The Predicaments of a Post-Truth Era

When ‘Facts are not Facts’ activism is confused as radicalism

By Gaurav Nandan Tripathi, (Undergraduate Class of 2020).

The Oxford Dictionary declared the word ‘Post-Truth’ as the ‘Word of the Year 2016’, after an increase of about 2000% was seen in the usage of the term. Its use became pretty common during the American elections in which Trump emerged as the victor. The term ‘post-truth’ is used more in the political context than anything. In ‘post-truth’ politics, debates are framed more by emotions, rather than actual policy-oriented discussions and factual substance. The point which is being advocated will be repeated again and again in spite of factual rebuttals. Expert and informed opinions are secondary to emotions.

Descartes comes to Ashoka.

This kind of situation is mirrored in India and most of the world today. With the completion of four years of the BJP government, it is more and more evident how most of the political decisions today are more based on emotional impulse than strategic planning. Demonetisation is the first example which must come to everyone’s mind. The step was taken in haste, and Modi riding on the emotional and sensitive support of a major population of the country, kept advocating the decision which was flawed in its reason and implementation. Its intention was clear, but the implications weren’t considered while taking the decision. It’s a classic example of the era of post-truth, where a populist leader takes a big misleading step, and is backed by the emotions of people rather than their rationality. The decision is advocated again and again, while the goals are dodgy and remain fluid to change. People are asked by the leaders to suffer for their country for a temporary period, and the cycle continues. Today, we actually know what the decision was: a failure.

In fact, the side-effects of the post-truth era are not limited to policy decision. Nationalism and Patriotism are being used today as an excuse to criminalise dissent leading to the spread of belligerent public jingoism which is blurring the distinction between activism and radicalism in the minds of the masses. Voices against the government are being seen as voices against the Indian state. Dissent is seen as treason. These phenomena confirm how politics riding on emotions (of the majority or any particular ideology) flirts with dangerous majoritarian psychology of the nation and its people.

This situation is more ominous than it seems. In complexly diverse societies like India, it materialises the already existing differences between people. It creates fault lines between groups, where tremors of intolerance against each other’s existence rock the very foundation of the Indian state. The overwhelming voluptuousness of intolerance and hate in people, not only in India but all around the world, is being legitimised by the post-truth politics in the world today.

Recent arrests of five social activists in India is the most recent example of the cruelty which this era of politics brings along with it. When someone like Vivek Agnihotri calls “facts are not facts”, he is basically indicating the ‘fact’ that he’ll not believe what other wants to say. He’ll only believe what he feels is his right. Something similar was said by Rudy Giuliani (Trump’s attorney) when he remarked that “truth is not truth”. It is the typical reply which anyone who has to hide the truth will tell you. These are all the things which constitute the culture of post-truth. Half truths, concealed realities and a veneer of confidence; these are the axioms of living in a post truth era. The Ashokan space is also not free of its impact. The highly confident arguments in the debates (both in public and private sphere at Ashoka) are mostly based on shaky premises. Under the facade of the bourgeoisie english, emotions and sentiments are suppressed the rationality of arguments. These kind of things are the side-effects of living in an age, where opinions supercede a platonic sense of truth in the public discourse. Only our conscious and informed precautions and awareness can prevent us from being a victim of not only others, but sometimes even ourselves.

However, the saddest part is that the end of such an era is nowhere in sight. With emotions subverting rationality, and demagoguery being celebrated; we have entered the heydays of the post-truth era. Its inception is known and has been analysed at depth in letter and video; but it’s continuation brings ominous signs for societies and communities across the world today.