Post-Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Social Commentary

Post-Truth is Stranger than Fiction

 

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t a time when rationality is struggling with the decreasing reputation of facts, Oxford Dictionaries legitimised the Left’s collective bed-wetting and declared “post-truth” the word of the year for 2016.

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Post-truth refers to the “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, which roughly translates to “what we feel is true is dictated by what our politicians and Facebook friends feel is the truth and facts are fucking boring”.

What a time to be alive, eh?

This coronation caused quite a stir at Delhi’s Press Club where Ravish Kumar was seen ordering multiple rum and cokes post-last order and frantically texting Barkha Dutt and Newslaundry, “Finally!!!” with multiple crying emoji on WhatsApp.

You see, apart from being an indictment on Brexit and Donald Trump’s ascent into everyone’s search history, Oxford’s decision is also emblematic of the famed Brit slowcoachness as The Great Jugaadu Nation aka India moved past the truth a long time ago.

PM Modi certified greatest Head of State by UNESCO? Check. America fears Modi because he is incorruptible? Check. Press Information Bureau of India tweeting out fake photos of PM Modi surveying floods in Tamil Nadu? Check. Nano GPS chips and eight-megapixel cameras in new currency notes? Check.

Post-truth politics works in mysterious ways. It doesn’t negate the usefulness of the truthfulness of a fact; it just doesn’t care because the rhetoric is created around feelings. If your political opponents or some of the public is rational and is surprised by your contortion of facts, big whoops. This only enhances the siege mentality that is the “us versus them” feeling which drives this brand of politics and its politicians.

Counterfacts are ignored because 1) No one wants to admit they’re wrong 2) How can it be wrong when everyone on my Facebook is sharing it.

Take PM Modi for example. In his moviestaresque address to the Indian diaspora at England’s Wembley stadium, Modi said, “Had the Sufi tradition been understood better, no one would have picked up arms.” (I promise free drinks to whoever can refute this claim.)

This sentence is not a fact but presented as one. Modiji might as well have said, “I got a feeling… That tonight’s gonna be a good night.” It has the same factual value as his Wembley declaration.

“PM Modi declared best PM by UNESCO” was readily brought into recirculation after his Wembley speech, bringing us to the agent of post-truth politics: social media. It recently came out that some teenagers in Macedonia were flooding the Facebook timelines of Trump supporters with fake news like, “Pope Francis forbids Catholics from voting for Hillary” or “Oprah tells Fox host ‘Some white people have to die’. Her reasoning is unbelievable.”

These stories got shares in hundreds of thousands because we mostly befriend friends holding opinions similar to ours. Also Facebook very conveniently allows for “target audience” when promoting stories. Incendiary posts are targeted to people most likely to share create an echo chamber of opinion. Counterfacts are ignored because 1) No one wants to admit they’re wrong 2) How can it be wrong when everyone on my Facebook is sharing it.

Facebook timelines of most users, hence consist of headlines by Faking News and The Onion, only they are treated with the gravitas and truthiness of The New York Times or The Guardian. If not curated, timelines become a clusterfuck of information dhabas which mass produce ignorance and spew ghee-laden lies. So yes, it’s heart-breaking but Sakshi Talwar is not playing Daenerys “Mother of Dragons” Targaryen in an Indian Game of Thrones and DJ Bobby Deol wasn’t going to open for Coldplay in Mumbai.

With over 40 per cent adult Americans getting their information from Zuckerbro’s Facebook, fake news changed the US presidential election. A fake-news writer actually came out and said that Trump is in the White House because of him. And no America, Denzel Washington did not back Donald Trump in the most epic way possible!

Being factually correct is a tedious task and no one, especially when most are just casual news observers, has the time to “check sources” when there is so much to opine about.

The US learnt in 2016 what India has known for some time now: The only truth in this morally bankrupt world is what you are forwarded by a friend on WhatsApp. Gomutra might or might not cure cancer, but in 2016, it bears no significance as none of the fact checkers are going to get science degrees and prove it doesn’t. The politicians know this. The fake-news writers and Facebook know this. Just the average Abhisheks and Aparnas don’t.

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