Science Gone Viral:  Fact and Propaganda in the Digital Age 

Fall Open
Class Standing

In this program we will adopt Timothy Snyder’s provocative quip that “post-truth is pre-fascism” as a frame to investigate the phenomenon of “post-truth." We will consider  “ fake news” and “alternative facts ”, disinformation and democracy, and  get introduced to theories that challenge traditional conceptions of “facts” and of objective truth itself.

We’ll focus especially on the impact of “ fake news ” on climate science – the science itself as well as its manifestation in policy and its representation in the media – along with other cases drawn from the social sciences and sciences.  Half of the program will be studying the science relevant to climate studies and climate change, at an introductory level. T hroughout we will ask what this all has to do with authoritarianism and anti-fascism.

The term post-truth is quite recent, but the condition it describes arguably long predates its newest name. We’ll focus on the current moment, investigating what is new in the digital age, but also dig into the histories of climate science, propaganda, and disinformation.  Claims of fact and truth will be investigated in social and scientific contexts, especially where they converge, as in the ubiquitous and strangely slippery social media phrase “Follow the Science! ”

Processes and vocabulary behind earth and climate sciences will be covered in order to enable reading of primary literature on climate research. Topics covered will include atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere interactions; the carbon cycle; and Earth’s energy budget. These studies will include the ways in which a scientific understanding of what is most likely “true” differs from what is “fact” in social and cultural discourse. We’ll discuss what “science literacy” and “information literacy” mean, while learning some of the basic moves of academic research. We’ll also consider “media literacy” as we follow the traces of scholarly research results as they  propagate through the media. If Snyder is right that “post-truth is pre-fascism," then perhaps these three “ literacies”  should serve as a defense against fascism. But, are authoritarian movements and systems, including and perhaps especially fascist ones, “truth proof”?

Students will finish the program with an understanding of how information on climate is produced through research and how it is interpreted and used in the real world.  They will also have a solid grounding in the basics of academic research, and be well-positioned to consider whether science literacy,  information literacy, and media literacy have a role to play in anti-fascist work, and whether post-truth is indeed a signal of, or even a progenitor to, fascism.

This program is coordinated with Greener Foundations for first-year students. Greener Foundations is Evergreen’s in-person 2-quarter introductory student success course sequence, which provides first-year students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive at Evergreen. Students expected to take Greener Foundations will be prompted to register for a 2-credit Greener Foundations course in addition to this 14-credit program during registration. Students will be prompted to register for Greener Foundations with their new winter program to complete the 4-credits of Greener Foundations.


Anticipated Credit Equivalencies:

4 - Information Studies:  Propaganda in the Digital Age

3 - Introduction to Academic Research

4 - Climate Science

3 - Earth Science


Course Reference Numbers

So (14): 10272
Fr (14): 10273

Academic Details

sociology, political science, information studies, communications, journalism, earth science, climate science, environmental studies, political economy, history, education (K-12 and higher), public policy.



In Person (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details