Post-Truth: An Overview
The Cambridge dictionary defines the word post-truth as:
“Post-truth: relating to a situation in which people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts”
It also declared the word post-truth as the word of the year in 2016 after its re-emergence in the same year. This term was first used, in the contemporary context, by the Serbian American playwright Steve Tesich in his article ‘A Government of Lies’, published in 1992, that criticized American citizens for blindly accepting the lies told by the Bush(sr.) Administration. After that, the term was used again in 2004 by Ralph Keyes in the title of his book, ‘The Post-truth Era’. In 2016, after Donald Trump became the President of the US, usage of this word on internet skyrocketed. Therefore, the Cambridge dictionary declared ‘Post-truth’ as the word of the year in 2016.
This phenomenon, although it now has a new name, is not a new one. Orwell, in his ‘1984’ and myriads of essays, has warned us about fake news and selective acceptance of facts by the government to promote its agendas. Philosopher Hannah Arendt has argued in her 1967 essay ‘Truth and Politics’ that truthfulness and honesty are never among the virtues of a politician and lies have always been perceived as a tool for deceptions. The best kind of liar fabricates a lie as his opinion and leaves public confused between facts and fabrication. However, in the past, lies were directed towards an individual, now they are directed towards ideologies. But the worst form that a lie can in this ‘post-truth era’ is the one that intends to deceive everyone.
To understand this term to its widest meaning, we must begin with the meaning of the ‘truth’ as a philosophical term. There have been many theories about this term but none so perfect as the one given by Pluralistic philosophers, Crispin Wright and Michael Lynch. It says that there isn’t one single way of defining truth. Truth confining to different fields has its own definitions and constrictions. Therefore, the truth can take a form among, scientific truth, national security truth, moral truth, judicial truth, artistic truth, and political truth, or according to the variety of ways used to determine the value of truth, such as factual truth, coherent truth, and pragmatic truth. These fields although distinct in the definition may overlap when concerned with facts. For example, scientific truth relies heavily on facts as well as on the authorities that define what constitutes as scientific. Therefore it relies on the pragmatic nature of its application and can become an important part of national security. From there, coming to post-truth is only a step away. Denial of such truths despite coming across a set of facts and valid proofs is, simply put, ‘post-truth’.
Consider for instance the theory of Flat Earth:
After six centuries since someone rejected the theory of flat earth, the theory has brought itself up once again. Flat Earthers believe that the Earth is flat and everything that attempts to prove otherwise must be a lie and an attempt to delude the public. Now, here’s a problem with this belief, you can’t falsify it. Let alone a practical proof, we can’t think of a scenario to disprove it in theory, either. Even after Tesla released a photograph of a dummy astronaut ‘Starman’ circling around a visible around Earth in his red Tesla, flat earthers simply won’t accept it as a fact. This was a pretty simple proof of Earth being a round object. But no matter how many times one tries to disprove the flat earth theory, there’s always a way to be found bypassing it all and continuing to believe what we choose to believe.
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