Post-trutherism: “We have become passive consumers of bullshit.”


Three new books, each with a variation on a theme of George Orwell: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”

‘Bullshit is a greater enemy than lies’ –​ lessons from three new books on the post-truth era, by Stuart Jeffries (The Guardian)

From Trump’s phoney claims to the Brexit ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ promise, we have become mired in a sea of bogus truths. But what can we do about it?

Bullshit is having a moment. A spate of new books, including Newsnight presenter Evan Davis’s Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It, Buzzfeed correspondent James Ball’s Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World, and political journalist Matthew d’Ancona’s Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back are all premised on the notion that we are in a new era.

A bit about each book. First:

Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It, by Evan Davis

What’s the big idea?

Western societies have become rather like the Soviet Union “in being characterised by a pervasive tendency of those in authority to overstate their case. They bombard us with messages that are disconnected from reality as we see it. In the Soviet case it was the reality that was shameful; in ours, it is the communicators.”


Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back, by Matthew d’Ancona

What’s the big idea?

Post-truth came into being long before Trump, d’Ancona concedes. Anthropologists say we have been lying since early humans organised themselves in tribes. But in the 20th century humanity went shamelessly beyond just lying. French postmodernists argued there was no such thing as truth and objectivity, only power and interests. Unwittingly, the likes of Jean-François Lyotard were paving the way for Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway.


Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered The World, by James Ball

What’s the big idea?

We mustn’t just focus on new technologies in explaining the rise of bullshit. We should follow the money. Old media outlets are suffering falls in ad revenue, which results in fewer reporters, which results in a journalistic ecology wherein regurgitating what politicians say is more cost effective than digging into what they’re saying. Fake news sites take this economic imperative to its conclusion: if a story is going to be unchecked or exaggerated, why not just make it up altogether and reduce production costs to next to nothing? The end result of this ecology, Ball argues, is that we give no more weight to the BBC or the New York Times than to a Facebook status or American Patriot Daily.

Even major news sites have sponsored links at the foot of their stories, often linking to fake or hyped news. As a result, Ball, argues: “Traditional media boosts and profits from fake news even as it tries to fight it.”