Post-truth is a symptom not the disease



Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands.

On December 20, in a piece both depressingly necessary and emblematic of the year, Britain’s Channel 4 news released a fact-check. It assessed claims by a writer for the Russian state media channel Russia Today.

As terrible reports of injured and dead civilians, many of them children, poured out of besieged and bombarded Aleppo, this writer suggested in a speech to the United Nations that western journalists were “compromised” and that the same bleeding children were being recycled in different reports.

Channel 4 ran through factors explaining why it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that the pictures in dispute were in fact credible, adding: “… the simpler explanation is the more likely one: children really are being orphaned in Syria, or left wounded and distressed …”

This is the bit that highlights the trouble we’re in: that the truth of journalists not being able to verify all information coming out of Syria leads some to believe that everything reported by otherwise credible news outlets must therefore be fake – including attacks on children.

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If you gave me the platform, then I might go off for an hour. Until I ran out of time, like my name’s Kalief Browder. Like my name is Freddie Gray and today is my last day. Like I’ll never come around again, like my name is Michael Brown and then you shot up the church and we burned down the city. And you burned down the churches and appointed a committee, while we pointed fingers at the cops and Justice negotiated a treaty. All good things have ends and your fate depends on what you do next. I expect better choices. Each of us the voices repping a better future. I’m repping my depression like a badge of honor. I’m asking questions and learning lessons from our forefathers. I’m on to you. And you’re on to me too. We’re all lying and buying time. I’m lying and making rhymes. Why read The New York Times when you can buy class like expensive wine. And though you can’t take the ghetto out of this fellow, you can dress that nigga up like he’s high yellow and he might pass. Because color does matter and it’s a sadder world when you pretend it doesn’t. When you say you don’t see it and we almost believe it. Until the cops come. Until we apply for that loan to buy our own home. Until we are alone with you in the parking garage and the S.A.T.’s prove to be cultural sabotage, if we even make it that far. And I hate that I’m at odds with these frauds that still talk like we are not people. Like I haven’t figured that “thug” is the new way they say nigger. Like I don’t dream bigger. Like I don’t have hopes that you cannot deny. Like one day I won’t fly to Paris and show my daughters around like I own that town. And I’m still down, though I may not always come around downtown Charm City. I’m still down though I can’t afford to get worn down by my dark city. Like my Dad, he’s an old man and I’m lucky he’s not a goner. They say if you have a father you might make it farther. You might make it off Payson Street. You might be the author of your own destiny. My story broke West for me. My story broke like the Watts Riots: Tragedy on the front page. But who reads anymore in this age? Who needs any more of this rage? I’m in love with the day I die like an affair you can’t shake. Like the time we stayed awake all night looking for proof. Searching for the truth.

by Reggie Wideman

Covering Politics in a ‘Post-Truth’ America

Journalism has never been better, thanks to these last few decades of disruption. So why does it seem to matter so little?

by Susan Glasser

For the last two decades, the rules of political reporting have been blown up. And I’ve cheered at every step along the way. Not for me the mourning over the dismantling of the old order, all those lamentations about the lost golden era of print newspapers thudding on doorsteps and the sage evening news anchors reporting back to the nation on their White House briefings. Because, let’s face it: too much of Washington journalism in the celebrated good old days was an old boys’ club, and so was politics—they were smug, insular, often narrow-minded, and invariably convinced of their own rightness.

The truth is that coverage of American politics, and the capital that revolves around it, is in many ways much better now than ever before—faster, sharper, and far more sophisticated. There are great new digital news organizations for politics and policy obsessives, political science wonks, and national security geeks. Today’s beat reporters on Capitol Hill are as a rule doing a far better job than I did when I was a rookie there two decades ago, and we get more reporting and insight live from the campaign trail in a day than we used to get in a month, thanks to Google and Facebook, livestreaming and Big Data, and all the rest. Access to information—by, for, and about the government and those who aspire to run it—is dazzling and on a scale wholly unimaginable when Donald Trump was hawking his Art of the Deal in 1987. And we have millions of readers for our work now, not merely a hyper-elite few thousand.

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The Fallacy of Post-Truth

“Brexit and Trump’s victory hit the liberal media like a thunderbolt of stupidity. How could voters defy the warnings of so many pundits, wonks, and fact-checkers? Almost unanimously, they answered: We live in an age characterized by post-factual politics. Pushed by major media organizations like Forbes and the New York Times, “post-truth” recently became Oxford Dictionaries’ new word of the year. A recent think piece in Huffington Post labeled “Post-Truth Nation” stated this idea succinctly: “the greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.”

“As it happens, the facts simply don’t support the diagnosis that we have suddenly entered a post-factual landscape. ”


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Notes on Truth

Penny Lane, in Filmmaker Magazine, discusses post-truth and what it might mean for filmmakers.
Notes on Truth (Or, Documentary in the Post-Truth Era)
“Since Election Day, many in the documentary community have been asking the question, “What do we do now?” The most common response is, “We need to make great politically-engaged films.” I hope a lot of people do exactly that; I might even do it myself. Okay, I probably won’t. My answer is a lot more basic: we need to love, seek and defend truth.

I’m not fucking around, you guys: the truth might be hard to find sometimes, but it exists, and it is crucially important to the survival of our species. As plainly stated by the great moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt, “Without truth, we either have no opinion at all concerning how things are or our opinion is wrong. One way or the other, we do not know what kind of situation we are in.” The seeking of truth and the related love of knowledge — what Bill Nichols calls epistephilia — is the highest calling of the documentary pursuit.1 We chase it ourselves, and we hope to inspire it in others.”

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