I was appalled to hear a politician talking the other day about ‘the post-truth era’ in relation to all the hoo-hah going on across the pond about Trump’s protestations regarding fake news.
‘Post-truth’ is not a new phenomenon. Wikipedia defines it as “a culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” It’s been going on for years and, ironically, it has taken the ascendancy to the presidency of a man who does the exact opposite to bring it to a head.
You might not like Trump, but the fact is that when he was campaigning he promised, amongst other things, to build a ‘great big beautiful wall’ across the Mexican border, suspend immigration from countries linked to terrorism ‘until we figure out what the hell is going on’ and to repeal Obamacare. He did all three of these in his first week and people are up in arms about it even though he did exactly what he said he was going to do – something unheard of in the era of post truth politics.
I remember recently having a spat with a fellow blogger about Cuba. Whatever I said made no difference. His opinion was his opinion no matter how I rebutted his arguments and answered his direct questions. He regards me as a pig he was trying to teach to sing. This is a classic reaction to post truth. The ‘facts’ I was being shown were to say the least unsubstantiated and politically motivated. They may well have been true, but the truth is that nobody really knows and if they were true then the reaction was still emotional rather than rational.
During the Brexit campaign we were constantly fed unsubstantiated opinion and speculation presented as truth. In the end, Project Fear turned out to be wholesalely wrong, but that didn’t prevent organisations like the BBC – which used to pride itself on being politically unbiased – presenting it as truth. We see the media across the globe doing exactly the same thing.
And now fake news is bring weaponised in all sorts of fields, political, diplomatic, and economic. Listen to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Russia Today relating the same news story and you get totally contradictory presentation of the so called facts. I suspect that none of them are actually presenting facts at all – just opinions and spin. As a wise man once said – ‘There are three sides to every story : your’s, mine and the truth!‘
Facts are facts. The problem is that nobody actually knows what they are any more…