post-truth / post-truth politics

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post-truth / post-truth politics

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:08 am

Oxford Dictionaries chose the adjective post-truth as the 2016 ‘word of the year.’

I’m not sure of what the standards are for choosing ‘word of the year,’ but it’s possible that popularity is not high on the list. Perhaps niftiness and possibilities for the future are up there, but I never came across the isolated word post-truth, written or spoken. In fact, in the search of a news archive it appeared 94 times (a very small number) and all of those hits referred to Oxford including it in their dictionaries or choosing it as ‘word of the year.’ I did have better luck with the phrase post-truth politics which appeared 78 times (still a very small number), almost all without reference to Oxford Dictionaries or ‘word of the year.’ Google came up with about 170 post truths, and 150 post-truth politics. However, there is no question that Brexit and Donald Trump’s campaign brought these two to the fore.

So what is post-truth?

Here is what Oxford Dictionaries had to say:
After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as:

POST-TRUTH: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.


The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade [[longer - see quotes below]], but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

[[See Oxford graph: Note that there are no units on the vertical axis, which doesn’t make clear that the usage is miniscule as would a Google Ngram, for example, when compared to other words. However, it does tell us that in choosing a word of the year, relative increase and not absolute increase is a criterion in some instances such as this one. Unfortunately the Google Ngram didn't provide any examples - it quit at 2008.]]

The following quotes use the phrase post-truth politics:
<1992 “In a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.”—The Nation (New York City), 6 January>

<1996 “That pretty well describes where we find ourselves in this post-election and post-truth week of 1996.”—Post-Tribune (Indiana), 7 November>

<2004 “. . . for the first time in my voting life, we're living in what author Ralph Keyes calls a ‘post-truth era,’ where, unfortunately, fact and fiction, truth and lies and spin are designed to capture us in a web.”—Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, Ohio), 8 October>

<2011 “Most telling blow landed on Salmond. It's ‘what Americans call “post-truth politics.” Just repeating the same thing over and over even though it is demonstrably untrue’ . . .”—The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), 16 December>

<2012 “The New York Times's Paul Krugman describes what he's witnessing as ‘post-truth politics,’ in which right-leaning candidates can feel free to say whatever they want without being held accountable...”—The Washington Post (D.C.), 3 January>

<2013 “. . . his position still needs to be called to account . . . In America they have what they call ‘post-truth politics’ where dishonest claims are repeated over and over to drum up support for a policy position that cannot otherwise be defended . . .”—The Herald (Edinburgh, Scotland), 5 April>

<2014 “The scaremongering was almost completely without substance. Mining leaders openly acknowledged that the debate had moved beyond rational discourse, and others described the emergence of ‘post-truth politics’ in Australia.”—Cyprus Mail (Cyprus), 1 August>

<2016 “Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, exemplified the problem with post-truth politics in an August interview with CNN after the Republican National Convention, when confronted with statistics saying that violent crime had decreased in the US. ‘The average American, I will bet you this morning, does not think crime is down, does not think they are safer,’ Mr. Gingrich said in the interview. ‘People feel more threatened. As a political candidate, I'll go with how people feel.’" [[Oy vey!]]—Christian Science Monitor (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 November>

Ken Greenwald — January 9, 2017

Re: post-truth / post-truth politics

Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:57 pm

Thanks for that, Ken.

I have always had difficulty distinguishing between "post-truth politics" and "politics".

But the last quote from Newt Gingrich really does sum it up, except for one tiny issue: The reason that people feel that crime is up/there are too many immigrants/we are helpless without a strong leader/... is that people are telling us that we feel that way. Constantly. Out of every orifice.
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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