It’s official. Well, it has been now for a little while. “Post-truth” has been named Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 international word of the year,
It has an authorised definition: ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. So, anything goes.
I love Jennifer Senior’s (The New York Times) comment: ‘An aide to Donald J. Trump, our president-elect, recently declared on NPR, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, of facts.” (Or grammar, apparently.)’
We need to get used to it. Add it to Fake News, courtesy of Facebook. Add it to plain lies deliberately expressed to an entire nation in the UK Brexit.
Is it the right time to promote our ‘Critical Thinking Accelerator’ (course, masterclass, immersion, training, all of the above)?
I must admit that, being trained moons ago in the scientific method (although I am not sure Medicine and Psychiatry completely qualify for that) I have been caught by surprise. The surprise for me is not the fact that Post Truth infections took place/take place, but that the world is incredibly silent.
Would tomorrow’s news that a Martian has landed in Arizona be treated with full respect as ‘just an opinion’? If we go this way, the old and tired creationists-evolutionists controversy was a sort of mild rehearsal.
Carl Sagan’s (1934–1996) Baloney Detection Kit was fresh air at the time. Amongst the almost banal statements there are these: seek independent confirmation of alleged facts; encourage an open debate about the issue and the available evidence; come up with a variety of competing hypotheses explaining a given outcome; etc.
During the recent US presidential elections, any reputable newspaper (that excludes the UK tabloids in both counts of words) had its own ‘Fact Checker’ division, competing on analysing the reality of statements. I did try to follow one of them but it was so overwhelming that I gave up. I thought that a computer generated statements in the Trump side could not have done better.
Then, you get used to it.
Seriously dangerous territory. I do worry about it. We need a little counter-epidemic of truth. I never thought until now that we needed one. If critical thinking has not been the greatest of management competencies, we now need to invent the way of putting it in the water supply of the company. And the school. And the agora.
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