Emotion, lies, and “bullshit” in journalistic discourse: The case of fake news

Translated title of the contribution: Emoción, mentiras y “bullshit” en el discurso periodístico: el caso de las noticias falsas/falseadas o “fake news”

Laura Alba-Juez, J. Lachlan Mackenzie

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Emotion is part and parcel of all kinds of human experience and as such plays an important role in all discourse types, including professional discourse. In the 21st century more than ever, the proper channeling and expression of our emotions at the workplace has come to be considered a sign of emotional intelligence, powerful leadership, and (harmless) persuasion skills. However, persuasion can also be used as a weapon to lie and manipulate people’s emotions. Meibauer (2018) notes that lying and deception play an important role in business and trade, and this is obviously the case in the business of fake news. In this article we analyze the genre of fake news within professional journalistic discourse. We carry out a qualitative sociopragmatic analysis of samples of political and scientific fake news in English, and show how this kind of journalism aims at manipulating readers’ emotions not only through the use of prototypical lies (i.e. assertions whose content the speaker believes to be false, uttered with the intention of deceiving the hearer), but mainly by means of complex discourse-pragmatic strategies such as the skillful manipulation of the three chief evaluative subsystems, aTTITudE, EngagEMEnT and graduaTIon (Martin & White, 2005), the triggering of false inferences and the display of misleading images, thus playing with the scalarity of lying. This in turn leads us to some important conclusions showing that the fact that the linguistic expression of falsity can be scalar is intimately connected with the concepts of “bullshit” (Frankfurt, 2005) and “post-truth” (Keyes, 2004): a good story that somehow touches readers’ emotions, even if it is deceiving, prevails over a true story, because the readers choose to accept as true what makes them “feel good”.emotion, persuasion, manipulation, fake news, post-truth, bullshit, scalarity of lying.

Translated title of the contributionEmoción, mentiras y “bullshit” en el discurso periodístico: el caso de las noticias falsas/falseadas o “fake news”
Original languageMultiple languages
Pages (from-to)17-50
Number of pages34
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Title and abstract also in Spanish

Spanish title: Emoción, mentiras y “bullshit” en el discurso periodístico: El caso de las noticias falsas/falseadas o “fake news”


  • Bullshit
  • Emotion
  • Fake news
  • Manipulation
  • Persuasion
  • Post-truth
  • Scalarity of lying


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