FUCK YOUR FEELINGS: THE AFFECTIVE WEAPONISATION OF FACTS AND REASON
Keywords:affect, facts, YouTube, influencer, disinformation
This paper examines emerging trends in fact signaling: the performative invocation of the idea of Fact and Reason, distinct from the concrete presentation of evidence or reasoning, as a way to cultivate affective solidarity. Emblematic is the conservative influencer Ben Shapiro’s slogan, “facts don’t care about your feelings”: a paean to the mythological figure of emotionlessly objective truth which may then be weaponised against one’s enemies. Scholars are increasingly attentive to the ways in which what was once popularised as a ‘fake news’ epidemic is not simply a virulent strain of bad information in a fundamentally rational online ecosystem, but rather a broader crisis and transformation of what counts as truthful, trustworthy and authentic (e.g. Boler & Davis, 2018; also see Banet-Weiser, 2012). Our contribution emphasises the affective and habitual dimension of this phenomenon. Through a close analysis of Ben Shapiro’s content and personal brand, we show how the generic invocation of Fact and Reason cultivates a sense of affective attachment not defined by ideological consistency or, indeed, the actual practice of research or logical reasoning, but rather a particularly masculinised and adversarial ideal of Truth. The payoff is the reassurance and pleasure of a stable subject position from which one’s political opposition may be Othered with impunity. Facts may not care about your feelings, but insisting upon this fact is all about building a certain structure of feeling.