Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Post Truth Politics And Its Consequences

Politicians have always used lies to create a false view of the world.  False views of the world have a long half life because they are difficult to falsify.  Ronald Reagan's view of the world is still alive in the Republican Party and Lyndon Johnson's idea of the great society still finds a home in the Democratic Party.  Post Truth politics is common in authoritarian regimes and hard to dislodge because there are consequences for dissenters.  Donald Trump has brought post truth politics to the forefront in the US.  This article in The Economist describes post truth politics and some of its consequences

The critical component of post truth politics is that truth is of secondary importance.  Lies are not falsifiable or contested.  In fact, attacking lies makes the liar more credible. It validates the us versus them mentality that liars like Donald Trump rely upon.  Trump has established himself as a critic of social elites.  His supporters anticipate and relish criticism from the mainstream media which they view as a tool of the elite.  In a sense, post truth politics feeds upon a loss of trust in our leaders and in our institutions.  Democracy tends to correct some of the missteps taken by elites over time but that does not easily occur under post truth economics.  Donald Trump's lies are based around common prejudices that exist in his base of supporters.  It is difficult to falsify a common prejudice.  Moreover, the fragmentation of our media reinforces strongly held beliefs.  Fox News staked out a position in media as alternative to mainstream media which operate in the service of social elites.  The Internet has also made it easy for everyone to select the source of news and information that feeds their prejudices.  Every problem has an easy solution within each group of self reinforcing media outlets.  Complex solutions to hard problems are off limits.  Post truth politics rejects complexity and we can no longer rely upon self correction when strongly held beliefs are not falsifiable.  When politics becomes like professional wrestling the social cost is very high.  We no longer debate policies and unworkable solutions to over simplified problems have become acceptable.

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