Sunday, November 06, 2016

Post-Truth Anxiety

I still clearly remember that civics lesson where we debated the idea of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, and how that was linked to other aspects of free speech. I've been thinking about that a lot recently.

No matter what we vote in the US election, or in any other country for that matter, I hope people can agree with This American Life (essential listening here) and The Economist in their framing of "post-truth" as a factor in global politics. As Ira Glass explained in relation to some of Trump's lies:
[Trump's] lies are perplexing in their nakedness. Like, he knows lots of us know these are lies, but we're in some kind of new kind of universe where that is normal and that is OK and we will just accept that.
I won't accept that and hope everyone considers the weight of what comes next after Tuesday's election. The lack of trust in each other and in the media is the issue of this election. It is also what I blame for the fundamental lack of any discussion on policy or issues. Saying this election is about immigration (a wall versus open borders?) or the second amendment ("she's going to take away your second amendment rights", as if that has anything to do with reasonable gun regulation) or any other dumbed down issue from the debates -- it's silly. Nobody actually discusses data, they discuss feelings and instincts. That's alarming for anyone who cares about rationale debate.

It's pretty clear I blame one side more than the other for this, but both sides share guilt. And this fire will burn the whole house down. This was also in my mind when I thanked journalists a few days ago, so I was somewhat heartened to see this story come up yesterday on Fox's Bret Baier for his use of inflammatory language related to the "inditement" of Clinton. Maybe there is a sobering among the more activist news reporting? But then I looked more closely and watched his actual efforts to "clarify" what he said. In that clip you realise how far we have to go. His word soup epitomises what's wrong -- how on earth can any normal person weed through his "clarification" to see his point? He used irresponsible language that was false and unjustified. And his apology does nothing to douse the flames, only to admit he shouldn't have yelled "Fire!"...yet, but he's going to sit there waiting to yell it again any second. And so should everyone who watches him.

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