Is the word ‘post-truth’ really brand-new?
What we call “truth” doesn’t depend on what people feel about it. It doesn’t change when you look from different aspects.
When Donald Trump won, many people; not only residents of the United States, but also millions in the world asked, “How can people elect someone as the president of the United States when most of the words coming out of his mouth are based on lies?
Everyone’s talking about the word “post-truth.” This is the new “It word” for 2016, as announced by Oxford.
The truth is, for a very, very long time, we’ve been living in a world in which what people feel – not know – matters.
When governments are determined to change “others” by force, the best option is conflict, if not war. Strong feelings of patriotism, misread rules of religions and the greedy needs of the leaders – that is how all civilizations in the world were shaped, even in the early ages.
If we’ve been living in “post-truth” societies since the beginning of civilization, what makes today different? What makes this word new, or “The word of 2016?” What is the difference now?
It is vast, for sure. With the speed of fast-growing technology and social media’s ability to change social patterns, politicians discovered that rage can be provoked as an organic bond that connects people and can therefore be used as immense power.
Rage is a powerful emotion and with the presence of suppression and social inequalities, people can easily be led by what they think, feel or imagine instead of what the truth implies.
Maybe we ignored too much that we were already living in a post-truth society before “post truth” was the “cool word” to say. We were already making important decisions based on what we felt in a particular situation.
If we look closely at our motives in our daily lives, we realize that we are creatures of emotion. We learn with emotions, we are driven by emotions, we are very much led by them. What we choose to do and think in our personal life affects the bigger picture.
Following this simple dynamic in our daily lives, it’s easy to see people do act with emotions when it comes to choosing a leader or deciding about a very important national matter. Just like people in the United States, people in Turkey voted according to the same dynamics and politicians are very aware that the citizens act on emotions. We’ve experienced similar dynamics earlier than the United Kingdom or the U.S.
In 2013, during the Gezi protests, protesters who were heavily tear-gassed around Taksim Square panicked and used a mosque close to Dolmabahçe near the square as a shelter. Even though the imam of the mosque insisted that the protesters were respectful, Erdoğan, who was prime minister back then, stuck to the “other” version of the story.
The story quickly became an emotional trigger among Muslim citizens who worship the values of Islam, as they believed the protesters were disrespectful. This incident quickly demonized the Gezi protests.
There is another incident known as the “Kabataş lie.” During the protests, a woman came out and claimed that a group of topless men with leather pants kicked her and her baby in a stroller in Kabataş. (Kabataş is a neighborhood on the Bosphorus that thousands of people pass through daily as a public transport hub.) Photoshopped city camera shots were created by some newspapers and published as if the photograph was real. This was a fabricated event but many people, even some journalists, acted as if they had seen the “footage” that was “taken” from the city cameras. Many people believed this fabricated story and this became another catalyst to demonize the Gezi protests.
So, what is the mechanism? How does the “post-truth” world of ours work?
Here’s what happens: When you decide with emotions, a subjective mind fills in the gaps. It fills the gaps with the nearest information available. This “information” is mostly feelings, certain beliefs and patterns that we have in our minds. Sometimes, the nearest information is a lie that is spreading exponentially.
Social media is the most powerful force today, it helps fill the gaps when you have limited knowledge. You feel like you solve all the mysteries when fake news spreads with the pace of a rocket.
Now we’ve entered the world of new politics, manipulating the vast force of people’s emotions by using technology and social media.
That’s possibly the most important aspect of the word “post-truth.”