We’ve reached the post-truth era. 2016 will be the year the phenomenon of soothing truth was finally recognized, truth that massages our own biases and kneads away troublesome knots of inconvenient fact. Gradients of truth, varying in their veracity, overload our supposedly shortening attention spans and we are collectively led to the newspaper’s logical conclusion: memes housing bite-sized factoids. Their intake quick and easy, memes are the fast food equivalent of news consumption. 2016 marks another epitaph for the intelligentsia. This one reads:
Here lies plethoric hubris. It declared everything fine even as the last nail pierced its ankles.
The West loves to tout its media freedom, but in the post-truth reality, such a declaration now jars with the same pomposity of a dictator declaring his victory the result of a free and fair election—it doesn’t matter that the election was neither free, nor fair, because the dictator wasn’t going to relinquish power anyway. Our free media composes truth to fit a target audience, even misrepresents the truth to the point of presenting a well-disguised falsity; then, what is a free media but the instrument of further confusion, distortion, and, ultimately, anarchy? The intelligentsia’s inability to properly convey the difference between fact and fiction, or between editorials and news reports, creates a media environment that, rather than lend clarity, further obfuscates truth and, in the process, engenders animosity between opposing subscribers. The very concept of liberal and conservative news outlets discredits their supposed objectivity.
Loyalty to the truth peters out, while loyalty to delusion flowers. Huffington Post loyalists fling links at The National Review colonists, until each strengthens their communal, ideological walls and clears their complex of complexities. No un-truths here, reads the placard on the gate, and both retreat behind the confines of curated truth, which is to say, acceptable, pre-approved fiction. China, you could learn something about the United States media: censoring information becomes unnecessary when information is no longer believed. Our president-elect discredited the work of journalists and fact-checkers, not through persuasion or masterful argumentation, but through the absence of these methods. How badly have things deteriorated? Steve Bannon, propagator of fissile truth through his own prism named Breitbart News, has Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham casting aside history, and hiding behind ignorance, as if that were suddenly an acceptable excuse. But, of course it is.
Post-truth has finally been established. It’s time to recognize the start of a new era: The Post-Normal. When we begin to break the rules laid down by tradition, and when we refuse to establish our actions as precedent for anything that might come after, we begin to step into the post-normal world. This moment, characterized by differences and irreconcilability, extends as far as the delusion supports it. Once the suspicion of delusion begins to dissolve, and starts its transition to acceptable reality, then has the post-normal reality become solidified. For reference, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is instructive:
‘The world is my idea:’—this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and knows, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has attained to philosophical wisdom. It then becomes clear and certain to him that what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as idea, i.e., only in relation to something else, the consciousness, which is himself. –The World as Idea and Will
The use of man in the collective sense no longer applies. Man’s reality is not separated by consciousness, or the lack thereof, in relation to everything else, but by his consciousness in relation to his fellow Man. Now, the solitary man stands out as unique against the once congealed collective, and she, now—the one—can find a niche, a smaller collective, that declares the sun is not the sun. You, philosopher, silly lover of truth, your pursuit of it ends here. This is post-truth, the moment when the attempt to syncretize emotion with rationality is recognized as an exercise in futility.
This is post-normal, the moment when rationality and emotion inhabit the same world, but are independent of one another.