Truth decay has been spreading for decades. How can we stop alternative details from generating down republic, asks Michiko Kakutani
Two of the most fiendish regimes in human history came to power in the 20 th century, and the two are predicated on the violation and despoil of truism, on the learning that disbelief and weariness and horror can stir people suggestible to the lies and mistaken promises of chairwomen bent on absolute strength. As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 notebook The Origins of Totalitarianism ,” The principle theme of totalitarian power is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the differences between detail and story( ie the reality of knowledge) and the distinction between true-blue and spurious( ie the legal provisions of estimate) no longer exists .”
Arendt’s utterances increasingly clang little like a send from another century than a chilling described in the political and cultural landscape we inhabit today- a world in which bullshit information and lies are run out in industrial capacity by Russian troll plants, emitted in an endless series from the mouth and Twitter feed of the chairperson of the United States, and moved winging across the world through social media reports at lightning speed. Nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fear of social change and the repugnance of strangers are on the rise again as beings, locked in their partisan silos and filter froths, are losing a sense of shared actuality and the ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines.
This is not to describe a direct analogy between today’s circumstances and the tremendous repugnances of the second world war period, but to look at some of the conditions and positions- what Margaret Atwood has called the” threat pennants” in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Fou r and Animal Farm – that make a parties susceptible to demagoguery and government manipulation, and nations easy prey for would-be autocrats. To examine how a disdain for points, the dislocation of conclude by ardour, and the corrosion of speech are abating the value of actuality, and what that means for the world.
The call” faith decomposition” has joined the post-truth lexicon that includes such now familiar quotations as” imitation report” and” alternative actualities “. And it’s not just counterfeit information either: it’s also fake science( manufactured by climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers, who oppose vaccination ), fake record( promoted by Holocaust revisionists and white supremacists ), bogus Americans on Facebook( created by Russian trolls ), and phony partisans and “likes” on social media( generated by bots ).
Donald Trump, the 45 th president of the US, lies so prolifically and with such velocity that the Washington Post calculated he’d met 2,140 incorrect or misleading contends during his first time in place- an average rate of 5.9 a period. His lies- about everything from the investigations into Russian interference in national elections, to his popularity and achievements, to how much TV he watches- are merely the brightest blinking red light among countless tells of his assault on democratic institutions and standards. He routinely assails the press, the justice system, the intelligence agencies, the electoral system and the civil servants who offset the American government tick.
Nor is the assault on actuality confined to America. Of all the countries, gesticulates of populism and fundamentalism are elevating petitions to fear and wrath over reasoned deliberation, diminishing democratic institutions, and ousting expertise with the sense of the crowd. Spurious demands about the UK’s financial affinity with the EU facilitated swing the vote in favour of Brexit, and Russia ramped up its sowing of dezinformatsiya in the runup to elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries in concerted propaganda make further efforts to discredit and destabilise democracies.
How did this happen? How did faith and conclude grow such endangered species, and what does the threat to them portend for our public dialogue and the future of our politics and governance?
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