The swamp of untruth depicted as “post-truth”
Published in Journalistic Lessonson 10 - 01 - 2017 Author: Љубомир Костовски
The choice of the word “post-truth” as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is mainly spurred by the Brexit campaigns and the US Presidential election. However, the political conditions in our country show public negligence of facts, and politics is based only on subordinating to the prejudices which are entrenched in parts of the public
Author: Ljubomir KOSTOVSKI
Albeit the choice of the word “post-truth” as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 should have caused reactions and overviews by the so called seventh force, it seems like all of that was left aside. Probably because the choice is some kind of an assessment of certain media situations, which is not a pleasant reflection for those who build or maintain public communications on daily basis. This choice, by the way, took place in November, as every year, which means that there was enough time for such reactions.
This word, after the initial defining, is a reflection of the condition in which facts are less important than emotions, and it’s mostly linked to propagandistic offensive through which the media on the Island succeeded to obtain the, for them expected, decision on Great Britain to leave the European Union. The choice is strengthened by the victory of the Republican candidate Donald Trump who won the US Presidential election, which was unexpected occurrence for many people.
“Post-truth” is used as an adjective, related to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, which have not been subject of rational reappraisal.
Traditionally, new words that enter the Oxford Dictionaries must be previously used by media and in literature for at least 10 years, but this time an exception has been made. Many people believe that “post-truth” originated from the “strengthening of social media as information source and growth of distrust toward facts when establishing values”. It is thought that this word existed previously, but in 2016, in political comments and overviews, it was used 2000 percent more than in previous years, especially in context of the aforementioned Brexit and Trump’s victory, the experts believe.
According to the official interpretation, the prefix “post” usually means a period “after something”, such as “postwar” (after war, but here it should be comprehended as “period during which a certain concept becomes unimportant”).
So, this term, which can be freely linked to our political (non)situations, emphasizes a practice when – let’s say before elections – regarding some facts, numbers or promises are said that are truthful, and when the one who has used them, for instance, has made a profit, simply forgets them after the election and they become unimportant, they were used only as fraud technique!
What is post-truth and what differs it from lies?
When after the referendum and the Brexit one journalist asked for an explanation from the politician who was pushing the breakup from the Union the most, Nigel Farage, whether the citizens of the Island would pay 350 million pounds less for taxes, because it is money saved from the “divorce”, Farage had shown amnesia and had treated that fact with disregard, and had acted like I may have said it, may have not.
Such is the case with the newly elected US President Donald Trump, who promised that he will repeal “Obamacare”, the law passed by his predecessor in the area of health services. But now, the future president says that law has good sections and its faith is not completely clear!
The truth, apparently, is not trendy anymore. “Public lies aren’t something new” – the journalist Teofil Panchich says, for whom post-truth isn’t just telling lies, but it is also irresponsible disrespect of truth.
“What the audience wants as a possible idea is important. The thing that would be against somebody’s emotions is well concealed, audience’s prejudices are supported, it would ride on them. Instead of dull data, dull words relying on correct facts, there is an offer of something that in the best case scenario is half-truth, but at least sounds good and it is known that someone wants to hear that”, Panchich says.
Those who listen properly and assess the truthfulness of words clearly say that statistic data are not good.
“We have been living in post-truth era for years. Oftentimes, out politicians don’t use facts, there are no arguments in their statements, public speeches, regardless if it’s the Parliament or the public discourse or a press conference. Nowadays, the situation is the following, those who consume false media information are not different than the ones who don’t read the newspapers. Hence, the media and citizens bear huge responsibility”, Vesna Radojevich, Istinomer’s journalist said.
However, citizens are accomplices in a magical circle of post-truth. Because it’s easier for humans to live in an illusion and to listen to what they want instead of facing the unpleasant facts, psychologists say.
“Truth triggers emotions that are not pleasant, if I tell you that a disaster is about to strike, that would be even worse, that there will be inflation, that tomorrow we’ll witness tsunami, or water shortage, people don’t want to listen to that, although it would be good to listen to that and to prepare for the upcoming disaster. And that’s why people turn their backs to things they don’t want to listen to as if they are irrelevant”, psychologist Zharko Trebjashanin says.
How to extricate ourselves from post-truth? In the era of Internet and unlimited quantities of false information, that would be difficult thing to do, the experts say. Nevertheless, there have been some debates regarding the topic.
This journalistic lesson was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The journalistic lesson is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).