I have just read a very interesting article on The Bookseller announcing that the good people behind the Oxford Dictionaries have chosen ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year for 2016. If you are wondering, as I was, what it means, here it is:
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.”
The article went on to specify that it had been chosen because of “this year’s EU referendum in the UK and presidential election in the US, which has seen the word used to describe the irrelevance of truth in today’s politics, as in ‘post-truth politics’.” You can read more about it at the Oxford Dictionaries website.
I feel we need to discuss this.
Now, I don’t want to get political. One of the perks of being a fantasy writer, as opposed to other genres or professions, is that you’re not usually asked what your political views, as they are mostly irrelevant to your art. And I intend to keep to that apolitical persona: what I want to discuss is how we’re doing politics.
This year has seen the UK voting to leave the European Union, Spain electing the conservative party, and the USA electing Trump—and France may be soon electing Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front.
Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with these decisions, I feel these debates have been centred around clear, provable non-truths that served the only purpose of inflaming people’s passions and calling them to actions whose real, factual merits were not known. The chief example of this is how Britons reportedly googled ‘What is the EU’ hours after voting to leave.
This goes to show that demagogy and spin-doctoring are at an all-time high. This is not necessarily new; politics has always been the domain of half-truths and forgotten promises. Our current problem, I believe, arises not from the politicians, but from us, the voters: we are choosing to consume these lies even when we know they have no connection with reality.
It is, after all, only in a context were people choose to be deceived in order to indulge in their confirmation bias that a word such as post-truth could possibly have been coined.
I’m sorry if this post sounds too preachy or political—I promise it will be a long while before I bother you with anything of the sort again!