Post-truth world: A new word for a new era?
In 2016, the OED awarded “post-truth” the word of the year, defining “post-truth” as: ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. “Post-truth” often refers to political debate, brought into sharper focus by the US presidential election. In the words of award-winning commentator, Matthew Norman, “The truth has become so devalued that what was once the gold standard of political debate is a worthless currency.”
The left are inclined to see Donald Trump (or, in the UK, the campaign of misinformation around Brexit, or in Germany and France, the “identitarian” provocations on race), as the problem. This is a simplistic view and while it is intellectually expedient to pin post-truth phenomena on “those guys”, or a “few bad apples”, those are merely a symptoms of a much deeper, more systemic, and much more troubling phenomenon. The left might (mis) characterize 2016 as a victory for “liars” over “truth-tellers”, and while the fact-checkers would (largely) agree, this might permit the left, and “elites”, and “mainstream media” to evade responsibility for “post-truth” and its consequences. Perversely, although the right has profited most extensively from post-truth, it is the modus operandi of the elites that has permitted the rise of post-truth and the alt-right movements worldwide.
Note – this snippet is from an earlier introduction to Truth Wars, and uses an earlier title for that book. The critical point is who we blame, and what we do.