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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. ‘

The Madhouse Effect: climate denial in Australia and the US

David Schlosberg writes in The Conversation (14.8.17) that, while climate denialism impedes policymaking in both the US and Australia, there are key differences in their political and public cultures.

‘Michael Mann is well known for his classic “hockey stick” work on global warming, for the attacks he has long endured from climate denialists, and for the good fight of communicating the environmental and political realities of climate change.

‘Mann’s work, including his recent book The Madhouse Effect, has helped me, as a dual US-Australian citizen, think about the similarities and differences between the US and Australia as we respond to what has been called the climate change denial machine.

‘In both countries, the denialists and distortionists have undermined public knowledge, public policy, new economic development opportunities, and the very value of the environment. Climate policy is being built upon alternative facts, fake news, outright lies, PR spin and industry-written talking points.

‘From the carbon industry capture of the two major parties, to the Abbott-Turnbull government parroting industry talking points, to coal industry lobbyists as government energy advisers, to the outright idiotic conspiracy pronouncements of senators funded and advised by the US-based denial machine, the Madhouse Effect is in full force in Australia.’

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