The Word: Truthiness (The Colbert Report, 10/17/2005) / Comedy Central, via GiphyJust a few days ago, the Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” its “Word of the Year” for 2016 (WebCite cached article):

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Events during 2016 apparently brought the notion of “post-truth” to light in an unprecedented way:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

The news media have reported on this declaration as a kind of revelation: “Post-truth” as a word has existed for some time, but the concept itself is one the media apparently only just now realized exists.

On the other hand, I’ve always known about it. I’ve only said for many years — here, in this very blog, in fact — that people generally are much less concerned with veracity than with whatever they can find which validates their feelings. In fact, “post-truth” is related to “truthiness,” made famous by Stephen Colbert back in 2005. And even then, the concept wasn’t new to me … or to a lot of other folks. “Post-truth” and “truthiness” explains why a lot of people buy into a lot of asinine, absurd, laughable bullshit and take it seriously. Because “it feels right” to them — and that’s all that fucking matters! Veracity? Who cares about that!?

Pretty much every religion on the planet can be explained as manifestations of “post-truth” attitudes. It also explains beliefs in the paranormal and assorted insane woo like hauntings, auras, chakras, Satanic ritual abuse, extraterrestrial abductions, Creationism, homeopathy, trickle-down economics, qi, and many other tropes too numerous for me to list here. They’re all rank bullshit, but they all have legions of loyal followers who will swear to their graves that they’re real — even though there’s not a fucking stitch of bona fide evidence supporting a single damned one of them!

What’s even worse than just the irrational belief in “truthy” bullshit, is the sanctimoniousness which often accompanies it. Skeptics and debunkers who insolently dare tell these folk their bullshit is bullshit, are condemned as hateful pricks who simply aren’t “open-minded” enough to “understand” or “experience” the (unfounded) “truth.” Who are these skeptics to run around telling people they’re wrong!? How dare they question people’s sincerity? Why, they’re trying to destroy people … or something.

Yes, it’s an exceedingly childish mindset. Nevertheless, a lot of people — most of them grown adults — love to engage in it, anyway.

In sum … anyone who wasn’t aware of “post-truth” prior to the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump, simply hasn’t been paying attention to how people think (or, worse, emote).

Call me unimpressed with media outlets reporting on the Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement as though they’re discovering something for the first time. They ought to have known all about “post-truth” long ago … even if the word itself wasn’t often used. It’s a very real human foible, one that people need to work to repair, rather than indulge. Yeah, people won’t like it … but too fucking bad. When they’re wrong, they should be told so, and it shouldn’t matter that they’re too immature to be corrected.

Photo credit: Comedy Central, via Giphy.

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