“The idea is the same: Truth is not found, but made, and making truth means exercising power […] The reductive version is simpler and easier to abuse: Fact is fiction, and anything goes. It’s this version of critical social theory that the populist right has seized on and that Trump has made into a powerful weapon.”
I still think it’s wrong and misleading to use the term “post-truth” to refer to our current climate. If we’re talking about people who are familiar with the various postmodern philosophical claims that truth (for instance) is not found but made, then the term “hyper-truth” or “poly-truth” is perhaps more appropriate, in my opinion. But if we’re referring to Trump and other right-wing counter-revolutionaries appealing to emotion and personal belief over and against empirical data and/or rigorous rational reflection, then we should use the terms “pre-modern truth” or “underdeveloped truth” because this is merely a resurgence of what we see in the rise of those old lovely axial religions: truth-claims being REVEALED by some authority (e.g God or God’s prophets/priests; today it’s still religious leaders revealing the truth, but also other authorities like politicians, Assange and wikileaks, and don’t forget the infallible Fox News of course…). This sort of goes without saying, but one big glaring problem with authoritatively “reveled” or secretive gnostic, conspiratorial sorts of truth is that they tend to eliminate the need for the self-critical and communicative aspect of human reason.
Briefly, my theory is this: What we’re dealing with here are sloppy, misunderstood formulations/appropriations of quasi-postmodern “post-truth” theories that are more accurately described as a blend of pre-modern/tribal/warrior/traditional ways of seeing things; mix in the omni-present digital, image-based communication technologies that we use today (e.g. anything with a screen) and we have a big mess. According to what media theorists like McLuhan or Postman might say, these image-based digital communication technologies reinforce emotional/intuitive responses and synthetic/holistic ways of engaging BUT, at the same time, erode “left brain,” critical, analytical, abstract types of thinking. Think about it. How many people today have the intellectual capacity and patience necessary to understand arguments, unpack rhetoric, test “truth claims,” debate meanings and refute or appreciate conclusions? Not your average Fox News watching, internet cat video, bullet point reading and libertarian meme sharing Trump lover, that’s for sure! The internet may connect us to vast amounts of information but too often the price we pay for this easily accessible, often times superficial, vastness is depth, density, and rigor. Look, I’m all for moving toward a more emotional/intuitive and holistic/synthetic mode of existence, but we cannot allow the complex, critical thinking, “left brain,” analytical, abstract intellectual skills fostered during Modernity (the age of the paper book and printing press) to be eroded, that’s all.
Photograph above by Tatiana Gulenkina