The Oxford Dictionaries has declared that “post-truth” is their word of the year for 2016.
Post-truth? What on earth does that mean? Wait, Oxford will tell us: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
OK, you can cherry-pick facts sometimes, and facts standing by themselves may lack context. More likely, though, facts may not be what we want to hear because they challenge our preconceived notions. Oh no, my head hurts because you're making me think outside my comfort zone! Make it stop!
But does all this mean that facts don't matter anymore and we can ignore them because it's convenient? Are we too busy on Twitter to really care anyway?
Where is this all leading? Post-truth is really not what someone wants to hear when they're in the newspaper business. No facts, just lies, half truthy stories, outrageous headlines (don't bother actually reading the stories), and lots of Sturm und Drang. Sounds like fun, as long as you don't feel accountable to anyone or anything.
This post-truth thing would actually make life at the Kenwood Press a lot easier. If truth and facts don't really matter, why should we even try? We wouldn't have to go to endless meetings, check files at government agencies, talk on the phone with people mentioned in our articles. We'd just…make it up! If someone complains, we'll just tell them we're a post-truth publication and get over it. I'm sure that will hold up in court.
Of course in the wild, wild world of the Internet, it already can be difficult to tell the difference between something real and fake. There's been a lot written recently on the number of purposely false news stories posted online this year. These stories get millions of views and live on in perpetuity. News stories debunked 10 years ago (with facts!) still float around the Internet, finding new people who want to believe them so badly because they jive with their own world-view. Or maybe the stories on fake news are fake themselves…
This may come as a shock, but people of all political persuasions manipulate social media and the Internet. If you have a laptop, hey, you can be a “journalist.” A fun game for these folks is to see how many times something fake they posted shows up on other media platforms. After all, if you read something or hear something over and over and over again, it must be true.
If I tell you repeatedly that I look like George Clooney, you'll believe me, right? Until you meet me, of course. I know, your emotions told you that you wanted me to look like George Clooney, but the fact is, I don't.
Editor & Publisher