We’re All Post-Truthers Now
(Part 1 of 2)

I‘m old fashioned. I grew up a long time ago. Truth mattered. In fact, in the last century, even my professors at university frequently spoke of pursuing Truth as a life-long quest for a more fulfilling, more empowered existence.

But today, nah. Not so much. Not any more.

A Confession

Do you really think for a moment that a single selfie I’ve ever posted of myself is what I really look like? Get real!

Tim - Selfie (before and after)
Left = What I actually look like || Right = After a quick, gentle digital facelift (Post-Truth)

One of the greatest inventions of all time was the healing brush in Adobe Photoshop! And when the liquify tool arrived, who needed to diet anymore?! I can simply shed that potbelly with the simple swipe of a brushstroke!

What I really look like (fact) no longer matters. What matters is how I want you to see me: emotional perspective. Or, to say it another way, reality is now what I choose for reality to be, even if it has very little to do with, well, reality. Today, we’re more concerned about how we feel about reality than we are about reality itself. Hence, after the Brexit vote in the UK, and after the presidential election in the US, the Oxford Dictionary declares the 2016 Word of the Year to be Post-Truth.

Pinocchio by Day Donaldson (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Day Donaldson (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Climate change getting you down? Well, heck. Why worry about that?! You can just choose to believe it doesn’t exist. Science? Oh, let’s get real. What do scientists know?! It’s what you want to believe that matters! Everything else is puff.

Selfie not to your liking? No worries. There’s an app for that. Now see, you feel and look much better already, don’t you.

Worried about losing your job? Falling out of the middle class? The trickle down dried up before it trickled all the way down to you? Please! Don’t fret yourself. Whatever Mr. Pence and his boss are going to do will be yuge! Yuge!! Just buy a red cap made in China and let the good times roll.

Welcome to: Post-Truth

Adjective
  • Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief:

    —‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’

    —‘some commentators have observed that we are living in a post-truth age’

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

We all accept that politicians are basically sales-people. In the hands of just about any politician, the truth can be a little, well, malleable. So, we have fact-checkers, right? But that’s irrelevant now—a thing of the past. Facts, knowable certainty, no longer really matter. The only thing that matters is what you choose to believe.

Because we were in this post-truth era during the campaign, both the Vice-President and his boss could say (without any shame or hesitation) blatant, provable, in-your-face lies. Mr. Pence repeatedly said of Mr. Trump, “He never said that…” when millions of people had seen explicit, undeniable video footage of Trump saying the very thing Pence was denying.

I must confess, I shook my head in complete shock and disbelief. I was convinced the GOP ticket could never get away with all of those lies—one after another. The American people wouldn’t tolerate that. The truth matters! Right?!

Lying 101

If you’re going to lie, lie about some obscure and insignificant thing that is highly open to interpretation. You don’t lie about something everyone will know is a lie! Isn’t the whole point of telling a lie to make people believe something is true when it isn’t? Well, maybe not.

Why would Mr. Pence choose to lie about something he knew absolutely everyone would know he was lying about? He wasn’t experiencing the early onset of Alzheimer’s, was he? Nah. The answer is probably a bit more sinister than that.

My Best Guess

In a post-truth world, people don’t much care about the truth when they find it inconvenient and uncomfortable.
I’m going to suggest that the reason might be because Mr. Pence is a really smart, clever, slick salesman and not memory-challenged at all. He probably thinks the truth no longer really matters to people. Let that sink in! I’m suggesting that Mr. Pence thinks the truth no longer really matters! In a post-truth world, people don’t much care about the truth when they find it inconvenient and uncomfortable. I bet he knows this.

Maybe we will tolerate, even embrace, a lie if that lie feels more comfortable to us even when we know it’s a lie. I’ve seen that before. Haven’t you?

Throw a ball cap on your head and feel good about wanting to make America great again. Forget you can’t trust a single thing my boss or I say in public. We just say what you want to hear, what your post-truth desperation will let you feel good about believing, even when you know—when you  k.n.o.w, it’s not true. We’re going to drain that swamp in D.C. We’re going to do yuge things. Yuge. It will be great. The best. You’ll see!

And my god! They were right! It didn’t matter at all. Nobody cared! As a result, we don’t even know how the swamp will be drained, what that even means, or what might be built in place of the swamp. But who cares. Everyone that supports Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence feels great! They did it! But nobody knows what they really did, sort of like all of the Brexit people. They just shared in one great big feel-good moment.

How They Govern Matters to Real People

So what’s going to happen now? It’s the US version of Brexit all over again. Everyone in Britain felt really great about leaving the European Union, but then what?! What did that really mean? What’s that decision going to do to people’s lives—real people in the real world with real lives that Photoshop isn’t going to fix with its healing brush. Nobody gave much thought to the more important questions. Feeling good, if just for a moment, seemed to matter more at the time.

I’m sorry. Am I getting you down? Aw, shucks. Don’t worry about it! Everything will be fine. I keep hearing that. And you know, I want to believe that—everything will be fine. I really, really do.

But I don’t. No. I’m just not too comfortable living in a post-truth world. I have this odd belief that truth still matters whether we like it or not. That hot stove will burn the hell out of you whether you choose to believe it will or not.

How Did We Get to Post-Truth?

Maybe our plunging headlong into post-truth is our reaction to a steady diet of lies and manipulation. Maybe it’s a reaction to the fact that we know that we’re being lied to all of the time. When I read or watch news, I literally am consciously think, “Who is paying for me to see this, to be influenced by this? Why did they spend good money to influence me?” There is little journalism any more, mostly marketing.

Post-truth is now a huge growth industry. So, we occasionally just pick and choose our way through the stinking garbage pile of deception. Maybe we just disengage all together. Then, we can get back to doing what really matters most: taking more selfies.

Continue on to Part Two

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Tim was born at the end of the post-world war baby boom, was a child of the ’60’s, a teenager during the Vietnam War, and a young man when economics reportedly began to trickle down. Now, six decades under the expanding belt, he lives in a post-truth world: science and truth are just a passé inconvenience studied in last-century university. He reaches for his smartphone in a dumbworld to take a stupidselfie. [Fake camera sound] Oh! Well, that will never do! What’s that app that removes wrinkles and blemishes? Never mind. He doesn’t have to remember. He just asks Siri… He’s a post-truther now! I’m just saying: he’s got questions. Real questions. And someone really needs to look into this, really look into this… That’s all I’m saying.

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