Oxford English Dictionaries made “post-truth” the word of the year this year. Post-truth. An era where facts, where truth, is irrelevant! Not just about misinformation or a lack of facts, but a bold-faced denial of facts. Staring the truth straight in the eye and ignoring it. That Donald Trump can so constantly lie to everyone, on camera, when he is provably wrong, and when that just doesn’t matter, not even a little bit. I take sardonic comfort in feeling he’ll fuck over everyone who voted for him, that he’ll continue to lie to them, that he won’t help them a bit, and that they’ll see him for what he is. Yet at the same time, I’m starting to doubt that will matter. Why the fuck should it matter at this point?
So he’ll lie to his people as he fucks them over. As the coasts sink further into the mire, we’ll be told how climate change continues to be a myth. And nobody will stop it because there is nobody left who cares about truth.
Of course that’s an exaggeration, but one I never thought I’d have to make. One that had never occurred to me. Truth, knowledge, rights, progress: these were all a straight arrow as certain as the passage of time. But this edifice has been shaken for me recently. Perhaps it was naive of me, perhaps I never should have assumed that was the case. But it’s clear that progress is undoable.
So how the hell do we dig ourselves out of this hole? How do we get people to value truth, to seek it out, to refute blather and bullshit and fictions?
I’d start by looking at how we got here, but I don’t know what to do after that. Amusing Ourselves to Death is my go-to reference here. About how television dramatically altered public discourse in the United States. About how politics is done a disservice by news soundbites. But there’s also Brave New World, where the people were so entertained they don’t need to care about anything else (Postman frequently alludes to BNW in his book).
Television yes. And also social networks like Facebook and Twitter. They’re a gaping hole, a bright red target for exploitation. Facebook and Twitter value “engagement” (a euphemism for exploitation), they don’t value or care about truth. They don’t care about progress. They care about people spending time on their software, seeing ads. (And true, this is just kind of capitalism 101… it doesn’t value progress or any other kind of good, it only values capital) And with phones and social networks, it’s run totally fucking amok.
I wish I had more of an answer here, or at least more of a point. But this is what I’ve got for now.