‘Post-truth’ should not be the word of 2016
According to Oxford Dictionaries the word for which 2016 will be remembered is ‘post-truth’. the term was coined in 1992, in an essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich [and] its use increased by 2,000 per cent this year.
Before Tesich wrote his essay it referred to ‘the sense of being in a time after a large truth had become known’.
Now it means ‘living in societies where the concept of truth has become irrelevant’.
In 2005 another word – ‘truthiness’ – was resurrected by the US satirist Stephen Colbert to pin down a political culture in which ‘what matters is whether you feel something to be true, not whether there is any evidence for it’.
For example, VP-elect Mike Pence defending Donald Trump’s evidence-free claim that ‘millions of people voted illegally’ in the presidential election [with] ‘It’s his right to express his opinion as president-elect of the United States . . . He’s going to say what he believes to be true, and I know that he’s always going to speak in that way as president’.
Oscar Wilde, in ‘The Decay of Lying’, claimed that the Victorian politicians of his time were not good liars: they merely misrepresented the truth, whereas the true liar is marked by ‘his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy natural disdain of proof of any kind!’
History tells us that when respect for evidence is leached out of political discourse, there are consequences. At best the consequence is bad policy – by definition, evidence-free assertions have not been subjected to the scrutiny that makes for good decision-making. At worst political lies are the harbingers and tools of mass murder.
Source: Irish Times