Truth: An Obituary
December 13th, 2016
With Oxford Dictionary’s blessing, 2016 dies off with “post-truth” reigning supreme as the word of the year. Defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, post-truth is a simple adjective that perfectly sums up the year in which the world became detached from reality. Somewhere in the Fox News studios, in the crowds of Brexit voters, in the half- baked tweets of politicians and pundits, and even on our own soil, the objective truth was utterly quashed by the waves of popular sentiment above all else. Blame not the instigators of ignorance by the likes of Trump or Clinton, I say, for they always have and will continue to exist. Blame the failure of the mainstream media.
If an outpost of reliable and factual reporting in the mainstream still exists, then I have not found it yet. Those outlets formerly trusted to provide a standard of factually-correct information, like that of CNN or BBC, have lost credibility thanks to much-publicized instances of bias and outright false reporting. Their viewers have fled in distrust and some have resorted to trapping themselves in an information bubble by following more radical media outlets that better conform to their beliefs.
Case in point, Newsmax— an outwardly right-wing American outlet—thrives on their decidedly ignorant readership by providing stories that fortify their reader’s beliefs. Their coverage on Hillary’s emails was abhorrently empty in the facts department and, without any gold-standard media outlet to challenge their claims, Newsmax’s coverage seemed believable to their readers. The outlet ultimately played a pivotal role in putting a certain business magnate/ despot in a certain executive office.
Closer to home, CBC— our government-subsidized outlet—panders to whomever’s in power on that particular day. Some will remember the outcry of Liberal and NDP groups over a conservative bias in the Harper era. The Conservative outcry of leftist bias in the Trudeau era is not any different at all. Facts are regularly spun in an Orwellian custom that dangerously influences Canadians’ perceptions and decisions. Soon enough, trust in big media diminishes and no one can confidently discern fact from fiction.
There has to be a trustworthy media outlet in the mainstream so that certain facts can be agreed upon by the general public. Yes, there exists objective facts such as those scientific measurements that prove the existence of climate change. Those facts must be made public and well-known to prevent the triumph of pure emotion from clouding the judgement of the electorate. Only then can we prevent that nationalistic love and xenophobic fear that has thrived in the era of post- truth politics.
Here’s a phrase I would have suggested for word of the year: lamestream media. It is another adjective that accurately describes the state of the mainstream media as lacking fairness and creativity. Indeed, it had been the mainstream media’s lameness that has put the world in a position where people have resorted to their emotions rather than their rationality to deal with the absence of truth. With the death of truth comes the Wild West of the post- truth world where populist cowboys ride the waves of unchecked beliefs to victory. Giddy up for 2017.