E70: We hold these Truths & Replies to be self-evident: What is Truth Social?


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By re:verb, Calvin Pollak, and Alex Helberg. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

On June 28, 2022, explosive public testimony was delivered by a former Trump Administration aide named Cassidy Hutchinson in front of the United States House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attacks. Hutchinson’s testimony corroborated and deepened the Committee’s case that President Trump had led the attacks. In addition, Hutchinson divulged an extraordinary anecdote in which, after learning that his attorney general, William Barr, had refused to back Trump’s claims of election fraud, Trump purportedly slammed a plate against a wall; according to Hutchinson, the wall was dripping with ketchup.

The 45th president himself seems to have been watching Hutchinson’s testimony in real-time, because immediately after it aired, he dashed off a flurry of enraged posts on an obscure social media site, Truth Social, which he founded in late 2021 after Twitter and Facebook banned his accounts following January 6th. Trump’s comments about Hutchinson quickly circulated on the more popular and mainstream social media platforms, but their users could not directly interact with Trump’s incendiary content unless they also had accounts on the strangely named (and uncannily designed) Truth Social.

On this episode, Calvin and Alex dig into Truth Social in real-time–so you don’t have to. What is it? How does it work? Which accounts (other than Trump’s) are most popular there? How does its glossary define “Truth”? Is all of the content shared on TS overtly right-wing propaganda, or is there more benign stuff as well? (And if there is, what does it look like?) We answer all of these questions and more, in addition to providing context about Trump’s recent legal maneuvering in relation to the site, as well as complaints from some of its users that censorship and “shadow banning” are just as much problems there as on Facebook and Twitter. We close by breaking down the strange philosophical notions of “truth” promulgated both within the conservative movement and in more liberal approaches to “fact-checking”, and we argue that for all of its flaws, at least in its terminology Twitter doesn’t claim to be offering anything other than what it is: a collection of random bird sounds that may or may not mean anything.

Works and Concepts Referenced

Brown, J. (2015). Ethical programs: Hospitality and the rhetorics of software. University of Michigan Press.

Burke, K. (1966). Chapter Three—Terministic Screens. Language as symbolic action. University of California Press.

Ellul, J., Merton, R. K., Kellen, K., & Lerner, J. (1973). Propaganda: The formation of men's attitudes. New York: Vintage books. [Introduces concept of horizontal propaganda.]

Gruwell, L. (2018). Constructing research, constructing the platform: Algorithms and the rhetoricity of social media research. Present Tense, 6(3), 1-9.

Trump left social media company board before federal subpoenas, filing shows–CNBC

Trump Throws New Tantrum After Former Aide Exposes Jan. 6 Tantrum–Rolling Stone

Truth Social Users Are Fuming Over “Censorship” on Trump’s Platform–The Daily Beast

78 episodes