Post-Truth: Word of the Year

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.32.14 AM.pngThe Oxford Dictionary has elected “Post-Truth” as the word of the year.  Closely associated with “post-truth politics,” especially after Brexit and the U. S. election, they have seen a spike this year in the use of the word: Post-Truth.

“Post-Truth” means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

In 2004 Ralph Keyes published The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life.  While Keyes discusses how we live in a period in which Americans tell multiple lies a day, without judgement he explores the reasons why people lie about almost everything and the consequences it has on society.

While Keyes examined the extensiveness of lying earlier in the 2000s, it now seems to be that case that the concern is not that we are lying, but that we don’t care if people are lying.  Alva Noë, philosopher at UC Berekeley in his NPR piece on the word of the year relates that:

What’s impressive is that the electorate — or rather, a very large minority of the electorate — didn’t seem to care or at least refused to treat the candidate’s dishonesty as in anyway disqualifying. That’s the post-truth bit.

Sean McDowell blogs about Post-Truth over at his website are insightful:

[W]e now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. While modern technology and social media certainly contribute to the phenomena of emphasizing style over substance . . . two thoughts stood out to me when I first heard that “post-truth” was the word of the year.

First, the idea of changing, avoiding, or moving beyond truth is not new.

. . .

Second, we don’t really live in a post-truth world.

That last point is important.  We really don’t live in a post-truth society.  We might not like it or even deny it, but it is inevitable.  Sean demonstrates that truth is important to all of us through a vivid example:

I was speaking at a youth event. Afterwards, a student came up to me and said, “You talked about truth a lot. What’s the big deal? Why is truth even important?” I looked at him and simply asked, “Do you want the true answer or the false answer?”