The post-truth era

Image: Collins


Political or cognitive dishonesty is nothing new, public response is

Post-truth is an expression associated with social networks. Synonymy does not explain the emergence of post-truth, defined as shorthand for “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Nor does it explain the Oxford Dictionary make it an allegory of our time, by choosing it the word of the year in 2016. The web only projects and propagates myths for internet users avid for conspiracy theses.

Antisemitism served as a model for what became post-truth. You Protocols of the Elders of Zion were the foundation stone of the future of horror, by bringing to light the alleged minutes of the chief elder of a Hebrew meeting, published by the Russian newspaper Znamia (1903). It was soon discovered that the famous libel had been mounted by the secret police of the regime of Tsar Alexander III of Russia.

The inauthenticity of the scandalous text was proven before Nazism rose in Germany, which did not prevent the document from being used to spread hatred and instigate violence against victims of persecution. "You Protocols correspond to reality”, noted Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf (1925-26). “They fit the facts,” confirmed the notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford. Thus, the non-existent conspiracy of the “Jewish bankers cartel”, accused of being responsible for the interwar economic depression, spread. The Holocaust (Shoah) revealed how far prejudices go.

The initial post-truth theory dates back to 1979, when Jean-François Lyotard, in La condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savoir, proposed “an incredulity in relation to metanarratives”. The experience of post-modernity expressed the loss of meaning of the totalizing views of history, which prescribed universally valid rules of political and ethical conduct. The relativism about the truth was accepted and a ruler was passed in the competing narratives. A distorted egalitarianism then invaded the field of knowledge. It was the embryo of “parallel realities” that destroy sociability.

The strategist of destruction, Steve Bannon, stretched to paroxysm insights of the French philosopher with the suggestion of characters in dispute over elementary principles, to govern ministerial portfolios (health, education, environment, foreign relations, remember?), in extreme right administrations. The dilemma would no longer be in choosing a speech, but a side. In this case, Bolsonarism.

George Orwell, when reflecting on the duel of versions between the victors and the vanquished in the Spanish civil war, noted with astonishment: “what is peculiar to our time is the abandonment of the idea that history can be written with truth”. Belonging to a circle of millenarians surpassed republican virtues. Rational balance sheets do not work in contexts of institutional anomie.

Evidence lost the pennant of persuasion that ensured sociopolitical stability. Leaders identified with the “alternative right”, code name for extremist populism in the North, periodically confuse cognition, brazenly contradicting themselves and silencing objections with lies on top of yesterday's lies. Mechanism that normalizes disguises and increases the veridicality crisis. Respect for the truth that gave cohesion to scientific, legal, political and commercial activity collapsed like everything that was previously solid, such as objectivity and decency.

Mattew D'Ancona, in Post-Truth: the new war against facts in times of fake news, shows the symbolic escalation of the phenomenon. In the West, primacy of truth is a legacy of the Enlightenment converted since the XNUMXth century into the cultural value to decide public issues and to separate true from false, right from wrong with epistemological criteria. The Philosophy of Enlightenment praised the reason for delegitimizing the absolutist State (“L'État c'est moi”, would say Louis XIV) and postulate freedom, progress, tolerance, constitutional government and the secular separation between Church and State.

The dialectic of colonization did not allow the program of modernity to take root in the Brazil land. Sérgio Buarque de Holanda realized that emotion is stronger than rationality, and enmity is so “cordial” (a term etymologically derived from coeur, heart) and friendship, between us. The captivity of reason is the cordiality that goes hand in hand with the mythical racial democracy in Brazil.

Election campaigns illustrate the prevalence of feelings and emotions: hope and resilience towards utopia versus fear and aporophobia in the direction of dystopia. Coherence, accuracy and the old rationality, according to what is observed today, are not priorities in debates among professional politicians. Performances count more. The communication vehicles set up teams to investigate what is being said, especially for candidacies in sheep's clothing that fencing a preference for neo-fascism (and for neoliberalism). The BBC has created groups to debunk fake news and fight post-truth pathologies. Cheating runs rampant, Mano Brown.

In the United States, the website Politi Fact A Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checker estimated that 69 percent of Donald Trump's statements were "predominantly false." He got elected. In the United Kingdom, Britain's exit from the European Union (Brexit) resulted from the machine of intellectual simplifications and emotional resonances. The weekly cost of staying in the EU was claimed to be €350 million. Charged to the National Health Service would subsidize doctors and nurses, instead of filling the pockets of the Brussels bureaucracy (headquarters of institutions). According to Matthew D'Ancona, “it was post-truth politics in its purest state: the triumph of the visceral over the rational, of the deceptively simple over the honestly complex”. Give him demagoguery.

Denialism with incentive to subjective formatting does not intend to achieve any academic victory, but to pollute people's critical judgment capacity; as a rule, exploiting all the bitterness of class. Denialists share the delusion of collusion between national governments and pharmaceutical corporations (Big Pharma) against nature and humanity. Some rush to buy organic food at healthy ecological fairs. Serious is the suspicion about vaccinations, which make immunization rates go down the slope of doubt. This is what happens with the return of measles, smallpox, mumps, rubella and polio. The “vaccine revolt” was resurrected thanks to the disruptive diversionism that discredited the laborious achievements of science, for life.

A high degree of honesty and trust is needed by communities to preserve order, enforce the law, punish the powerful, and generate collective prosperity. Political or cognitive dishonesty is nothing new, public response is; indignation gave way to indifference and, finally, to connivance with deceit. Distrust of the institutions of the democratic rule of law has made truth a matter of conviction, apart from evidence. Lava Jato is a product of the post-truth subculture. The mediocre spectacle of Power point, premiered by actors from the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), enshrined the imposture. If there wasn't the complacency of society and the powers that be, the ex-judge and the ex-prosecutor would be in jail for merit and justice.

The method of practical verification of the truth adds evidence to not multiply the industry of fake news and the interpretations that substitute facts for conspiratorial lucubrations to capture the new Jews. “Get over the narrative. Anyone who defends the (emancipation) values ​​of the Enlightenment in a changing context – frantic mobility, technological revolution, emotional upheaval – must act within its parameters. Everything else is an illusion”, advises Matthew D'Ancona. To oppose the production of obscurantism, it is necessary to seek meanings capable of freeing the people.

“Against the plutocratic, political and algorithmic firepower, the battle for the truth is herculean”, conclude those who undertake the work of Prometheus. The undertaking is facilitated by comedians who respect political correctness and, with talent, ridicule those who “don't look up”. They help a lot podcast e Blogs linked to collectives and personalities with a biography forged in social struggles. The public sphere is the dam against mumbo jumbo on the cell phone screen or in the streets. Each one ask if it matters more what they can buy Online or city, state, and country problems; if you interact more with virtual media or with face-to-face friends. The lack of insertion in the public space fertilizes post-truth, with ideological indifference, political apathy and alienation.

Digital technology, with robots and trolls, in addition to ensuring infrastructure for the circulation of messages, lends itself to disinformation with the aim of channeling voting intentions. Teaching how to surf the internet with discernment is the urgent cultural mission – or adventure – of an apocalyptic era, threatened by nuclear war, global warming and the illiberal metamorphosis of democracy.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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