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Post-truth and Doublethink

‘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’

Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, 2016

I don't usually 'do' politics, but these are not usual times. I can't stop thinking about what happened while I was in the US last week. The day after I arrived, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that had been 'underreported' or not covered at all by the media. Except, they HAD all been reported, many at great length, except for one which no independent body has been able to verify. I watched journalists on CNN discussing the memo incredulously, as footage of their colleagues reporting from the scenes of the very attacks they were being told they had failed to cover played in the background.

‘It’s just an insult,’ said one apoplectic journalist, ‘When you've been there, and spoken to those poor families, and told the world what’s going on, now to have someone claim you weren’t there.’  

‘It’s just not true,’ said another, shaking her head. ‘Even in this parallel universe, there’s still things that are true and things that aren’t.’

 It’s hard to know what the rationale was for the White House to release such a list, given how easy it is for anyone to disprove it with a few minutes on Google. It’s equally hard to imagine this is a mistake made in good faith. It’s hard in fact to see it as anything other than a cynical attempt to discredit the media: ‘You can’t trust them,’ it seems to be saying, ‘Listen to me, I’ll tell you how it is.’ And when the journalists protest, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they. 

What can we do in a post-truth world? We can be scruplously, subversively honest, we can take responsibility for checking facts and becoming information literate in a world of fake news, and we can call out the lies every time we see them. We can refuse to accept that this is the way things are. We can support courageous voices who speak out for the truth in the media, in books, in government, in schools - wherever they are. 

Orwell warned us about Doublethink; he was 33 years out, but he wasn't wrong. 

This entry was posted on 11 February 2017 at 14:44 and is filed under Other. You can leave a response here.

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