- December 2020
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Since the World Health Organization (WHO, February 2, 2020) reported that the
spread of coronavirus disease has been accompanied by a "massive infodemic," the COVID-19 outbreak has become a national and international battleground of a struggle against misinformation. Fact-checking outlets around the world have been actively counteracting false and misleading information surrounding the pandemic. In this article, we conceptualize fact checkers in terms of the #34;interpretative power" that journalism holds in processes of political performances (Alexander in Soc Theory 22(4): 527–573, 2004, in: The performance of politics. Obama's victory and the struggle for democratic power. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York, 2010). Drawing on virus-related fact checks from Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) database, we make two arguments. First, we argue that the new phenomenon of specialized "fact checking" might be considered as a further explicitly diferentiated element of Alexander's model of cultural performance, which fulflls a double duty: trying to contribute to further "de-fusion" (separating audiences from actors when the latter lack authenticity and credibility) on the one hand, and working to overcome it on the other. Second, we explain how new fact-checking practices have become a refexive supplement to the news media of the civil sphere that might be able to help the civil sphere's communicative institutions to defend truthfulness in a manner that contributes to democracy.
- civil sphere; covid-19; fact checkers; journalism; misinformation; performance