Authoritarianism and Post-Truth Politics

by | Dec 2, 2016

Authoritarianism and Post-Truth Politics

by | Dec 2, 2016

In response to the bizarre politics of 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries have selected as the word of the year “post-truth,” a term that highlights how far we’ve come in the eleven years since Stephen Colbert coined “truthiness” for his comedic coverage of the George W. Bush administration. “Truthiness” required that a claim felt true or seemed true; it connoted a concern with at least the appearance of validity that “post-truth” lacks. “Post-truth” is a declaration of baffled uncertainty about how contemporary politics and politicians relate to the facts of the world, with Donald Trump, the President-elect of the United States, as exhibit A.

The renowned and curmudgeonly philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay, On Bullshit, has been a frequent point of reference during the campaign, and since the election, for people struggling to grasp Trump’s barely comprehensible volume of untruths. This also applies to that old standby term, “gaslighting,” derived from the play and movie adaptations about a husband seeking to manipulate his wife into doubting the evidence of her own senses with constant subtle denials of the truth. I suspect that gaslighting doesn’t capture much of Trump’s mendacity. Bullshitting does somewhat better, but it masks some of the most dangerously authoritarian elements in Trump’s contempt for truthful speech.

Read the rest at the Niskanen Center.

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