This will likely be a short and quick post*. I am
at the position we as a world find ourselves in currently. I say “world”because although I refer to the current governance developments taking shape in the no-longer-quite United States, we as a world are bound to pay the price on more levels than we can perhaps appreciate right now.
I hold US citizenship but live in Europe. I am far away from the full on day-to-day media saturation trumpeting news of the president elect and his cabinet under construction. That said, even at this distance, my anxieties and fears are being confirmed and inflamed regarding the direction public (and soon-to-be private) affairs are headed, for vulnerable and marginalized populations in particular.
And so it is with great dismay and shock that I come to terms with this notion of “post-truth,” although I already alerted friends to call me out if I publicly register disbelief at the emerging state of affairs.
What I am struggling with is the notion of how hard we will all have to work to separate lies from truth, particularly those coming from “official” sources. I like to fancy myself a fan of critical thought, of deeper than surface level research and exposition – but really, if I need to become a full time investigator for every.single.claim. that comes out of the White House and all related agencies – I am sunk.
With each new morsel of “news” we literally have to ask ourselves: Is this real? Because the possibility, no, likelihood that it is fake has never been higher. Fake news is at an all time high in popularity both for generators as well as for consumers. It creates profit! Which means that it is here to stay. And members of the incoming US leadership are high rollers in the fake news market.
Let that sink in. We can never assume that anyone with any bit of significant authority in the highest levels of US government is telling the truth. About anything. We cannot rely on traditional media to have done (or to do) their due diligence in reporting (because faster gets more clicks; viral makes money).
Christine Xu writes about the spread of rumors in China in support of the then Republican candidate for President and suggests:
The spread of small falsehoods and uncertainty is murkier, more organic, and much harder to undo. The distortions of reality come in layers, each more surreal than the last. Fighting it requires more than just pointing out the facts; it requires restoring faith in a shared understanding of the truth. This is the lesson Americans need to learn, and fast.
As the election fallout becomes denser and less readily navigable, this information uncertainty arises like an unexpected plague – a virus we struggle to diagnose, let alone treat. This is what I was not prepared for: having to fight for the truth, a genuine truth.
In my own world, I’m still a fan of integrity – in individuals and groups, in institutions. I see now that I can add this to my list of ‘things to fight for’.
Here’s the opening to a Twitter thread that helped my thinking mainly by sounding the alarm bells:
And this thread left a similar mark covering the same maneuver.
Part of the lesson here for me is to stop being surprised. Rather, I am charged with being cautious and vigilant. The deeper, more serious challenge becomes one of remaining open to trust: of my neighbors, my colleagues, acquaintances and friends.
So let us all pause, take a deep breath and realize where we are and what this means. I suspect those of you who have been reading dystopian sci-fi are feeling less aghast than others of us. Help us out. Be patient.
Let’s cull and curate our sources carefully. Which means we may need to slow down to do it.
* I may have believed this when I started writing but it is no longer the case. Not short, not quick, not the truth. It was in fact, unlikely. #fulldisclosure