not spared. Incarnated remote analysis, or the encounter with an analyst by means of interposed screens, runs the risk of being replaced by the encounter with a robot, which takes us to the age of post-empathy.

This number features a video interview by Liliana Pedrón with Dr. José Eduardo Abadi. From a psychoanalytic perspective, José Eduardo Abadi talks to us about the relationship that Fake News maintains with reality, fear, and power. 

In the age of post-truth, what does the future hold for a society which considers profit and instantaneous gratification as the greater value? How may we move towards a society which privileges collective and sustainable progress? Will humanity manage to cease manipulating facts in order to intentionally conceal a truth which troubles it? Must we give up on the Truth?

Will post-truth be beneficial to democracy?   

Happy reading and happy thinking!

Chantal Duchêne-González


Translated from the French by Steven Jaron, Paris.