Selfie, vape and ……post-truth politics – the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year competition definitely took a turn away from their recent winners, including an emoji, to feature a phrase that has not only had a huge impact on our linguistics but on the way we view the world.
2016 will be viewed as a landmark year for global politics. Two monumental votes in two of the world’s most powerful and impactful nations could just be the start of a world taking a step back from decades of globalisation to return to more isolationist policies. There are many explanations for this and countless articles have highlighted a myriad of reasons but there most certainly has been a shift in the way that people consume their news and thus their world view.
People have always had the ability to cocoon themselves in a bubble that mirrors their world view and, in turn, reaffirms it. Those with, for example, left-wing leanings could pick up the Guardian and consume their news through the lens of their own biases. However, the rise of social media, and in particular, Facebook and Twitter, has allowed for the establishment of the loudest, most popular and most opaque echo chambers. Sixty-two percent of Americans now get their news from Facebook and the vociferous and blatantly false nature of many of these pages has led to what many have labelled the rise of post-truth politics.
The phrase ‘post-truth politics’ can be defined as the preference to diminish the importance of objective facts in favour of emotions and personal belief.
The proliferation of post-truth politics in to social media has inculcated divisions in both Britain and America and exacerbated the angry sentiments that the so called left behind members of society feel. Those readers who take the words of pundits, such as Tomi Lahren, as gospel then use these falsehoods to evidence their distrust of the established media, manifesting itself in the post-truth media loop – distrust of old media, publishing of fake news story, “why is no one reporting this?!”, further distrust of old media, rinse and repeat.
The real danger of post-truth politics, however, comes when leaders harness its power to advance their own cause. Both Brexit advocates and Trump used this post-truth environment to take advantage of the legitimate concerns and distrust many have for the establishment. Brexiteers pushed the ‘EU costs Britain £350million a week’ mantra, ignoring the money Britain receives in turn.
But of course, no one better harnessed the energy of the anti-establishment sentiments that post-truth politics feeds into than Donald Trump. He spent over a year pushing his agenda on the back of outrageous lies. He is the first serious candidate to tell the people that live in these echo chambers built on falsehoods that they are right. Every article they’ve ever read telling them that Ted Cruz’s father conspired to kill JFK or that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, was correct and it was the media that were lying and, indeed, collaborating with Washington’s elite to suppress the people.
Trump, just yesterday, tweeted that he “Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky – no Mexico”. Seems like great news, the only problem is that no plant in that area was slated to move to Mexico but millions of people across America will hail him as a champion of America’s job market.
This is not to say that those who consume objective facts use them correctly to inform their decisions and the Spectator argued that those who place a high value on facts are no more likely to arrive at bias-free judgements. But it cannot be denied that leaders who use falsehoods to profit politically are more dangerous than those using it to profit monetarily.
Refusal to see the world as it truly is can have very damaging consequences – let’s just hope that post-truth politics isn’t here to stay.