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The Art of Political Storytelling


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Part I: Apocalyptic Politics 1. Setting the Scene 2. Let's Begin with the Facts 3. Popular Fiction Part II: Shaping the Story 4. Explanatory Stories 5. What Makes a Good Story? 6. Dramatic Structure Part III: Language and Rhetoric 7. Spectacle and Emotion 8. A Post-Truth Lexicon 9. Digital Disinformation Part IV: Fiction and Reality 10. The Fabric of Reality 11. Conspiracy Politics 12. The Lie that Tells the Truth Index

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Why telling a good story is more important than facts in modern politics and the role language plays in the era of fake news, post-truth and hyper-partisanship.

About the Author

Philip Seargeant is an author and academic specialising in the study of language and communication. He teaches at the Open University, UK, where his research focuses on the relationships between language, politics and social media. He is the author of several award-winning educational films, and frequently works as a consultant for the BBC and other media outlets. His writing has appeared in publications such as The New European, Prospect, The Huffington Post and Wired.


Interesting and readable, this survey of the political storyteller's toolbox goes a long way to account for the recent successes of provocative populist leaders around the world and makes an enlightening guide to our current political moment ... 4 stars. * The Herald *
A brilliant deconstruction of propaganda and how it co-opts dramatic and narrative technique, throwing into doubt truth, fact and identity. * Irish Times *
In the first place there has to be a monster, a seemingly unbeatable foe that sweeps all before it and brutalises the citizens. And then of course, you need a hero, a leader, a figurehead for a rebel alliance fighting to reclaim paradise for the people. Is this Star Wars or just everyday politics? There is actually no great distinction, although there may be fewer Wookies in science fiction. This is the central and entirely correct contention of Philip Seargeant's The Art of Political Storytelling, an examination of how politicians win hearts by weaving narratives around themselves. * Robert Shrimsley, the Financial Times' chief UK political commentator *
Philip Seargeant's utterly original and fascinating book provides a unique perspective on our current "post-truth" predicament. What to do when you realize that some (or even most) people are persuaded not by arguments but by stories? And what if some of those stories aren't true? The importance of narrative in political discourse is brilliantly illuminated. Read it and lament, read it and understand, or read it to learn how to win an election! * Lee McIntyre, Author of 'Post-Truth' (MIT 2018) and Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University, USA *
Enlightening and entertaining, this book reveals how we have become actors in politicians' stories and how we can take back control of our own destinies. * Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow, Institute of Global Affairs, London School of Economics, UK and Research Fellow, Johns Hopkins University, USA *
In the current interregnum, this is an important and timely book significantly contributing to our understanding of how storytelling that has long been mastered by political leaders has led to the social orders we experience, embrace, and reject. This book offers valuable pathways for us to tell our own counter-stories. * Christian W. Chun, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA *
In this timely and cogent work, Philip Seargeant analyses how politicians construct their narratives and why voters prefer a good tale to verifiable facts. As conspiracy theories thrive and the very meaning of the word truth is called into question, this is an important book for our times. * Steve Buckledee, Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics, University of Cagliari, Italy *
This is an engaging and timely account of the fundamental role of storytelling in all aspects of political life. Rich with examples, it gives us tools for understanding how stories are crafted, and how they shape our world. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to understand the current political environment. * Piia Varis, Associate Professor, Tilburg University, The Netherlands *
Seargeant argues that one really cannot fully understand the recent political successes of the Brexit campaign and politicians such as Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orban, without taking into account how much their ongoing communication resembles the storytelling found in popular culture and in Hollywood films in particular. In some ways, this is a frightening book, but it is one that should be read by anyone interested in how political communication is crafted today. * David Block, ICREA Professor in Sociolinguistics, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain *

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