Post-truth politics and ‘fake news’

 

Sir, – Your editorial (“The truth will out”, November 19th) failed to grasp that “post-truth” politics does not involve presenting the false as true and vice versa. It describes the eradication of the difference between truth and fiction altogether.

The idea is nicely captured by former Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his 2005 essay, On Bullshit. He described how a liar is still connected to the truth although he misrepresents it. A bullshitter, on the other hand, simply does not care about truth or untruth.

In today’s politics the value of an utterance generally lies in its effectiveness rather than its truthfulness. Emotions matter more than facts. Representations can become their own reality.

At the heart of post-truth politics is the abandonment of the categories of true and false.

The logical paradox that the editorial attempts to attach to the term is spurious. In its use of bluster over substance the editorial is, ironically, a demonstration of “post-truth” in action. Its truthy, but irrelevant, philosophical meandering was, borrowing Frankfurt’s term, bullshit. – Yours, etc,

EDDIE BRENNAN

Lecturer,

School of Media,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Aungier Street,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – Following Brexit and the recent American election, where emotion and personal beliefs won the day, it seems that post-truth politics has arrived in those countries. Let’s not go there! I believe that facts are sacred, positive and patriotic. As your editorial said, “the truth will out”. – Is mise,

SEÁN Ó CUINN,

An Charraig Dhubh,

Co Átha Cliath.

Sir, – There is no such thing as “post-truth”. Like it or not, the truth is still there. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN KELLY,

Islandbridge,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I offer an alternative definition of “post-truth”: “An explanation, derived from the Marxist doctrine of false consciousness, used by the left to explain why they have lost an election; helpful as it avoids such tiresome things as analysis and humility; often associated with a novel electoral strategy of insulting and attributing negative intent to electoral opponents and those whose votes are needed to win said elections.” – Yours, etc,

FRANK DEVINE,

Kenilworth,

Warwickshire, England.

Sir, – Populism is not the opposite of elitism, but of common sense. Its unwritten agreement is that if you tell us what we want to hear, we will undertake to believe you. It pays far too much attention to congenial lies, and ignores uncomfortable truths. More than anything else, it has created the post-truth era we are now all talking about.

By treating politics literally like theatre, and, once we are entertained, bringing to it a willing suspension of disbelief, we have allowed post-truth politicians to take centre stage. – Yours, etc,

COLIN WALSH,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Should it surprise anyone that people who have thousands of fake “friends” should have been taken in by fake “news” (Una Mullally, “I never liked Facebook, but now I am actually worried about it”, Opinion & Analysis, November 18th)? The time to find out about the dependability of either is not during a time of crisis. – Yours, etc,

JUDITH GOLDBERGER,

Donnybrook,

Dublin 4.

A chara, – It is somewhat amusing to see all the hand-wringing going on in articles decrying the rise of “fake news” in a “post-truth” world. This simply represents the logical outcome of an all-too-common feature of modern journalism – articles where the truth is subservient to the agenda of the one writing. Every fact presented, while it may be individually correct, is selectively chosen so as to advance the writer’s worldview, even as facts that oppose it are omitted or given a distorting slant. That we have gone from half-truths and spin to outright lies should surprise no one.

But then, we now seem to live in a world where journalists are constantly surprised by events in the world around them! – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.