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Abstract

In this paper, I suggest that the phenomenon of fake news may be more productively understood if considered within the context of Ciceronian stasis theory. Whereas much of rhetoric and writing’s response to fake news consists of appeals to fact-checking, it is by engaging fake news stories as arguments of quality rather than fact or definition that we may develop a more productive understanding of the relationship between fake news and personal belief. Taking the case of Edgar Maddison Welch and the fake news story Pizzagate as illustrative examples, I conclude that, by more seriously attending to the thoughts and feelings of the believers of fake news, we not only make it possible to better appreciate what it is that leads citizens to embrace and circulate and even act on such narratives. We better position ourselves as scholars and educators to more persuasively respond to fake news’ deception and harmful effects.

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