Books Magazine

The Truth About Post-truth...

By Williamwatkin @wwatkinbrunel

...IT'S A BIT POST-TRUTHY

FEATURESJAN 11, 2017
THE TRUTH ABOUT POST-TRUTH...

Here's my piece for The Big Issue

Wordsmith and philosopher William Watkin lets the facts get in the way of a good story


Chav, Sudoku, bovvered, carbon footprint, credit crunch, simples, big society, squeezed middles, omnishambles, selfies, vape, tears of joy emoji: these are all the WOTYs since WOTYs began. The Word of the Year is an annual opportunity for the tweedy lexicographers of The Oxford English Dictionary to encapsulate the spirit of the year past. With each of these WOTYs we swell our vocabularies by learning the meaning of an additional word we all already knew the meaning of, so more of a communal one-word conversation on what this year was all about. And what was 2016 all about? Brexit, Trump and Lies, which the OED summarised as post-truth.Of all WOTYs, post-truth seems the least frothy. “Post-truth,” they say, “is an adjective relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” That’s fine but, obviously, the meaning of post-truth depends on the meaning of ‘truth’.Philosophically, truth is the obvious, the intuitive, that which we all kind of know to be true alreadyPhilosophically, truth is the obvious, the intuitive, that which we all kind of know to be true already. It is, in other words, all that is simples! Admittedly, over millennia there have been many Twitter-esque storms over truth but the difficulty with truth has never been its proof but its stability. Truth is something to rely on, like my friend Geoff. Only in modern times, philosophers came to the conclusion that, like my predictable friend Geoff, truth was nothing more than the construct of wishful thinking. You see I have no friend Geoff. Post-truthed you! Meaning WOTY 2016 is a hundred years too late! Shame-faced emojis all round at the OED Xmas party when it transpires that post-truth is itself a little bit post-truthy.Actually this matters not because, as the OED’s definition says, post-truth is less a question of truths than facts. Trouble is, truths and facts are not the same. For example, truths cannot be proven while facts must be. Truths hold true, whatever the facts. Facts, however, let you down when a more attractive new fact comes along.Even worse, facts require other facts to work out if they are reliable or not. With the rise of the internet we find ourselves wallowing in facts that need more facts to check if they are facts. Such a proliferation of facts means we are suffering from #Factobesity, leaving us too bloated and exhausted to check facts any more. So we just click ‘share’ and this is the problem. The internet has simultaneously provided us with the means of sharing facts in minutes to undermine Trump’s outrageous claims, and at the same time means of spreading fake facts to bolster Trump’s outrageous claims.THE TRUTH ABOUT POST-TRUTH...
It’s a phenomenon aided by the revelation that 60 per cent of Americans rely on social media for their news, leading to the rise in news curation, where each of us becomes an editor of our own journal we share across our filter bubbles of like-minded friends. How many of these news stories do we read beyond the headline? I suspect very few. When we do this, we transform facts from newsworthy to #Memeworthy, worth sharing online irrespective of its ‘truth’.The outlook for facts in 2017 appears grim but while news memes may be false they can still reveal truthsThe outlook for facts in 2017 appears grim but while news memes may be false they can still reveal truths. True, every time we share a news meme we allow alt-right trolls and democracy hackers to harness post-facts to platform a truth that appears as stable now as it was millennia ago when truth was first invented, gifting us a pre-post-truth to end on. People will believe anything is true if it feels truthy and they already thought that. The Greeks had their own WOTY for it, they called it sophistry.Truth, it transpires, is nothing more than a selfie of our own prejudices – which is bad but at least we all know what it is now that it is gone, which is a consolation of sorts.William Watkin is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Philosophy at Brunel University@WWatkinBrunel

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Emojis Can Be Used to Show Intent ?

    There has been a lot of talk about emojis when it comes to domain names. It now seems that they are moving their way to be used in court proceedings. Read more

    8 hours, 25 minutes ago by   Worldwide
    BUSINESS, TECH
  • French Onion Chicken

    French Onion Chicken

    I have long been a huge fan of the flavours of French Onion Soup . . . caramelised onion, sweet and succulent . . . cheese . . . toast . . . garlic . . .... Read more

    9 hours, 25 minutes ago by   Mariealicerayner
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Suffer the Little Children - Manchester Monday

    Suffer Little Children Manchester Monday

    As on other occasions recently, I find myself unable to write to theme for this week's blog. In fact I have been sitting here for over an hour trying to find a... Read more

    10 hours, 52 minutes ago by   Ashleylister
    BOOKS, CREATIVITY, CULTURE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Pandan Chiffon (cooking Method)

    Pandan Chiffon (cooking Method)

    这是我吃过的最好吃的班兰戚风!不夸张,没骗你。这个戚风蛋糕体真的是鬆软到可以做瑜伽,忍不住要小心翼翼地捧在手心。一口一口吃到班兰和椰奶的香,太棒了!Pandan Chiffon (cooking method)(recipe adapted from Wen's Delight)Ingredients:5 egg... Read more

    12 hours, 44 minutes ago by   Cathysjoy
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Chris Blue Winner of The Voice Debuts at No. 1 on Hot Gospel Songs Chart

    Chris Blue Winner Voice Debuts Gospel Songs Chart

    ChristianNews You better let your light shine Chris Blue!!!!!! The  12th season of NBC’s The Voice winner Chris Blue — a worship leader at Cokesbury United... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Firstladyb
    SPIRITUALITY
  • Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ (Second Opinion)

    Movie Review: ‘Guardians Galaxy Vol. (Second Opinion)

    Movie Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' (Second Opinion) Plot: Set several months after the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy are o... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   House Of Geekery
    ENTERTAINMENT, TV & VIDEO
  • Bravery is an Option, Not an Obligation

    It’s interesting to note that in a world where people constantly claim anyone with a conscience or a complaint is being a “special snowflake”, stoicism is... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   The Guyliner
    DATING, LGBTQ, LOVE & SEX

Magazines