The Post-Truth Era

Everyone’s saying it, so it must be true. We live in a post-truth era, in which unsubstantiated statements are swallowed whole. The less palatable they are, the more easily they slip down.

Post-truth was made word of the year – the Oxford Dictionaries’ International Word of the Year, no less. Post-truth is of course instead of truth, not after it as in, say, post mortem or post-Apocalyptic.

As you see, even the term post-truth is lying through its teeth. But what does it matter?

old-books1

Post-truth got some massive boosts this year with Brexit and the US Presidential Election. While Michael Gove didn’t actually start it, he did famously say that people in this country had “had enough of experts”.

Experts are now superfluous and fact-checkers obsolete. These days momentous decisions are made without anyone bothering with evidence.

That doesn’t just make me worried. It makes me deeply suspicious not just of politicians but of pretty much everything, cute animal videos included. What if I’m not watching an Alsatian licking a kitten clean, but just a cleverly doctored video of a dog preparing his lunch?

posed by model. photo by Roger Heykoop

I can see how we got to post-truth. Everyone has an opinion, and now it has just as much value as anyone else’s. Social media provide an echo chamber where anyone can have their say, as well as share hatred and intolerance.

Twitter wasn’t big in Lao Tzu’s day, but I think he nailed it with “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” 

As a doctor, I’ve lived with post-truth beliefs for some time. One patient with appendicitis, who, on being advised surgery was needed, declared that it wasn’t for him. An operation might be our way of doing things, but not his. Thus he belted out of Accident & Emergency into the night. FreeImages.com/Antonio JImenez AlonsoSaddest of all in my view is the mother who, after lengthy discussions, still refused immunizations for her baby. “I’m doing what I think is right,” she told me. “After all, that’s the most important thing.”

The most important thing? God help her child.

It’s clear how we got to the age of unreason, but it’s less clear how we’ll climb out of it. Trump’s inauguration is scheduled for next Friday, and we are where we are.  Though there is a well-known story about a tourist in Ireland. Lost, he asks one of the locals for directions to Balbriggan. The Irishman replies “Well, sor. If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

FreeImages.com/Mira Pavlakovic

 

Advertisements

The Electoral Garden: Will You Vote Conservatory or Sun-Lounge?

Time was when UK Prime Ministers were decided on the playing fields of Eton, but the political landscape has changed. Gazing out of the window, I realise the battleground is much closer to home. I rarely get political, but now the election is literally in our backyard. Let’s take a look.

in the electoral garden

We all know what the conservatories stand for.

Vote Conservative

Sun-lounges are really the same thing, only with working-class aspirations.  There’s even space for a lectern these days.

Those might be the two main contenders, but there are plenty more. The Greens are, obviously, the greenhouse. Well, they call it a greenhouse, though it’s more of a glorified poly-tunnel. With a solar panel.

the Green Party

The gazebo embodies the Lib-Dems. Nobody’s sure what it’s for, but there are still a few seats in there. A couple of people are holding it down to stop the wind blowing it away completely.

If you go up the garden a bit, you’ll find the Wendy house. It’s small yet perfectly formed, and has everything anyone might want, twee tartan wallpaper included. 

UKIP have gone and got themselves some nasty garages.

UKIP

And you can’t go in. Especially not you. Or you. Oi, there are far too many of you. Clear off.

Plaid Cymru have got a kind of shed, called a penty, a bwthyn or a gollyngant or something. It’s a very nice comfy shed, if you don’t mind a little bleating. It’s just the sheep sheltering inside, see?

The Respect party is the makeshift garden swing. It’s out on a limb, some splits have appeared, and the rope looks a bit dodgy. But don’t you dare diss it.

tyre swing

The National Health Action Party have got the first aid tent, and the Monster Raving Loonies have bagged themselves the bouncy castle. Then there’s the potting shed, headquarters of the Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol Party. It looks kind of chilled, man.

growing pot plants

I don’t think there’s much doubt about this one. Dress the BNP up however you want. It will always stink.

outside khazi

Have you seen the chimenea in the corner? Nobody dares move the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition, so it still has its space on the patio.  There’s real fire in its belly, and if you get too close the coals spit at you.

fire in the political belly

There are others too, like the DUP, SDLP, Sinn Féin and the UUP across the pond. You can’t see them from here, though you can occasionally hear them.

Of course I couldn’t possibly comment on the real pros and cons of any of the parties. On May 7 you get to choose who will lead you down the garden path.