Much has been said about the post-truth era. Some point at the enormous information feed that we receive daily and the impossibility of fact-checking every single piece of information. Some others argued about the nefarious consequences that this might have to our lazy minds. However, these apocalyptic overreactions forget that nobody has ever fact-checked newspapers or other media outlets and that this might actually turn to be an exciting puzzle of our post-modern lives.
The concept of post-truth apparently took roots in our vocabulary to the point of being last year’s most popular word. Interestingly, ‘alt-right’ was another shortlisted. These have been propelled by both Brexit’s and Trumps’ incendiary campaigns that had, as its major goal, the arousal of primal feelings as opposed to the plain exposure of naked technocratic data. Hence, despite having most of their arguments refuted or undermined, Brexiteers and Trumpeters kept on supporting their preachers and stubbornly deepened their positions while standing in doubtful information.
The concept of post-truth suggests that there was once a time when a truth existed but now we are somewhere beyond it. Humans don’t care about truth any more. But was there any truth to care about in the first place? This riddle can be illustrated by the classic dilemma that questions whether a falling tree in the forest would make a noise if this is not heard by any human. While this might sound as a superficial question answerable by childish statistics, its core touches upon the very essence of existence and the possibility of knowing about it (in philosophic jargon: ontology and epistemology). However, the question does not need to be resolved to achieve its main goal: making us think about either solution.
My point being that the blatantly perfidious statements that these campaigns put forward are not misrepresenting reality, they are constructing it. Some linguists, flirting with nihilism in late 20th century, said somehting like “there is nothing beyond the text”, which to the daily-speak could be rendered as “everything is whatever is said about it”. As a consequence nothing exists unless it is written or spoken about and every single text or comment is an intrinsic part of its reality.
This does not mean that just because someone didn’t know “what Aleppo was”, the city or its conflict didn’t exist. It rather suggests that this piece of the universe was not to be found in their knowledge or it existed only via indirect references. This anticipates that any human being can have a satisfactory existence without the burden of knowing absolutely everything. This is rock bottom: the very early human specialisation and its tremendous diversity.
Sure, post-truth is a word on fashion, but let us bear in mind that it does not simply mean we live in an age of falsehood or misinformation. On the contrary, this concept reminds us that there might be no truth at all. Even more, there might be contradictory truths between which me might have to choose at some point, or truths of which we are still unaware.
Anther word that should have been nominated was multi-truth.