It is argued by the cynics in a position to own some media space and time, that we entered a post democratic age some time ago, and that we now live in a post-truth media era.
There is of course a huge ambiguity in this which is of Heisenberg uncertainty proportions. It is beautiful to think than in declaring the post truth era we actually expose the need for more truth by the means of the good old ‘rigorous scepticism’. Also too that populist hard right politics are swinging into democracy, shows in fact that we are exiting a bland period of conformity in politics, with Neo Liberal economics on the one side, and perpetually watered down social democratic policy on the other.
Why though has post truth media become the new oppressor? Clearly it is the internet which is driving this, but far from the Luddite cry that there will be both anarchy and new state fascism mediated via its web sites and trivia-apps, the media is its own saviour and the people are not some puppet like crowd habving their strings pulled subconsciously.
However it is not just the internet which is driving this move to a new or rediscovered rhetoric which is aimed at achievement in its own terms. Winning as being wholly the technique rather than the value of the goal or the validity of the exponent. On Friday for example, we asked a consultant in to help with some issues I have which my current leader does not have time to cope with. She was from the challenge management school, and seemed to have a sense of entitlement and empowerment to be, basically, a bully with a never ending stream of challenging questions and an set of goals which were to reduce the value, go for the low hanging fruit, get the win out of the way and not worry that it will cost us later in being quick and cheap today. For once I took a counter attacking stance and that was really petrol on the flames, yet we reached some areas we could work on, really back to square one I had intended to go out on, but now I expect more questioning of my strategy and work rate, versus doing something tactical which could be a quick win for her as a consultant. I was left flabbergasted at how far people are prepared to go in terms of persistance and verbal bullying to advance so little and impose questionable tactics upon others in a pit bull way.
Then I was of course reminded that this is how a lot of society works.’ Truthes’ can be shaped for short term gain in business or politics and their falseness is soon forgotten as the next crisis or opportunity presents itself. What some individuals get remembered for is having done something, and that something acheived something and that something achieved was actually achieved in a short space of time. Which then gets rewards and headlines. A quick win. The truth in stocks and shares as much as the truth in economic policy outcomes, is never actually out there, it is just the system claims some ‘truthes’ so as to own the attention of people who expect actions and certainties. Truth doesnt matter if someone can win on their own spin in the short term, but truth cannot be escaped in the longer term.
As a person I have always, always been interested in the truth, and how it can be like onion layers or just a fleeting belief. What is the aetiology, the causative factor, the underlying reason, the basic instinct? Truth reveals itself most through both the sens of justice and its societal structures in law. Bitter senses of injustice drove my childhood and adolescent life and have come back to plague my career in a new stubbornness and inflexibility which renders me often difficult for, well, difficult stubborn people to work with. The trouble for me is that they are often entrenched and I am the new boy even if I am middle aged. I need to swallow my pride, but in fact there is a wonderful Norwegian duality in “jantas lov” their own brand of presbyterian style self denial. It finds itself in a false modesty, a subtle language of understatement, a way of bowing and laying flat for your opponent in agreement while then totally disagreeing and moving things amother direction.
The internet and social media for me, have come full circle and I find myself using my view of the truth to promote arguments against people who are clearly in the post truth camp to me, yet who is telling the truth? Time is a moderating factor on truth because phenomenoms happen in chains of often chaotic events with truth often being a post mortem which is unusable by the time the expert coroner delivers his report to the court. Wwe cimne back to that Heisenberg thing, where we cant perhaps know where the truth is AND where it is going at the same time. In uncovering a truth which destroys an illusion, we are stupified by what the psycologists call cognitive dissonance. The truth of new events can then not be grasped, it overwhelms us instead and appears to be fake for a while. Old certainties too fall away in my life, and old things I held near or dear, become strangely alien and almost scary in a deja vu way. New realities take over around the priorities of middle aged, parental life elsewhere from where I grew up.
What we do see mediated by the internet and in society is a new verbal aggression. The voices we hear or internalise from trite memes to cyber-bullying on FB, are far more concentrated on winning by all means possible. Project fear, the popular anti refugee right, anti EU Brexit campaign. In part this began with several conservative organs regrouping in the face of either annihalation or their economic policies finally reducing much of working life to a near feudal situation for an increasing proportion of workers, while China proceeded its miracle driven by Keynsian investment and interference, so unfashionable in the west. The other right wing establishments which have regrouped into verbal and literal terrorism, are the religious conservative sects in all the three Abrahamic religions on all their continents. From the 1970s rise of the Taliban to the current Islamic State cult terrorism on the rampage, Islam has seen radical conservativism fighting against westernisation. The softer side of this is what happened in Iran and has been even happening in Saudi and even Iraq, a kind of conservative but quite benevolent islam governance. In the USA there has been one over riding crusade against modernity and that has been the ‘intelligent design” approach to offering a biblical alternative to the observations and theories of Darwin and all thos whipper snappers in the evolution camp.
Both islamic terror recruiting and “intelligent design” are examples of this hyper aggressive post truth posturing, which for the former have had grave consequences for the middle east and Europe. The former is of course the employment of that age old religious technique to convince the mild sceptic and humiliate the weaker infront of their piers, or on maintime TV these days. That of the being unable to deny it because it is an explanation which is alternative. As in its day Darwinism was radical so will this small yet noisy crowd of christian conservatives try to question ‘orthodox’ with new theory. The new establisment is science, with religion offering an alternative, which can be argued for ad absurdium. Everything can be questioned, from radio isotopic dating to genetics and the individual on the spot is aggressively persued like a witch hunt as to whether they really can claim this. In a few years time we will no doubt see new sects who are vehemently anti evolution and anti gay, and they will be populated by feeble minded people being lead by opportunist egotists.
Which brings us to Trump and Hitler for that matter, not that you can really compare them but both came in from the fringes and were able to use their personality to persue a radical stance via the ballot box in outset. They are opportunist egotists who live in the pre-post-peri truth era which has been part of mankind since our leaders first commanded us to go to war against other tribes, or offer them more of their fruits of labour, food and possessions via the structures of tribe and then the ultimate meta tribe mechanisms, church and political parties.
So post truth and post democracy are just the least truthful or modern concepts we can embrace. They have always been the nature of society, that people are easily lead or rather anti democratic leaders are easily empowered. The fact is though that the internet is a mega media which for the first time allows for the rapid dissemination of real information and the ability for the masses to scrutinise and debate this as to its value, meaning and indeed truthfulness. There are many cynical political actions or policies which could be ‘gotten away with’ in the pre mobile device, pre public internet world. Now though take the US elections hacking scandal, where the internet was the mediator, the criminal and yet it is also the police, the prosecutor and the jury! The internet has delivered us to this radical age and will facilitate more freedom if it is allowed to be free, and any restrictions on its freedom will lead to outcry and revolution over its ownership or structures.