If you have read a political article written in the past, let’s say, four years, then you have probably heard the term “post-truth” or “post-truth era” thrown around. So what does this rather ominous term mean? Are we doomed as a society? Does objective truth still exist, or are we all at the whim of our own personal feelings and beliefs on important topics?
Oxford Dictionaries defines the term “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In short, people can believe whatever they want to believe as long as they feel it is right.
In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries named post-truth as their international word of the year, which is ironically the same year that Donald Trump was elected President. It seems that Trump, who has been no stranger to controversy throughout his political career, is the primary perpetrator of this new phrase’s popularity.
In May 2016, before Trump’s November election, The Atlantic’s David Frum described Trump’s dishonesty as “qualitatively different than anything before seen from a major-party nominee.The stack of lies teeters so tall that one obscures another: lies about New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11, lies about his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan war, lies about his wealth, lies about the size of his crowds, lies about women he’s dated, lies about his donations to charity, lies about self-funding his campaign.”
In May 2018, the Washington Post created a “fact checker” piece which tallied up Trump’s lies or half-truth since he took the oath of office.
Yet, he got away with it, and was elected. This begs the question: With so much accusing, lying, and fact checking throughout that particular election cycle (between Trump’s countless scandals and Hilary’s emails), did we unwittingly usher in a post-truth era?
In reference to choosing the term “post-truth” as word of the year, Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl stated, “It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse. Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”
No one believes anything anymore – unless they read it on Twitter. Or their favorite celebrity posted about it. There is a mounting distrust for the government and big media, and rightfully so. Our President, the so-called “leader of the free world” has been caught in countless lies and half-truths. We question him and the elected officials who we chose to run our country. Everything is speculation, and nothing is fact. Sounds like a post-truth era to me.
So what are we to do with this new era? How can we hold onto truth and fact when it seems that the world itself is denying truth if it doesn’t feel good or fit with one’s own personal political agenda?
We need to get uncomfortable with the reality of America’s new political state. We largely cannot trust the things said by our elected officials, because they have proven to be untrustworthy. And this isn’t a political statement directed at either Republicans or Democrats, but rather a simple fact of the state of America today.
If we live in a post-truth era, we need to become our own “fact checkers,” and make it our mission to be led by more than just feelings, but rather by a pursuit of the truth. Somehow having a wealth of information at our fingertips has made it more difficult than ever to be “certain” about anything. In an era of lies and delusion, let us all strive to be the exception to the post-truth era.