Post truth and fake news

This generation has entered the so-called ‘post-truth’ era where truth does not really matter any more… Post-truth politics is marked by a big part of the public that would rather believe fake news sites and echo the baseless assertions of dubious bloggers and flame baiters.

Ombuds(wo)man Conchita Carpio-Morales, speech during the alumni homecoming of UP College of Law.

But what is post truth really? Newsweek’s Andrew Calcutt wrote a timely article The Truth About Post Truth Politics from which I borrowed the following definition,

Oxford Dictionaries…defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Surprisingly, post truth, from the same article, has been developing for some decades already and from the most unexpected corner:

the connotations embedded in “post-truth” commentary are normally as follows: “post-truth” is the product of populism; it is the bastard child of common-touch charlatans and a rabble ripe for arousal; it is often in blatant disregard of the actualité.

but this interpretation blatantly disregards the actual origins of “post-truth”… the groundbreaking work on “post-truth” was performed…more than 30 years ago…by academics, with further contributions from an extensive roster of middle-class professionals. Left-leaning, self-confessed liberals, they sought freedom from state-sponsored truth; instead they built a new form of cognitive confinement—“post-truth”.

academics started to discredit “truth” as one of the “grand narratives” which clever people could no longer bring themselves to believe in. Instead of “the truth,” which was to be rejected as naïve and/or repressive, a new intellectual orthodoxy permitted only “truths”—always plural, frequently personalized, inevitably relativized.

under the terms of this outlook, all claims on truth are relative to the particular person making them; there is no position outside our own particulars from which to establish universal truth.

this was one of the key tenets of postmodernism… In this respect, for as long as we have been postmodern, we have been setting the scene for a “post-truth” era.

these attitudes soon spread across wider society. By the mid-1990s, journalists were following academics in rejecting “objectivity” as nothing more than a professional ritual.

In adhering to post truth, what have we become as a nation? the Ombuds(wo)man asked. But that is precisely the long running question of the people to government.

What values have you our leaders taught us? What have you done to free us from economic, social, and political deprivations? Where are we in growth and development as a result of our money (taxes)? To what extent have you develop our communities in their capacity to compete internationally and globally? To what extent have you transform our communities to become safe, healthy, and resilient places? What happened to your promises of justice post Senate hearings of the corruption of PDAF? Were the list of accountable authorities and promises of justice another of government’s fake news? Were all of that a spin? These are the truths that matter to people now, because these are what continue to affect them regardless of who was, is and will be in power, moving forward.

Public leaders cannot uncouple themselves from the nation. The government is the largest and well resourced machinery of the country. Correspondingly, it’s leaders are the first ones accountable for the state of the nation.And they report to the people. If they haven’t got that together, once, the people will perhaps swallow it. But every time?

To be fair however to the Ombuds(wo)man, her speech was aimed at a private audience. Why it has been applied to all Filipinos – the nation – escapes me, then again, in reporting her speech to the general public the media made it as if the Ombuds(wo)man was addressing the nation. Or did she? Whether or not she did or that media made it appear so who knows but blurring the divide betwen what are actually private truths (ie. private speech to a private audience) versus the true state of the nation (her office as Ombuds(wo)man is not in the position to make official statements of the state of the nation hence whatever she said of it are confined as opinions and personal perspective) is the very example of post truth and fake news.


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