A time of Post-Truth or Post-Conscience
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Francesco Occhetta, SJ

 Francesco Occhetta, SJ / Issue 1706 / 21 July 2017

The term “posttruth” had no sooner been born than the Oxford English Dictionary consecrated it as “Word of the Year 2016”, defining it as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” It is a time when information, like the rod of a pendulum, swings between “before” and “after” the truth (facts), without wanting to recognize it. The careful identification of facts, their adherence to reality, and rigorous controlling of sources have given way to a culture of posttruth. This is growing because of specific actions: hate speech, mocking of institutional voices, playing on the emotions and the (more irrational) beliefs of people, suggesting suspicion, inventing “fake news.” The fertile ground in which posttruth flourishes is, above all, the world of social networks where (political) consensus is formed, fear is fed and identity is consolidated. All this is far removed from the factual. It relies on emotions and beliefs instead.

It is the language used by populism, where (abstract) idealism, a type of Hegelian “pure spirit” – like the idea of the nation, the purity of blood, the nostalgia for an epic and utopian past, the illusion of a perfect government – is superior to any reality and (concrete)fact. No one bothers to check: posttruth and postfalsehood are placed at the same level. A detailed telling of facts is considered to be posttruth since it has the ring of truth about it.

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