Australia is in the grips of ‘post truth’ phenomena

Gillian Triggs has said Australia is in the grips of the phenomena of “post truth” which compounds the problem of the overreach of executive power.
Giving the Michael Kirby Oration on Wednesday night at Victoria University, Professor Triggs said the idea of alternative facts which had credibility had created an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ world where words mean what we choose them to.

“This is what is increasingly concerning me particularly in the context of the current debate on marriage equality,” she said.

“The obfuscation of the truth, the failure to deal with the issues, to throw in great debating techniques and straw men and red herrings … are deeply troubling in an issue that should be lead by clear evidence-driven leadership through our politicians and senior members of the community.”

Professor Triggs said it was a “tragedy” that most Australians did not know enough about our system of government.

“We don’t have education in what might be described as ‘civics’,” she said.

“The basics of our democracy I think need to be taught at our schools, more clearly than they are, and more emphasis at our universities.”

She said there needed to be a focus on separation of powers, checks and balances and why Australia can’t have cabinet executive government assume a larger role to the detriment of parliament and the judiciary.

“I also believe it is time for us to revisit the work that’s already been done on the introduction of some legislative form of a bill of rights,” Professor Triggs said.

“I know very well there is very little political appetite for a bill of rights but it doesn’t mean that we should stop thinking about it.”

She said by creating the language of a bill of human rights across the country, people would be more aware when there was creeping legislation that in one way or another curtail those rights.

“I might note the paradox that the very people who have been demanding an end to identity politics, to political correctness, all want reform in anti-discrimination laws on race or sex, are the very same people who are now demanding new legislative protection on freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” she said.

Full story at: The Australian

Featured Image Credit: The Australian

Fighting the Normalization of Post-Truth Politics

Donald Trump’s rally speech in Phoenix on August 22 was full of falsehoods. The lack of outrage over his deceptive statements points to the normalization of post-truth politics, when appeals to personal beliefs and emotions wins out over objective facts. To avoid this normalization, we need to borrow the successful tactics of the environmental movement in dealing with the pollution of our environment.

 

During this speech, according to highly credible fact-checking organizations such as Factcheck.org and Politifact, Trump misled the audience as to his reaction to the Charlottesville violence, such as by neglecting to mention that he blamed “both sides.” He made false claims about the media, for instance that CNN’s ratings went down when they are rising, or that the media failed to report on Trump’s condemnation of racism, when they did. In the economic arena, he stated that wages “haven’t gone up for a long time,” when actually they’ve risen for at least the last three years. Another example of economic deception: Trump wrongly claimed that the US has “become an energy exporter for the first time ever just recently.”

 

Where is the outrage over these deceptions? This is our President, systematically sowing misinformation. Most of his falsehoods – such as the statement about the wages or CNN ratings – had been debunked earlier. Yet he kept repeating them, leaving no other interpretation than a deliberate intent to deceive, the dictionary definition of lying.

This lying is part of a broader pattern: Trump’s Politifact file shows an astounding 49 percent of his statements, are false. By comparison, his opponent in the US presidential election Hillary Clinton’s file shows that only 12 percent of her statements were false, 14 percent for the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Despite Trump’s extremely high rate of deception, many still believe him. As an example, 44 percent of those polled believed his falsehoods about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

 

Thus, many will believe his Phoenix rally claims, despite debunking by fact-checkers. Unfortunately, 29 percent of the public, and only 12 percent of Trump supporters, trustfact-checkers. This mistrust enables Trump to pollute our politics with deception, undermining the trust so crucial to the political health of any democracy…

 

Read more on HuffPost

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

 Is Fake News the New Norm?

Science journalists discuss communicating in a ‘post-truth’ world

A panel of journalists gathered in the Lory Student Center to discuss science journalism at a panel put on by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

The panel, titled “Communicating Science in a ‘Post-Truth World,” took place on Sept. 12. Four journalists joined a room full of academics, researchers, students and interested members of the community.

The panel consisted of Christopher Joyce, a science reporter at National Public Radio; Grace Hood, who works for Colorado Public Radio. Rachel Cernansky, an independent journalist and Jeff Burnside a Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow.

Nancy Baron, the panel’s moderator began the discussion by asking, “How many of you really care about making this a better world?”

Everyone in the room stood up.

“This is something that scientists and journalists share: a passionate desire to make this world a better place,” Baron said after the attendees and the panelists sat back down.

According to Barren “post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016.

“The term has come to mean, ‘where objective facts and evidence can be lost in the noise generated by direct appeals to emotion and deeply held personal beliefs,’” Baron said.

According to Joyce, “post-truth” is not new.

“I’ve been covering science since the ’70s,” Joyce said. “I started in Washington, and I saw people on the left as much on the right ‘cherry-picking’ science. Everybody has an agenda.”

