What is Post-truth? and What does it mean for us?

The Post-truth Era

Many people questioned me why I kept the name, the post-truth era blog? Is it a political blog? Are you affiliated with any party or person? Are you against Brexit or a fan of Narendra Modi or Donald Trump? My answer is simple, ‘NO’. It’s not a political blog, it’s more about expressing our opinion to everyone, discuss things you always felt passionate about but never felt comfortable sharing as you don’t want to get trolled by ‘the guardian of the post truth era‘. Most blogs have discussed this terminology in the reference of politics, but I want to focus more on What does Post-truth mean for us? Is this term has relevance in our life? Do we even need to know what is post-truth era? Is it important? Then, My answer is YES. It’s important to know and understand about it.

OK, So without getting philosophical, I confess, I have never heard this word Post-truth even as far as a year back, but I read a news where after much debate and research, Post-truth was declared the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016.

An adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

I wondered, maybe there is something to this adjective than a simple word, it kind of defined the era, like AD, BC, Post 9/11 or Post Millennium or Post Brexit. So It got my interest and I tried to dig a little deeper and tried to understand what it really means?

Why was this word chosen?

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency especially this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics. The word has a more political connotation but it’s not confined to it.

They define the term as: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Author Ralph keyes described, “In the post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction.”

This might sound very technical and far away from us, but let‘s have a closer look. A few years back, I read an interesting book called Thinking, Fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman where the author talked about our Cognitive bias in life.

A cognitive bias refers to the “systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.”

So, as I dug deeper, this word started to appear as a new bottle but old wine. Maybe I am not familiar with the word ‘post-truth’ but the idea of it sounded familiar and it’s not certainly coined after EU referendum or US president election results. History suggests, We the common people always have been manipulated by the powerful, the aristocratic, the dictator, the historians, the liberal and the influential. The people who had power always used his or her position to make us believe, this is the correct ‘truth’. However, it’s always been subjective and debatable. I mean, read about Sir Winston Churchill, he was the mass murderer of millions of people but he always been regarded as a War Hero which is far from the fact.

fake-news-posttruth-facts
The Myth

I am sure, all of you must have noticed, over the last few months, we have seen the rise of so-called “fake news” and “trolls – the guardian of the post-truth era” on social media or even in the whatsapp forwards. Usually, those “news“ stories pop up on our feed or messages with ground-breaking headlines that catch our eye and we started to believe what we read.

As human beings, we have a tendency of seeing what we want to see (Cognitive biases). If we don‘t like Hillary Clinton and there is an article accusing her of something negative, we read it. If we don‘t like Donald Trump and there is an article with a scandal about him, we probably read that one. Our likes and dislikes about Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi or Shah rukh Khan or Amir khan or MS Dhoni will decide what kind of article we want to read and believe without much fact finding. Once we have taken the side, some of us go even further and share those articles on our own pages. We might even have a gut feeling that the facts might not always be on point, but the higher goal of supporting the “right“ person (What we think) justifies almost everything these days. Almost like Google page ranking, which returns your search result based on your interest and habits and with biases. Check out Eli Pariser’s ted talk when he talked about filtered bubbles.

Funny side of the post-truth ear

Let’s go back to the presidential election which gave birth (Almost felt like) to this terminology, the result was a scandal-dominated election process that was mainly fought on social media and spreading their propaganda. It was a game of perception than facts.

fake-news-posttruthera
Perception Vs Reality

For example: When we hear something positive about a good friend or a person, we have a tendency of believing it without doing a fact check. Same goes the other way around: if we don‘t like someone and hear something bad about them, we might also believe it without fact checking. It would be exhausting to fact check everything we hear. Trust is an important thing to us. We want to believe and not doubt everything we hear. We don‘t want to question everybody we talk to.

As always in life, it should be about the balance of trusting and verifying. It seems like over the last few years we became a little lazy on checking facts and a little heavy on emotions.

If we look at the Media industry, health industry and their advertisements, we might ask ourselves how much facts versus how much emotion are being presented to us. There are a lot of promises around many products that might not be worth the money.

The pharmaceutical industry understands that we choose with our feelings and that we don‘t have time to read scientific surveys. See the 5000% price increase and to make it sound moral and just. If a pain-killer promises us that the pain will end and we can enjoy our days with our family, that sounds great. But what about the side-effects of taking pain-killers? We don‘t want to hear it.

In current stressful life and instant gratification age, If someone would offer you some pills to take to cure your pain or depression within a week, most would probably believe in it. This is the age of Millennial.

As human beings, we try to find the easiest and most convenient way through most situations. We want to avoid unpleasant feelings and achieve happiness. We only read the news that supports our belief systems or we maybe even completely ignore the news, as we feel that we can‘t do anything about it and don‘t want to get upset by politics.

Unfortunately, this strategy leads to elections like we just saw or the social change what we are witnessing. If we tune into the news every four years, it‘s hard to tell what‘s true and what‘s not. We don‘t know who to trust.

As painful or wonderful as this Trump victory or Brexit might be for some of us only time will tell,  but let‘s use this occasion as an opportunity to understand and redefine the way we do things, or the way we form out opinions or the way we passed judgement on everything in the society. Let‘s start talking about how we would like it to be done.

Maybe someday someone read or listen to our ideas and who knows? we all can become part of the solution and not of the problem. Maybe we need to take the time and look at “the facts” to protect us from “fake news”.

Albert Einstein's posttruth-story-image
To make it believable

If we can talk about who should win the next round of the voice or Big boss, or who is better for India Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi, what is bettter with or without Brexit? we should choose to hear out each other’s opinions, try to learn the facts and take an informed decision.You might get attacked by ‘the guardian of the post-truth era‘ but it’s okay, they can not survive longer on a weak foundation of web of lies and abuse.

All we need is the willingness to take our time and use our actions to overcome the era of “post-truth.“ It will be of benefit for all of us. We are all in this together.

“A Lie Is A Lie Even If Everyone Believes It. The Truth Is The Truth Even If Nobody Believes It.” – David Stevens

Keep loving, Be trustworthy and Stay peaceful!

Disclaimer: Please share your comments and arguments. This blog is not meant to be biased to anybody, we are all open to our opinion. If you find this post objectionable, please write to us.

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16 thoughts on “What is Post-truth? and What does it mean for us?

Add yours

  1. Good post. Your references remind me of the problem of cognitive dissonance. We choose news advisors based on early readings, listenings or referrals. So, when we read or hear actual truth or data that contradicts what this advisor says or writes, the disharmony or dissonance is unnerving. So, we often run home to papa (the advisor) who tells us to ignore the real data. This is a key reason our president has been able to convince people to believe him and not the fact-checkers.

    I do not care if someone is more conservative or liberal (I am fiscally conservative, yet socially progressive) in their bent, but we must govern off facts and real data and not rhetoric. It is hard enough to solve real problems with real data and analytics and nigh impossible when we focus on the wrong causes. Again, enjoyable post. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. I read Fact Check articles religiously. While our President was more conciliatory and conventional in his speech last night, he made about five or six major misstatements. To me, this clouds the message and does not enable addressing the right fixes to problems. Saying 94 million Americans are not working clouds the fact that number includes retirees, students over age 16, spouces and disableds who are not working, e.g. This relates to him saying the unemployment rate is 42% on the campaign trail, which is blatantly false.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you, we are in the time where we keep coining new terms for old words but at the core of it, you find old echoes of powerful, influential people who ruled the world ages ago as well as now.

      Like

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