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‘Truthiness’ is subject of Sept. 14 Casper Professorship in History Lecture

Michelle Nickerson, PhD, an associate professor of history at Loyola University, Chicago, has been digging into the truth about the lies in her most recent research and will deliver Creighton University’s 2017 Fr. Henry W. Casper, SJ, Professorship in History Lecture on the subject, Sept. 14, at 5 p.m., in Room 104 of the Skutt Student Center.Alternative facts. Fake news. “Truthiness.”

The American conversation of late is peppered with lies and rumors of lies, flying about in the media and in the highest echelons of power. But is all this mendacity, both alleged and authentic, really anything new?

Michelle Nickerson, PhD, an associate professor of history at Loyola University, Chicago, has been digging into the truth about the lies in her most recent research and will deliver Creighton University’s 2017 Fr. Henry W. Casper, SJ, Professorship in History Lecture on the subject, Sept. 14, at 5 p.m., in Room 104 of the Skutt Student Center.

“History can serve to clarify the present,” said Casper Professor Heather Fryer, PhD, of the Department of History. “I’m grateful that Dr. Nickerson is willing to come and share some of the insights she’s gained and help us understand how this confusing phenomenon persists in our own time.”

The lecture, “Our Problem with ‘Truthiness’: The Centuries-long History of Fake News in the United States,” will delve into an issue that has plagued the republic from the beginning and seems to be deepening with the advent of social media and nonstop cable television news.

Since comedian and talk-show host Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” in 2005 — during the pilot episode of his popular The Colbert Report — to describe hostility towards fact-based journalism, the airwaves have been awash in who controls a media narrative and fake news has become a marker of ideological leanings.

In the United States, however, this sowing of doubt about reliability is nothing new. Partisan weeklies in the Colonial Era routinely attacked “the other side,” muckraking magazines in the Progressive Era sparked the term yellow journalism, and 1950s McCarthyism birthed a host of conspiracy-peddling tabloids.

The history of the news business in America is one of an industry often delivering truth on a spectrum. Nickerson’s research is looking at these chapters of journalism history offers useful ways to navigate healthy relationships with the social media and 24-hour news cycles of the present day.

At Loyola, Nickerson teaches and studies women’s, gender, urban and political history, with an interest in American conservatism, suburbanization, the anti-Vietnam War movement, feminism and the Cold War. She is the author of Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (2012), and a co-editor of Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Place, Space, and Region (2011). She is the co-moderator of the Newberry Library’s women and gender seminar is currently writing about the Camden 28 of the Catholic antiwar movement in 1971.

The Casper Lecture is cosponsored by the Creighton College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of History, and the Distinguished Lectureship Program of the Organization of American Historians.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

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