According to Hood, who has over 10 years of experience in journalism, her job became more difficult with the change in presidency.

“I would say (that) with the Trump Administration, one of the biggest challenges has been localizing stories,” Hood said. “I really found myself not trying to go for volume anymore but more (of) the contextual stories.

Read more at Collegian.com

Featured image credit: ISTOCKPHOTO/THINKSTOCK

Is it harder to communicate in a post-truth world?

‘Post-truth’ media really is shifting the news agenda – and more subtly than it seems

“As stories of Russian “information warfare” in various Western countries continue to mount, governments, intelligence agencies and journalists are fretting over the influence of global media outlets funded by autocratic governments. But while these organisations are clearly meant to serve their sponsor governments’ agendas in various ways, is the West right to be so worried about them?

Information campaigning in various forms is as old as politics itself, and nor is it the sole province of political bogeymen. Research shows that democracies are better than autocracies at influencing foreign public opinion, and businesses, politicians and states all use the mass media strategically for their information campaigns.

Whether this is public relations, public diplomacy, or propaganda is a matter of perspective. But the names we give a particular information campaign not only reflect our inferences about its aims; they can in fact amplify its power and advance its goals.

A case in point is the Kremlin-funded international broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today. The network has been sanctioned by media watchdogs for its “misleading” coverage, even as it gathered five Emmy nominations for its investigative reporting. It was even cited by Hillary Clinton in 2011 as an example of an “information war” she said the West was losing – unwittingly describing things to come in her own career.

The network’s PR strategy skilfully uses these criticisms to cater to the biases of an anti-establishment generation. Its motto encourages viewers to “Question More”, and its various advertising campaigns have successfully exhibited Western contempt and suspicion as a badge of honour.”

Read more at: theconversation.com 

Featured photo: Gil C via Shutterstock

Do you think we are engaged in an “information war” as Hillary Clinton describes?

 

“Basket of Deplorables” Riffs on Trump’s America

“A new collection of short stories by Tom Rachman considers privacy and cultural bubbles in a post-truth era.

The first sentence of Basket of Deplorables announces, “You can’t see me right now. Then again, I can’t see you either.” You can take the narrator, Georgina, literally: A recent head injury has left her blind, and adrift at a buzzing election-night party at a Tribeca loft where she feels increasingly alienated from the intellectuals, musicians, and n+1 editors in her social circle. But her statement applies to all five of Tom Rachman’s new stories, released on Audible in the U.S. and in book form in Britain and Australia. Set consciously in the current moment and a few years from now, the darkly satirical tales consider a broader kind of cultural myopia—one that afflicts conservatives and liberals alike.

There’s something inevitable, if not rote, in the first wave of cultural works responding to the Trump presidency. Most seem sprung from outrage or sheer incomprehension: “The nightmare is in high gear,” is how the playwright Tony Kushner described his in-progress play about Donald Trump to The Daily Beast. But even in this early phase, it’s apparent that the 45th president is as difficult a subject as he is irresistible. Neither satire nor fiction can adequately capture him. So writers might be wise to consider him obliquely, as Rachman does: as a presence in the room, not a focal point. Basket of Deplorables is less interested in Trump than in the people and factors that enabled his presidency, and sometimes not even in those. Its point is that Americans’ increasing polarization and suspicion of each other is leading to a place that could make even 2017 seem like halcyon days for humanity by comparison.

The world of the five stories is an intricate, interconnected one, with many of the various connections and hints only emerging on a second read. The first tale, from which the collection gets its name, is set on November 8, 2016, at a prototypically dazzling Manhattan soiree, where fashion designers mingle with cultural theory professors and Salvadoran waiters serve sumac-spiced appetizers raided from “the pages of Ottolenghi.” Georgina, the narrator, is a former photographer known for her caustic images of rock stars and artists; her good-natured partner, Roger, is a publisher who prides himself on his parties, where Henry Kissinger and Britney Spears might both be proffered as cultural curiosities for the left-leaning “hothouse intellectuals” in attendance.”

Read more at The Atlantic

Featured photo credit: The Atlantic

Would You Read This Collection of Short Stories?

 

Post-Truth Project Featured in Portland Monthly

This month’s copy of Portland Monthly Magazine features an article titled “Fall Arts: Creative Resistance” with a nice write up on our collaborative Post-Truth project with Open Signal.

From the article – 

Big Screen, Little Lies

“Earlier this year, community media center Open Signal and micro-budget film studio Lower Boom put out a call. They were looking for five regional media-makers to create original works on ‘post-truth,’ or ‘what it’s like to live in a post-factual era.’ Say Lower Boom’s Matt Schulte: ‘Everybody believes nothing and everybody believes everything simultaneously. How could that be? I was looking at it through the lens of the breakdown of language and what words can mean and cannot.’

