According to Oxford Dictionaries, we may be living in a post-truth era, something which has been provoked by Brexit and the US Election. One might be tempted to correct that these events magnified its use, rather than post-truth leading to the events. Post-truth is supposedly an adjective which means:
‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Such rubbish has flourished since the US election, with claims of “false news”, which Facebook has now apparently committed to fighting. What enough people hopefully realise is that using one’s personal beliefs and emotions for guidance is nothing new, or necessarily a bad thing in all circumstances.
So, must we now believe that for tens of thousands of years, man has been living as a perfectly rational being, coexisting in societies filled with all other completely rational beings who check for objective facts before forming a public opinion? The idea that an opinion about a political issue could spawn out of nowhere, bypassing our humanity and instead reflecting a mirror image of cold hard facts is incredible. A fictional example: 68.5 percent of white males received xyz level of education therefore the right course of action on abortion laws is… Of course, the real examples given by ‘experts’ aren’t quite so ridiculous, but still the implication is there that a certain newspaper, journal, or professional can give you a smarter reason why your point of view is stupid, and governed by ‘personal belief’ rather than ‘objective fact’.
One could fill up a book on how what constitutes objective fact is a contentious issue, especially regarding political thought. This would be worthwhile in itself, but for the moment let me repeat an aberration, or modification of a Mark Twain quote, which I think came from a scientific research methods textbook: fact is stranger than truth. The implication is that you can be presented with facts, figures, data, but still not be able to grasp “truth”. The political and media elite are more stupid and dull than they appear if one thinks that a list of facts is sufficient information to base decisions on how to structure society on.
Just take a look at a classic example of ‘academic rigour, journalistic flair’, as The Conversation offers us a reason why Trump won presidency. Higher educated voters were “ likely to swing to Clinton, and lower educated voters to Trump”. Also, apparently in the states which Trump won, there were, compared to national averages, a greater “proportion of non-University educated white males”. So there you have one explanation. Combine it with the supposed fact that Hilary’s “issues were minor compared with Trump’s often blatant misogyny, racism and outright lies” and you have an explanation, apparently. Forget Steve Price who I mentioned in an earlier post, and his theory that the middle states (“real America”) weren’t buying into what the elites were pushing; the real reason Donald Trump won is because not enough white male Americans received higher education.
As a good article on the Wall Street Journal states (although you may want to run it through a fact-checker rather than use your personal beliefs), even if there is “fake news”, it is hardly a threat to democracy, as it is clear Clinton believes:
“We must stand up for our democracy”, and fight none other than “the epidemic of malicious, fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year”.
What is perhaps sad (and I don’t think necessarily true) is that it is even considered that a majority of people regard Facebook as a place for accurate and truthful analysis of world affairs.
To return to my opening remarks, all can clearly see the implications of living in a post-truth era. Throw your emotion and your personal beliefs out the window, because using either will make you an imbecile. Instead, just focus on the facts. And presumably some eminently trustworthy authority will be able to produce these facts for you, all laid out on a platter (such as the Conversation). Come to think of it; why do we even need democratic processes at all – we have these perfectly robust facts at our disposal. Why not just streamline the process and have the elites make the decisions without even trying to convince us? Progressives who think they know what’s best for society better than your average everyday person, and who use opportunities such as Trumpagedon to spin elaborate theories about how democracy is broken and how their democracy is a better option, are the ones to be wary of. If anything our battle with elites is anything but settling down after the supposed victories of Trump and Brexit.