Consider the recently invented phrase, ‘post-truth’. It has been selected as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. According to the Oxford University Press, after the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election, the use of ‘post-truth’ sky-rocketed.
How did the term ‘post-truth’ acquire such a large public profile? This is not a phrase that emerged from the conversations of everyday life. Most people do not use it — at least not yet. Unlike ‘awesome’, ‘chilled out’ or ‘cool’, words whose origins are in the linguistic practices of ordinary people, ‘post-truth’ is the invention of individuals who are part of the political and cultural elites. If its use has ‘sky-rocketed’, it certainly wasn’t in pubs or the workplace that this happened.
What is significant about ‘post-truth’ is that it is a means of designating which values are legitimate and which are not. Post-truth is not simply a descriptive or standalone word. Its usage sends a wider message, which is that everything that happened in 2016 was fundamentally flawed because it was based on false assumptions. The rhetoric of post-truth is intended to delegitimise the values and outlook of those people who dared to challenge the worldview of people in power. Having failed to win the battle of ideas directly, they manipulate language to try to undermine certain public views. More.
If academics and scientists believe that words alone will change much, they believe in magic. But then again, many believe in the multiverse, etc., so?
See also: A scientist on the benefits of a post-truth society
I’m a factual relativist. I abandoned the idea of facts and “the truth” some time last year. I wrote a whole science book, The Memory Illusion, almost never mentioning the terms fact and truth.
Analyst: Climate change crusade as faith, not science. Most science writers today seek to proclaim truths, with penalties for doubt, and at the same time to assert that the human mind is not structured so as to understand truth. In other words, truth is whatever the elite want, which – with suitable punishments for doubt or dissent – eliminates tiresome issues around correctness.
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