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Post-truth (emotional lie): definition and examples

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In the Plato's cave myth, the famous Greek philosopher argued that the truth is independent of our opinions. It will always be there even if no one believes in it. It is a very idealistic view of what exists.

However, this very powerful idea also has a dark side: the lie can also subsist and get all the attention because, although it does not accurately describe reality, it does not need it; it just "works" in our heads. It allows us to build a story about our lives. That is why it survives.

A few months ago the Oxford Dictionary pointed out that the word of the year 2016 had been post-truth, which in Spanish is something like post-truth. This concept indicates that between the truth and the lie there is a territory of murky waters that escapes these two definitions.

What is post-truth?

Post-truth has been defined as a cultural and historical context in which empirical testing and the search for objectivity are less relevant than belief in itself and the emotions it generates when creating currents of opinion public.

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Basically, the word serves to indicate a trend in the creation of arguments and discourses that is characterized by starting from the assumption that objectivity matters much less that the way in which what is affirmed fits with the belief system that we feel ours and that makes us feel good.

Post-truth supposes a blurring of the border between truth and lies, and creates a third category different from the previous two. One in which a fact, fictitious or not, is accepted in advance simply because it fits our mental schemes.

The alternative facts

The popularization of post-truth has been joined by the concept alternative facts, which in Spanish are translated as "alternative facts." Lies, come on. But with a nuance: the alternative facts, as opposed to lies in general, they have behind a powerful media and propaganda apparatus that he supports them and that he will do everything possible to make those falsehoods appear to explain reality or, at least, not appear to be lies.

After all, for something to be an alternative event, it needs something that will give it momentum and allow it to generate a discourse parallel to reality without hitting a slap. Otherwise, it would not be the alternative to anything.

The alternative facts are, before being baptized as such by the head of the campaign election of Trump when he was accused of having used false information, the raw material of the post-truth. Or, seen another way, the elements whose existence has forced someone to create the concept of post-truth and use it in political science and sociology.

Some post-truth examples

As clear examples of the influence of post-truth culture we could mention the fact that led to the first use of the concept "alternative facts" in a political context professional. Kellyanne Conway, the aforementioned head of the Donald trump, he justified the barriers placed on citizens from countries with a Muslim tradition who want to enter the United States by pointing out that two Iraqi refugees they had been involved in the Bowling Green massacre. The Bowling Green Massacre has not existed.

Another simple example of post-truth are the statements of Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, assuring that the The media had deliberately concealed the massive attendance of citizens with whom the presidential inauguration of Trump; according to him, the inauguration with the largest audience in the world.

But, of course, the alternative facts were not born with Trump; they are a constant in politics. Here we could mention, for example, the statements from the Spanish government that pensions are guaranteed when the indicators that cross demographics with socioeconomic data show the opposite. If it fits with a speech that arouses strong emotions because it represents us, it is valid, whether it is true or not.

  • Related article: "90 phrases by Donald Trump that gave a lot to talk about (controversial and sexist)

Cognitive dissonances

In reality, what more or less refers to the term post-truth has been known for some years in psychology; the intellectual sacrifices we accept in order to keep up a belief system that has become ingrained in our identity. A phenomenon noted, for example, by the social psychologist Leon Festinguer.

The cognitive dissonance What Festinguer was talking about is that state of tension and internal conflict that we notice when reality collides with our beliefs. When it occurs, we try to resolve the situation by readjusting the fit between that belief system and the information that comes to us from outside; many times, we choose to manipulate reality to keep the former as it is.

Post-truth as an opportunity

But not all aspects of post-truth are formulated in the negative, as something that destroys the way of seeing things that characterized us before. There is also a positive aspect of post-truth; not because it is morally good, but because it leads to building something new, instead of undoing what already exists.

And what does post-truth bring? The possibility of creating a context in which the truth and the contrasting and presentation of evidence are valued so little that all kinds of lies and ideas can subsist without feet or head. Since climate change is a myth until homosexuality is unnatural, going through all kinds of inventions about distant countries to create an excuse to invade them.

This tendency to renounce intellectual honesty for its own sake has in the "alternative facts" a name that allows it to legitimize itself.

In the post-truth world, literally any idea can give way to a valid discourse about what occurs in reality, as long as the speakers through which it is transmitted are sufficiently powerful. Knowing if it is true or not, is of more.

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