Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post-Truth in the Trump Era

Politifact Truth-o-Meter
I just read an interesting article by Christiane Amanpour of CNN. She has grave doubts about the freedom of the press in the Trump era of "Post-Truth".

I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.

I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth.
And we have to be prepared to fight especially hard for the truth in a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just announced its word of 2016: "post-truth."

Post-truth is defined as an adjective "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief," according to the dictionary. [source]
 Trump and those who support him have no respect for the truth. In fact, they benefit from the lies they tell. The "Trump dictionary" seems to define things in terms of how they reflect on Donald Trump. For example, "rigged" is anything which makes Trump look bad. He, and those who support him, will lie without any regret if it benefits them. And, they will fight anyone who support a differing view of the truth.

Is Amanpour right to fear for journalism and journalists?

Wael Ghonim, one of the fathers of the Arab spring, dubbed the social media revolution, now says:
"The same medium that so effectively transmits a howling message of change also appears to undermine the ability to make it. Social media amplifies the human tendency to bind with one's own kind. It tends to reduce complex social challenges to mobilizing slogans that reverberate in echo chambers of the like-minded rather than engage in persuasion, dialogue, and the reach for consensus. Hate speech and untruths appear alongside good intentions and truths." [emphasis added]
Yes, I think she does. We all do.

However, the media can be viewed as much to blame as are the people who post false news and those who believe it. All the major news organizations are really out for one thing -- profit. They want people to follow them, read them, and most of all, buy from the advertisers who drive their profit. If you don't believe this, just look at some of the stories about celebrities or promoting other shows on their networks that are presented as news.

In the Internet age, the pursuit of profit seems to mean that you need to be first and you need to be popular. Notice there is nothing here about being truthful. The rush to immediacy means that even reputable journalists can sacrifice truth for ratings. EVERYONE must STOP trying to be first and make sure they are accurate!

But, what about those who benefit from lies? How do we deal with them? We, as consumers of social media, must be willing to approach even articles expressing views with which we agree with healthy skepticism. We need to question everything, read disparate sources and keep up with the information from those who don't necessarily agree with us.

It's just as important to question those with whom we agree as it is those with whom we disagree. Sights like Breitbart are obvious. Facebook, Twitter, CNN are a bit less obvious.

The point is that we need to realize profits and power drive much of the media we read. We need to investigate, research, and doubt all that we read until we, as discerning American Persons, find they have satisfied our curiosity.

Who will protect us from people, like Trump, who live in a world of "fluid truth", who benefit from lies?

WE will.