The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has announced its 2016 word of the year – “Post-truth”: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” apparently first used in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation.
Speaking to the Guardian the OED said, “Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.”
I think activists, investigative journalists and all of us who are very much in the business of challenging the mainstream dialogue and propaganda need to be very wary of its re-emergence at this time and take steps to repudiate it.
To put it bluntly, it is a propagandists’ wet dream and in an era of Tory Britain, Trump, global neoliberalism etc. it’s unsurprising that it’s arisen.
It is a long step up from, ‘everyone has a right to their opinion’ and if it is allowed to take hold without comment then it has mind warping (Orwellian) possibilities. I think it behoves us to be very wary of its usage because, firstly, what’s the point of writing anything offering insight into the machinations of power and politics if it can merely be lumped altogether with a post-truth narrative which can simply dismiss it as irrelevant? Secondly, it falls into the trap of the propagandist which treats the public like dumb animals to be herded like sheep.
The more it is used, the harder the task for any of us to be purveyors of truth, so the Tories can say they are making work pay and there is no argument into the tactics they are using to create the twisted logic which means driving anyone not working into penury and not, in fact and in truth, making work pay well and not brutally forcing people to accept poverty pay. Right now there are more people in poverty who are working than there are those out of work, so work, in reality and in truth, is not paying for millions of people, the very people who the ‘making work pay’ propaganda is aimed at.
As a writer I am deeply angered by the rise of such an expression into the mainstream, it is an insult to intelligence and individually demeans and belittles us, as such it can be seen as an attack on individual thought and endeavour in seeking to promote a truthful narrative, especially politically. It seeks to discredit us merely by its existence in political and social narratives.
Public opinion should be treated with the deepest suspicion as we are all subjected to intense propaganda, the global Public Relations industry being worth some $14 billion in 2016. Holding an opinion entirely absent of thought is nothing new individually or collectively, hence the horrible term ‘sheeple’. It serves no one to reinforce it by accepting the term ‘post-truth’. Bullshit is bullshit, non sense is nonsense, ignorance is ignorance, prejudice is prejudice and bigotry is bigotry. Nothing has changed apart from a lot of nonsense being heralded and lent credence as post-truth. It’s bollocks.
The reported rise in fake news needs no reinforcement by granting it any substance in a ‘post-truth era’, it should be called for what it is, fake.
I would prefer not to be writing about this and am driven to do so only because this process of dumbing down truth must be challenged and dissent must be expressed. We can’t afford to let ‘them’ get away with it.
Michael Gove said this year, prior to the EU referendum, “People in this country have had enough of experts”. As the Guardian reported, ‘a recent Ipsos Mori survey showed that academics come behind only “friends and family” (57%, compared to 72%) in terms of whom people trust on issues related to the referendum. Politicians, such as Gove, came in at 11%.’ What’s surprising is that those who attended the Gove interview dignified it with their presence, unless, of course, they were Tories, in which case they are perfectly happy to be deceived and to watch the Tories tear the UK apart whilst declaring the opposite.
If they want to hound us with bullshit, and they do, than we must be wolves. And that’s the truth.
KOG. 01 January 2017.