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Navigating the post-truth debate: some key co-ordinates

Nick Enfield writes in The Conversation (15.5.17) about the political and media landscapes of our so-called 'post-truth' era. As stated in the article's preamble: 'This article is the first in a series from the Post-Truth Initiative, a Strategic Research Excellence Initiative at the University of Sydney. The series examines today’s post-truth problem in public discourse: the thriving economy of lies, bullshit and propaganda that threatens rational discourse and policy.'

The article continues: 'Lies, bullshit, propaganda and conspiracy theories show no signs of going away soon, yet post-truth discourse may be one of the most pressing problems of our time. Humans have the capacity to wield unprecedented forms of power, not just over other people, as in acts of law and war, but over other forms of life, and ultimately over the environment that affords our own stability and survival.

'If we want to make good decisions, those decisions had better be based on reality, and not on delusion, fantasy, or falsehood. Weakening the link between evidence and decisions not only threatens the quality of policymaking, it threatens the entire enterprise of scientific research, whose business is to find out the facts such that we may make well-informed decisions.

'What exactly is post-truth discourse? How and why is it happening? And what can or should we do about it? Beneath simple labels like post-truth, alternative facts and fake news, there is a complex set of issues. Any debate about the post-truth problem needs some common co-ordinates. '


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