Post-truth

post-truth

This expression, used to label politics in the last year, is one of the catchwords of the moment and is generating a considerable amount of debate. It has even been voted word of the year in some websites.

Like post-modern and post-election it has been coined to describe a period we are living in that follows something else. Before we were truthful, now we are not, hence post-truth.

Popular as it is, and despite its chances of a reasonably long shelf life, it is a good example of an inaccurate and generalised term that says less than it suggests.

First, this is because truth has not ceased to exist. To have lies you must have truth, they go together. What I guess it is trying to say is that there seems to be more tolerance of lying in public life these days.

Next, it depends what you mean by truth. For one person, something might be real and true while for another it is false. Even seemingly absolute truths like concrete tangible acts and things can be subject to debate and interpretation. Simply because each person’s perspective is different.

Thirdly, it has been initially applied to specific actions and words of certain politicians. It is still somewhat early to describe this as a trend or indicative of this period.  Or is it?

Politicians have been shown to lie since time immemorial (think of the Greeks and the Egyptians) so all that may be happening now is that our enhanced access to the political world via TV and the internet is allowing us to see the full extent of the lies!

I would go one step further and say that mankind has made the lie, or the white lie an integral part of social communication, in order to get along with each other. Telling the absolute truth is not what people tend to want to hear all the time and no one more than politicians know this.  Therefore, they give us glossy campaign promises, vague uplifting statements (Make America Great Again), which lead people to believe in things that are not depicted so clearly.

The fact that post-truth is a euphemism is a great example. Much more palatable to say we live in a post-truth political world than to say we live in a political world of lies and lying.

So, before we get all indignant about this new moment in our history, let’s ask ourselves if it is not more of the same wrapped in different shiny paper.