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Weekly hindsight 2-6 Oct 2017

Post-truth will out

Yes, people today cherry-pick or ignore facts that are incompatible with their belief system. But doesn’t the expression “post-truth age” imply that we have completed an age of truth?

Editorial Team Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe

I have the reprehensible habit of declaring things stupid without knowing anything about them. Meditation apps are stupid. Audiobooks for dogs are stupid. The Marcona almond craze is stupid. I would like to believe it’s a protective mechanism against information overload and not a mark of my close-mindedness. Be that as it may, the habit is still harmful. Maybe audiobooks for dogs are great. Thus I try hard to rid myself of this instinct. However, the weekend is upon us and my resolve is at its weakest, so I will indulge in one last (!) condemnation: I think the concept of post-truth is stupid.

Not fully stupid. Just partially stupid. Post-truth is a useful a concept. It describes a new and potent aspect of reality on which many political outcomes hinge. Yes, people cherry-pick or ignore facts that are incompatible with their belief systems. What I find stupid is the nomenclature, especially when "post-truth" is used as an adjective to describe the age we live in. Doesn’t the expression "post-truth age" imply that we have gone through an age of truth?

If there was ever an era of truth, it is now. We know the truth. We can’t handle the truth, mind you, but the truth is available for all to see.

Especially when it comes to politics. But no matter how much dirt gets unearthed, or how repulsive a government's policy turns out to be, we have no mechanism to interfere. Public opinion is now a super-charged, finely-tuned and highly efficient machine, whereas our democracies are stuck in old and stodgy half-decade cycles.

And the mighty public opinion got fired up many times with this week. Polish women took the streets to decry the government’s stance against reproductive rights. In parallel, environmentalists are involved in a long row about the sale of an ancient forest on Poland’s northeast border. Poles are sending a clear and unified signal of disagreement to the ruling authorities, but how can one intervene against a specific policy mid-way through a government’s mandate? Protracted protests and not much else.

On the social media front, France and Slovakia were both involved in minor scandals prompted by statements that would have probably gone unnoticed in the pre-Twitter era. While neither issue was severe enough to trigger comeuppance, it leaves a somewhat bitter aftertaste to have witnessed a president’s callousness and a government official’s paranoia being exposed so blatantly.

And it was a week of hard-to-swallow truth for Estonia, who is now facing the full extent of its drug crisis thanks to the vigilance of local journalists. With the highest rate of drug overdoses in the EU, the ruling powers in Tallinn will be under pressure to come up with solutions. Speaking of syringes, Italy seems to be coming to terms with the difficult reality of its vaccination crisis. The Mediterranean country has fallen dangerously below the vaccination thresholds recommended by the World Health Organization, and the authorities have decided to make vaccination mandatory for all schoolchildren.

Whether in Estonia or Poland, Italy, Slovakia or France, we know the facts. And we react however we can, sometimes successfully, but mostly in vain. Stupid truth age.

 

Lea Berriault

Managing Editor

Maven Must-reads 2-6 Oct 2017
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