Truth Died Quietly - Part 1
The Post-Truth Era
For those of us that remain aware in this new world of twitter fingers, fake news hashtags, meme culture, logical fallacies, false-balance reporting, and for-profit journalism, the quest for truth has never seemed more important. The first appearance of the word “post-truth” appeared in Nation, an essay written in 1995 by Steve Tesich. His observation was hauntingly similar to the plot of a dystopian future novel. Tesich claims that America was disgusted in the wake of the Watergate Scandal and Vietnam War, but shortly after, the people turned their backs on the truth. America began to associate truth with bad news. Becoming exasperated with bad news, we rejected it despite the important truths it held.
Arguably, for the first time in American history, the country wanted to be protected form the truth by the government. Tesich said, “We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth... In a very fundamental way, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.” Oxford Dictionary confirmed the 1995 revelation by dubbing post-truth as the 2016 word of the year. They defined the term as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion.”
Is this all speculative? Well, studies are surfacing with empirical evidence that support the post- truth assertion. The brutal irony is that empirical evidence doesn’t seem to matter. A group of Dartmouth researchers published a study describing “the backfire effect,” the phenomenon where corrective information increases misperceptions and strengthens preexisting beliefs. The study states, “if people counter argue unwelcome information vigorously enough, they may end up with ‘more attitudinally congruent information in mind than before the debate,’ which in turn leads them to report opinions that are more extreme than they otherwise would have had.”
So, it seems the White House crook of ’68 led us through the threshold of a dangerous downward spiral. Fast forward through the Iran-Contra Affair, Gulf War, Sexual Relations, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Spy-gate, and here we are: Knee deep in the Mueller Investigation. Our current president consistently disseminates lies, half-truths, misinformation, and divisive propaganda as fast as his tiny hands will tweet. People argue on social media irregardless to reason and truth has lost it’s grandeur. So the question lingers. What do we do? As an artist and photographer, I plan to investigate Truth and the role of art in a Post-Truth Era. Although art does not offer us truth, it can prompt discourse that leads us to it. The title of my upcoming series and corresponding writing is “Truth Died Quietly.” Feel free to follow along, and please share your thoughts!