‘Post-truth’ was regarded as the word of the year in 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary. Ralph Keyes used this word as the title of his book published in 2004 and described how ‘truth’ has been abundantly replaced by ‘lies’, and how political leaders and media uses ambiguous statements which lack truth and gain the trust of masses. The Oxford dictionary has defined the term ‘Post-truth’ as “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” This implies that public opinion is largely being shaped by personal beliefs and emotions rather than objective facts. This is highly relevant during electoral polls and crucial decisions that elected governments to take and seek the support of the citizens.
So, why do you think you should be concerned with the ‘post-truth’ phenomenon at all? Is it prevalent only in the developed countries at large? Is it just a matter of politics and are we not part of it? Well, 2016 U.S.A. Presidential elections were indeed a reflection of ‘post-truth’ information so was the event of Britain voting in favor of leaving the European Union. Election media accounts, rolled over various social media platforms disseminated misinformation, objectified lies, and rumors to an extent that the public at large desensitized these actions rather than taking a call against them. The idea is to make people believe whatever you claim, to connect with them through their emotions, and consequently influence them through ‘what you believe is the truth’. Leaders all across the countries have been doing so for a long time. John Mearsheimer, an American author manifestly observers that leaders lie to the citizens of
their own country more than they do to other countries because it is easier for them to lie to their citizens owing to the good deal of trust that exists between them.
While most of you might think that ‘post-truth’ is essentially the opposite of the truth in itself. The case however is different. ‘Post-truth’ exemplifies a hybrid blend of lies, exaggerated facts, and witty quips. It is when those in power and authority are not comfortable with the truth and thus gives way to the phenomenon of post-truth politics. This is the reason why many scholars regard post-truth as the herald of Totalitarianism and Anarchism. Democratic leaders turn down the core values of a democratic country and gradually the state loses its identity of being a democratic nation. The idea of post-truth though emerging largely from the western democracies has no less impact on the third world or other democratic countries. India, the world’s largest democracy has been living in the post-truth world for a long time.
Democratic leaders go beyond just gathering supporters and winning votes, it holistically affects the capacities of people to judge and destabilizes them to act upon logical and rational notions. Narendra Modi stated in a rally at Latur, Maharashtra that he wants “to ask the first-time voter, can your vote be dedicated to those soldiers who conducted the airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan?” Was such a way of grabbing votes for his political party not a reflection of post-truth politics? Was he trying to play power politics and maintain his authority by keeping the people in ignorance? Such questions are on us to ponder upon. Ranjit Goswami, VC of RK Universityin his article ‘India, a Post-Truth Society Now or Always?’ has rightly pointed out that “Despite the levels of extreme poverty in India, when it comes to social development, the cult of growth dominates over the development agenda, a trend that Modi has exacerbated, but that started with past governments.” The endeavor is not to objectify a particular leader or government for accusations of demonstrating a post-truth politics because we have always lived in varying degrees of the post-truth world.
Democracy is known for its power of upholding the values of individual rights, freedom, and integrity. If the very notions of a democratic system get swept by the broom of post-truth politics and uninterrupted control of the government of elites, the citizens are left with nothing but voicing their desires through protests and revolts. It is on us to think rationally, to sensitize the lies and false claims, and rise above the post-truth politics.