Tuesday, May 8, 2018

expecting genuineness of a communicative source
and discerning fakery

This is Section 1 of a commentary project titled “astute reasoning and ‘fake news’.” But it’s independent of that project.

The antidote to unwanted fakery by others is persons who expect genuine action and can tell the difference.

Disappointedly calling something or someone a fake is a folkism for discerning extreme ungenuineness. But we don’t ordinarily say “it’s ungenuine” or “you’re ungenuine” (though we do say that sometimes—particularly in formal situations of evaluation). Yet being genuine with others is usually as important for a relationship as are shared values and innocent realism.

“Telling the difference” between “the real thing” and a phony is idiomatic for a twofold skill: discerning the difference and conveying it. What’s the expected genuineness? How does it go?

We don’t think about it until we feel deceived, or used, or some similar feeling. When we don’t know how to discern genuineness (e.g., a child may not be able to understand a parent’s way of explaining decisions; a student may be clueless about a teacher’s approach to explanation), we trust. Basically, we trust until we can’t. But being able to discern for oneself is a maturity beyond dependence on trust. I’ll call that a mature expectation of genuineness, based in one’s capability to discern when it’s good enough or to find it insufficient.

A major realization in maturation is that all communication involves a posture or stance toward others that’s situational, not as such phony simply because a speaker/writer is implying a [mere] stance. We always communicate relatively: relative to “our” occasion, relative to time available, relative to what seems apt to share, and relative to a reader’s or listener’s actual (or anticipated) degree of interest.

Posturing is not as such phony. We care to a degree. We are together to a degree. We are candid as much as feels right. And so on.

I prefer the term ‘stancing’ over ‘posturing’ because ‘posturing’ easily sounds pejorative (though what else is an actor in any context-specific action other than someone shaping a posture?). In communicative action one shapes a stance for interaction that suits the desire or need or topic for the occasion.

Listening is a kind of reading of a stance: The other has to be interpreted within constraints of intended communication, not relative to projections about the entire person, at least relative to background experience between “us” (e.g., particular interest), relative to context of interaction (particular point), relative to implications for what to say next (mutuality engagement), etc. Self-expressive stancing (whose stance is fully transparent, as if missing) is a special form of en-stantial communication, as in avowals, creativity, or confession.

Discerning that another’s stance is self-expression (or has self-expressive implicature) compels questions of validity to be about genuineness. Otherwise, questioning the stance is about appropriateness or evidential assertion.

Stances may be casually genuine, deeply genuine, slightly ungenuine, altogether ungenuine about X while, at the same time, altogether genuine about Y. Interaction ususally has many aspects, involving various parts of oneself. A person may be conveying fake meaning unwittingly (cluelessly); or using a posture of genuineness to clothe fakery.

In any case, fakery in action is not about the medium of conveyance. It’s about the source. A person may be an unwitting medium of fakery thanks to systemic distortions (being misled by institutional claims). A person may be unwittingly supporting the spread of fakery by patronizing trusted sources that systemically sustain distortions (e.g., a corrupt business).

In any case, speaking in light of a free speech claim is not primarily about license, rather about the integrity of one’s action, thus the entitlement to have the dignity of that respected. Entitlement to free speech implicitly implies that one is a genuine source or voice, having or deserving to earn one’s claim to being a reliable (appropriate and evidential) source.

Reader/listerner reception of information that is welcomed through a medium never credibly appears as sourceless. Appearances of fakery are primarily about the unreliability of the source, which a reader/listener is (or should be able to) appropriately question or evaluate.

But inasmuch as a reader/listener is frivolous about a medium, they unwittingly welcome manipulation. Being casual unwittingly supports superficiality. Being attentive requires an investment of energy and time. Having a deliberative relation to meaning is best. So, there’s a continuum of engagement that may, to some degree, “collude” in fakery.

So, for the sake of attentiveness that is open to deliberate engagement, one should need to distinguish relevances of message (unit of meaning) from coherence of a narrative. Is the narrative whitewashing attention to the elements of validity? What’s the difference between a narrative and the case (advocacy position) that it serves? What arguments (warrantings) can be imputed in good faith, discerned from the implicature of a case, or need to be required of the speaker/writer? How may a case mask concerns for warranting? How may the rhetorical appeal of a narrative deflect from a case that is unquestionable?

Next: Section 2: “astute reasoning.”