Pseudo-events

This is a useful term:

Pseudo-event, an event produced by a communicator with the sole purpose of generating media attention and publicity. These events lack real news value but still become the subject of media coverage. In short, pseudo-events are a public relations tactic.

The term pseudo-event was coined by American scholar Daniel J. Boorstin in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961), his book about the effects of media publicity and advertising on political and social practices in the United States in the 1950s. Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as an ambiguous truth that appeals to people’s desire to be informed. He argued that being in the media spotlight was a strong incentive for public figures to stage artificial events, which became real and important once validated by media coverage. Boorstin described pseudo-events as the opposite of propaganda, although both forms of communication have similar consequences and result in public misinformation. Whereas propaganda slants facts to keep the public from learning the truth, pseudo-events provide the public with artificial facts that people perceive as real.

The article names press conferences, speeches and advertisements as examples of pseudo-events. I would suggest the term “pseudo-news” to describe all the media coverage generated by such staged events and situations; all stories generated for the media or by the media are pseudo-news.

Much of what we call “news” is pseudo-news. The facts may be accurate – politician X did say Y; the press conference did happen – but they are not important. The event being reported on is not newsworthy, yet it is treated as news; it is not fit to print, yet it occupies the front page.

Pseudo-news is one way in which the news can be both accurate and fake.

Confucius said: “What is necessary is to rectify names… If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.”

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