From the dozens of submissions, the partners chose five, each to receive $1,000 toward the project as well as mentorship and equipment access. Dawn Jones Redstone and Brenan Dwyer were among the winners, for their short film proposal, Nemesis.”

“It explores white male fragility through the lens of a single Scrabble match,” says Redstone. “What starts out as a competitive word game becomes recognizable gendered political warfare.”

For Redstone, the change in administration has also strengthened her artistic resolve. “As a gay, Latinx filmmaker, the election gave me a bitter determination to focus the lens on the voices that are being silenced and suppressed right now,” she says. “And it’s absolutely important to me to tell these stories with other women and people of color, because if we want our stories told we have to tell them ourselves. We have to become the storytellers.”

Is Post-Truth An Elite Invention?

THIS IS AN OPINION ARTICLE, REPOSTED TO START A CONVERSATION. SOURCE. 

“There is a joke in the humanities circles about the predictable trajectory of conventional intellectual debates in university spaces and elsewhere. The proper way to understand the world, so goes the joke, is to engage with terms like orientalism, colonialism, nationalism, modernism etc. and then start the process all over again by prefixing ‘post’ before each term in the same breath. The ingenuity of the joke is striking as it reveals the inability of scholars to capture contemporary reality as anything other than post-ness of earlier realities. Even then, these scholars may be forgiven, or even sympathised, for the simple reason that, at least theoretically, these post-everything claim to contest the truth claims and universality of those post-less terms. Thus post-modern is not necessarily the aftermath of modern, but a more critical and nuanced attitude towards modernity, or as one of the advocates of postmodernism proposed, it is ‘an incredulity to meta-narratives’.

For academics and scholars, truth claim is associated with power, and by that logic, the emergence of this chimera called post-truth should bring hope rather than despair. Interestingly though, the world of journalism which gave life to post-truth as a contemporary truth-slaying monster has not been able to match the theoretical sophistication of academics and philosophers. We may say that the post-truth order is a manifestation of our lack of imagination to understand our times and our place in it. And we are told that this new order is something, which has descended upon us and has made itself manifest in Brexit and Trump’s presidency and is facilitated by something called fake news.

Some Indian columnists and intellectuals see elements of post-truth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power and everything he says and does. But if truth-claim is an intellectual vice, where do we place the term ‘post-truth’, which mourns the loss of reason in contemporary times? In 2016, post-truth became the word of the year though it was coined earlier in 1992 by an American dramatist. The term is defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

If post-ness means an attitude of incredulity/suspicion, we should be celebrating the ‘absence’ of truth, the way we celebrated post-modern and post-colonial. The fact that we are mourning over it not only betrays the inability of thought leaders to decode people’s behaviour, but in an insidious way, deny people the privilege of accessing truth. Though post-truth is linked with degradation of news media and the latter’s descent into the world of lies, what is conveniently ignored is that the very idea of media is predicated on the act of mediation or re-presentation; that is to say, media at best can only attempt to capture reality, but cannot really capture it. Untruth or lies are not extrinsic to media; they are in the heart of the latter.

Regardless of our conviction that the journalist is a truth-agent and is interested in unravelling truth, the fact of the matter is that truth is not antecedent to his/her social and moral universe. In reality, post-truth does not reveal the incapacity and irrationality of people; it reveals the growing realisation by elite subalternists that their time of entitlement over truth is over and that people are willing to explore and even produce their own truths outside mainstream (mostly left-liberal) media. For elite subalternists, subalterns are good fellows as long as they trust their elite emancipators.

Mainstream Media And Their Fake News

Post-truth order and its tools in the form of fake news reveal mainstream media’s fear that people no longer believe in their claims of transparency and see them as ideologically driven. Here are some illustrations, which will establish the collusion of left-liberal news media in the production of half-truths and lies. Recently, there was a news item in the form of a confession from Karan Thapar, a leading TV anchor whose intellectual credentials in journalistic circles is beyond doubt. He retracted from his earlier accusation of the Modi government for not having done enough to retain Raghuram Rajan as the Governor of RBI.

Thapar was not alone; all mainstream English media houses asserted the same and did not forget to add that Rajan was shunted out for being a critic of Modi’s politics. This is in spite of the fact that Rajan himself had cleared the air that he will not be able to extend his leave from his university. After spreading this ‘truth’, Thapar owned up the mistake, but while doing so, did not forget to establish himself as a responsible journalist and seeker of truth. First he produced truth in imagining Modi’s aversion to Rajan and then claimed that it was a mistake, thus making way for another truth. Truth indeed can reward one twice.”

Read more here

Photo credit: Getty Images

What do you think of this opinion? Should we celebrate the Post-Truth Era?