Welcome to the Post-Truth era, where facts no longer matter and emotion rules. Since 2016 the word post-truth has been an increasingly fashionable word littering online and print media.
The book mainly focuses on Brexit and Trump’s inauguration and also touches on legitimising conspiracy theories. D’Ancona discusses how the right-wing and extremist views on both sides of the political spectrum have become favourable. Emotion has a higher importance than facts. The Remain party in the UK Referendum in 2016 had all of the cold hard facts, but the word we should focus on is ‘cold’. The Leave party pulled on people’s emotions and that ultimately swung the vote despite the facts being questionable.
Slogans such as ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make American Great Again’ may have won votes, but are also insultingly hollow.
What does it mean to ‘take back control’? Control of what? The statement is vague and lacks a foundation. It means something different to each individual reading or hearing the statement. Maybe that’s why these statements won votes because they are attractive to a wide range of people yet it fails to give them a common, physical goal. Everything is abstract and up for debate. But that can be discussed after the party wins, of course.
Who needs university education when search engines have all the answers? D’Ancona discusses the idea of the ‘University of Google’ and how anyone can be so called educated on a matter because they searched it on the internet. The issue with relying on Google is all information is available at the click of a button, despite how factual it is. People want quick answers to questions and the top result is not necessarily the most informed webpage.
Using search engines must be treated like writing an essay for university. You would not use an article that was not academic to back up your argument; you would read articles from popular people in the field of research and check if the article had been peer-reviewed. Information from the internet should be treated the same way. Even when a breaking news story occurs. Check multiple sources and find the overlapping information from each website to find the difference between fact and fiction in these pieces.
Although it takes more time, it is the best way to filter out opinions. Reading widely reduces the censorship of information from a certain news source. News can be biased. Feeding the audience only certain information can manipulate an individual’s outlook to see an opinion as fact. With institutes putting research behind paywalls and the elitism of academia, it is difficult to receive facts on current issues such as how much Brexit will cost.
In saying many important academic articles are behind paywalls, or not accessible for many people, it does not mean to say the content is correct. It is very easy to be convinced by a charismatic speaker, take for example the popular extreme right-wing Youtubers, and facts without sources. Despite your education, any one can be fooled by what they read. Conspiracy theories in the past couple of years seem more convincing as the world becomes more absurd. A conspiracy theory can explain the strange occurences and give logic behind random acts. Matthew d’Ancona highlights holocaust deniers and the whole developed conspiracy theory behind the holocaust. They ignore facts and try and find a logic explanation behind an absurd events – and it seems the only answer is to deny the horrifying event in human history actually happened. It is sickening and insulting but some highly educated people believe this theory. With the world seeming stranger as the days go by, it is important to understand the absurdity of life and not everything has a logical explanation. Donald Trump is not a lizard (even though I sometimes struggle to believe that).
Overall d’Ancona’s book was a very interesting read in this current political climate. I would like to remain optimistic and hopefully return to this book in a decade’s time and see this as a beacon of hope and that we overcome ‘post-truth’. For now, we must watch the situation unfold and remain alert and active in our political interests.
For more information about resisting conspiracy theories, watch School of Life’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoYjIDwbzLY