Post-Truth & the Twitterian 4th Reich

Post-Truth & the Twitterian 4th Reich

It has been announced that “post-truth” is the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. The adjective is defined as “relating to or denoting[1] circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping[2] public opinion than appeals[3] to emotion and personal belief.” Clearly the importance of the term arises out of[4] the US General Election campaign.

A taste[5] of post-truthfulness was given to us just three weeks ago when on 31st October Mr Trump announced that 650 million immigrants would come to the USA in the first week of a Clinton Presidency. 650 million. 9% of the population of the entire world. In a week. If every single human being in Latin America wandered across[6] the Rio Grande that would be only 626 million. In seven days. The biggest demographic movement in human history was when Pakistan separated from India in August 1947 and that involved[7] around[8] 10 million people fleeing[9] genocide on either side of the new border[10] (see photo).

Under any normal circumstances a candidate who shows so little understanding of big numbers would be considered unfit[11] to run[12] a country (government is all about big numbers, after all). This is where the appeal3 to emotion and personal belief come in, I suppose. The Oxford Dictionary is, of course, over[13] a decade out-of-date. US comedian Stephen Colbert coined[14] the term “truthiness” in 2005 for things that “feel” true without regard to[15] evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Trump is just a symptom of post-truth.

The root cause[16] of our epistemological decadence is the internet. Truthiness can masquerade as[17] facts on a level playing field[18] in which the conclusions of an international panel of scientists have no more prominence than the idle musings[19] of a 14-year-old.

Given this social environment[20] schools and universities have to prioritize one thing: teaching “information literacy[21]. Studies show that only 44% of Generation Z[22] in the USA evaluate the quality and reliability[23] of the information they receive. Without information literacy, people are totally vulnerable to whoever can shout their truthiness loudest[24]. In the post-truth scenario democracy cannot function and we will sink[25] into a Twitterian Fourth Reich.

 

[1] to denoteindicate

[2] to shape – mould, form, determine

[3] appeal – exhortation, plea

[4] to arise out of (arise-arose-arisen) – come from, emerge from

[5] tastesample, example

[6] to wander across – cross

[7] involved – (in this case) was a situation of

[8] around – about, approximately

[9] to flee (flee-fled-fled) – escape from

[10] border – frontier

[11] unfit – unsuitable, inappropriate

[12] to run (run-ran-run) – govern, manage

[13] over – (in this case) more than

[14] to coin – invent (a term)

[15] regard toreference to

[16] root causeorigin

[17] to masquerade as – pretend to be, simulate that it is, be passed off as

[18] level playing field – situation in which people compete on equal terms

[19] idle musingsfrivolous thoughts

[20] environment – (in this case) context, setting, situation

[21] information literacy – the ability to evaluate the quality of information effectively

[22] Generation Zpeople born after 1998

[23] reliability – validity, objectivity

[24] can shout their truthiness loudest – can propagate their subjective worldview most effectively

[25] to sink (sink-sank-sunk) – descend

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