The surprisingly hip Oxford Dictionary has come up with another controversial word of the year. Because of the recent political upheavals, the US and UK dictionary teams both agreed that “post-truth” should be the word of the year. Post-truth is an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The problem, or perhaps the beauty, of the word is its flexibility. A progressive can take this word and use it to describe how Trump came to power by saying, “in the post-truth era people supported Trump because he appealed to their emotion, not objective facts, that’s why he won.” While at the same time, a member of the alt-right could say “in the post-truth era people supported Hillary because she appealed to their emotion, not objective facts, that’s why she lost.”
Oxford President, Casper Grathwohl, commented in The Guardian that, “It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse. Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”
It is hard to argue with Grathwohl’s argument. Social media has become a mad house of opinions, arguments, and memes that are intended to attack a certain set of ideas. In a sense, social media is a true expression of the market place of ideas. It’s a virtual world where anybody can share their ideas. The downside, however, is most people are not fact checking themselves and are simply asserting that their opinions are absolute truth.
This happens on both sides of the war between red vs. blue. Instead of arguing which side is more post-truth than the other. Let’s take this as a sign that we need to be more rigorous, diligent, and clear about what our opinions are and why they matter.
Featured image courtesy of Oxford Dictionaries