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  • Writer's picturePolymath Weekly

Breaking the spiral of post-truth in contemporary age

The concept

Post-truth relates to a situation where an argument would be more convincing to people if it was based on their emotions or personal beliefs than if it were based on facts. It is also important to note that "post-truth" does not always equal the absence of truth or the opposite of the truth.

While the use of the term in political context can be dated back decades, it became increasingly routine in political commentary in the 2010s, which many people like to link to one specific driving force.

Post-truth politics and Media

The question of when the concept of post-truth came into practice has long been a subject of debate. The commonly accepted argument suggests that we became stuck in the so-called "post-truth reality" with the arrival of digital media, due to the difficulties of controlling the information spread. This is opposite to traditional media channels (e.g. newspapers), which often have strict guidelines, like fact-and-opinion balance to follow.

Sometimes, for political purposes, governments can become involved in the operation of both types of media on a national level; A good example of this is Russia's current restrictions on social media (amid war in Ukraine), which not only includes bans of Western broadcasting corporations such as the BBC (both online and on TV), but also entire social media services like Instagram.

Interestingly enough, the actions defining the phenomenon are not always aimed to be subtle. For instance, decades before becoming the 45th US president, Donald Trump openly commended post-truth politics:

[...] A little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.

From "Trump: The Art of the Deal" (1987): a book by Donald Trump and journalist Tony Schwartz

The "telling people what they want to hear" has arguably been in place long before social media. It can be equally argued that while lying in politics is not new, the use of digital media has transformed the process onto a different level.

Surviving in the post-truth age

Even with the third-party fact-checkers that some digital media companies use to combat misinformation, the spread of false information still prevails. So it does in political campaigns and other mass political mediums.

Making your way through both traditional and digital environments of unhealthy information can seem exhausting, but there are plenty of ways to be in control of what data you expose yourself to.

While the obvious solution may seem reading trusted news sources, it is also important to broaden your outlook outside your existing beliefs; To clear away the very bias you are trying to leave behind and add to your open-mindedness, try to read content that does not align fully with your principles. You will learn things.

[Cover Image Credit: Feng Yu/Shutterstock]


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