In Plato’s cave myth, the famous Greek philosopher argued that the truth is independent of our opinions. She will always be there even if no one believes in her. It’s a very idealistic view of what exists.
However, this powerful idea also has a dark side: the lie can also remain and capture all the attention because, if it does not accurately describe reality, it does not need it; it just “works” in our heads. It allows us to build a story about our lives. That’s why he survives.
A few months ago, the Oxford Dictionary noted that the word of the year 2016 had been
post-truth, which in Spanish is a kind of post-truth. This concept underlines that between the truth and the lie, there is a territory of troubled waters which escapes these two definitions.
What is the post-truth?
Post-truth has been defined as a cultural and historical context in which empirical contrast and the search for objectivity are less relevant than belief in itself and the emotions it generates when creating currents of public opinion.
Basically, the word serves to indicate a tendency in the creation of arguments and discourse which is characterized by the assumption that
objectivity matters much less that the way what is stated matches the belief system that we feel is our own and that makes us feel good.
Post-truth blurs the line between truth and lie and creates a third category different from the previous two. A fact in which a fact, fictitious or not, is accepted in advance by the simple fact of integrating into our mental patterns.
The popularization of post-truth has been accompanied by the concept of alternative facts, which in Spanish are translated as “alternative facts”. Lies, come on. But with a nuance: alternative facts, unlike lies in general,
they have behind them a powerful media and propaganda apparatus that he supports them and that he will do everything possible to make these lies seem to explain reality or, at least, not to appear to be lies.
After all, for something to be an alternate fact, it needs something that gives it momentum and allows it to generate a speech parallel to reality without touching a chestnut tree. Otherwise, it would be the alternative to nothing.
The alternative facts are, before being baptized as such by Trump’s campaign leader when he was reprimanded for using false information, the raw material for post-truth. Or, seen another way, the existence of the elements forced someone to create the concept of post-truth and use it in political science and sociology.
Some examples of post-truth
As clear examples of the influence of post-truth culture, we could cite the fact that the concept of “alternative facts” had to be used for the first time in a professional political context. Kellyanne Conway, the aforementioned Donald Trump campaign official, justified the barriers imposed on citizens of traditionally Muslim countries who want to enter the United States by noting that two Iraqi refugees they had been involved in the Bowling Green massacre. The Bowling Green massacre did not exist.
Another simple post-truth example are the statements by Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, assuring that the media had deliberately covered up the massive presence of citizens with which he explained Trump’s presidential inauguration; according to him, the inauguration with the largest public in the world.
But, of course, alternative facts were not born with Trump; they are a constant in politics. We could mention here, for example, statements by the Spanish government that pensions are guaranteed when indicators that cross demographics and socio-economic data show otherwise. If it fits where a speech arouses strong emotions because it represents us, it is valid, whether it is true or not.
In fact, what the term post-truth more or less refers to has been known for some years in psychology; the intellectual sacrifices we accept to stay upright
a belief system that has taken root in our identity. A phenomenon that has been reported, for example, by social psychologist Leon Festinguer.
The cognitive dissonance that Festinguer was talking about is that state of tension and internal conflict that we notice when reality collides with our beliefs. When this happens, we try to resolve the situation by readjusting the fit between this belief system and the information that comes to us from outside; several times we choose to manipulate reality to keep the first one as is.
The post-truth as an opportunity
But not all aspects of post-truth are phrased negatively, as something that destroys the way we view things that used to characterize us. There is also a positive aspect of post-truth; not because it’s morally good, but because it leads to building something new, rather than undoing what already exists.
And what does post-truth bring? The possibility of creating a context in which truth, contrast, and the presentation of evidence are so under-valued that
all kinds of lies and ideas can go on without head or feet. From climate change to a myth to homosexuality which is not natural, to all kinds of inventions in distant lands to create an excuse to invade them.
This tendency to give up intellectual honesty for its own good has a name in “alternative facts” that allows it to legitimize itself.
In the post-truth world, literally, any idea can give way to valid discourse about what is happening in reality, as long as the speakers through whom it is conveyed are sufficiently powerful. Whether this is true or not is too much.