Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Created on Wednesday, December21, 2016, 15:49
In November, the English word ‘post-truth’ was declared word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary which noticed a huge increase in its use at the time of the referendum on ‘Brexit’ and during the election of the President of the United States. According to the dictionary, post-truth denotes ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotions and personal beliefs.’
The word post-truth succeeds ‘selfie’ which won first place in 2013, ‘vape’ in 2014 and ’emoji’ in 2015. According to Casper Grathwohl, President of the dictionary division of Oxford University Press, “This choice reflects a year dominated by a highly-charged poltical and social discourse.” Academics opted for this term to define an era in which “something that appears to be true is more important than truth itself.”
According to most media analysts, we believe stories and opinions rather than facts. All it takes is a tweet, a retouched photo, a phrase on Facebook or a fake document circulating on the Internet for lies to become facts because no one knows who to believe right now.
In the recent US elections there was clear evidence of the effectiveness of post-truth or the art of lying. Both Trump and Clinton encouraged misinformation, conspiracies, leaks, straight lies, and manipulation of the public. They even raised questions about Russia’s ability to hack the US elections and about the malicious intent behind the leaking of Hilary Clinton’s personal emails.
The two sides in the elections were accused of spreading lies on Facebook and Google, while US security agencies used fake platforms to spread rumors about Clinton’s health, and Trump’s supporters made up stories about a fake child trafficking and pedofile sex ring that supposedly Clinton ran from a pizza restaurant in Washington.
But the use of post-truth in politics is not limited to the United States. It was also seen in Brexit, where the group that advocated leaving the European Union disseminated inaccurate figures in their statement that exit from the EU would save them 435 million dollars each week. Although in the end these post-truths were irrelevant to the results of the vote, the whole event was surrounded with half-truths. The same thing applies to the official information coming out of China, Russia and Turkey, which are generally also sustained by post-truths.
With cell phones being inundated by stories that appeal to fear, paranoia and conspiracies, more and more emotional decisions are being made, completely outside the bounds of reason. Given the lack of confidence in official government statistics, the uncertainty surrounding traditional politics and the economic crisis, there’s nothing left to do except use instinct.
The media disseminates misinformation, politicians lie and the polls don’t get anything right. So the politicians have noticed the effectiveness of misinformation as well as the affinity for post-truth or the reality we desire. It’s curious, but they are using the tools of democracy, such as the press, the media, freedom of expression and the vote to destroy it.
Solzgenitzyn said that ‘every person who once acclaimed violence as his preferred method must choose falsehood as his principle, since nothing disguises violence like a lie and the only way it can be sustained is through violence.’
On the other hand, in a totalitarian state mendacity is systemic and functions as one of its primary mechanisms. There are even some democracies that are not immune to the use of ‘convenient lies’. So falsehood prevails surreptitiously and with arrogance, and politics becomes a privileged space for lies, where totalitarian regimes create their real kingdom.
Addendum: At present, people’s emotions and impulses completely dominate the context of their political and social life. As a result, this universe of post-truths will continue to control this world until a new myth or a new global ideology emerges to rescue the moral conscience of humankind. Fortunately, that moment will arrive shortly, when a new world order will be established allowing all human beings to live in peace, regardless of their beliefs, the language they speak, or the color of their skin,.