I recently wrote a post about the worryingly popular term ‘post truth society’ and ‘post truth’ has now been selected as the Oxford dictionairies’s word of the year. I’m not saying that was because of me!
It is typical that the only time I am with the zeitgeist is when I am talking about a 17th Century book!
Post-truth is defined by the dictionary as an adjective:
“relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The dictionary editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”.
I trained as a scientist where objectivity is essential (see I could have said..is king, or …is everything but that wouldn’t have been objective), and find this trend very disturbing. Even the quote above bothers me. Saying something went up by 2000% doesn’t offer much in the way of objectivity. It may be that the term was used 10 times in 2015 and was used 210 times in 2016 or it might mean it was used 1 million times in 2015 and 21 million times in 2016 (I’m not absolutely sure about the maths on this – another reason for not using ridiculously high percentages – just give us the figures).
My advice, if people want to run with their emotions read and write poetry. When deciding on our and the planet’s future, gather all the facts you can.
By contrast, last year’s word of the year was ‘an emoji’. Specifically, the smiley face with tears of joy.
I miss 2015.