Primitive people communicated by delivering their messages and shared information through Ravens or Pigeon post for long distances, while other times they used smoke signals. Back in times, once in the society literate ones were out-numbered by an illiterate one, information resources were limited, and not everyone could able to write, interpret or read anything let alone affording pigeon post. Therefore, since it was hard to afford such expensive and rarely accessible tools of communication, there is no doubt the fake-news spread among among such societies was less effective than our today’s publicly shared vague, false and misleading news.
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We are now living in the information age, the period beginning around 1970 and noted for abundant publication, consumption, and manipulation of information, especially by computers, and computer networks (thefreedicitonary, 2017), which is what we call today: ‘Internet era’, an era which the information and news formerly known as false accepted later as if it’s true, or in other words, the word of 2016 year, post-truth, learning the real face of some facts that we believed as truth before, but later on emerges in its real form of falseness.
Thanks to today’s advanced technology, including mass-media, traditional media, online social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other news websites which led the people into our very fast-growing phenomena. For instance, there’s recent evidences show that some content creators make up some information and many websites to make living out of it, Balkan students from the very tiny city of Vella could be a vital example of that. Where also its believed that Algorithmic systems boost fake news since it shared by plenty number of people. but why? What led people to believe information and news without fact-checking it? Why some posts, or videos go viral online even though they are not based on reality and people share them instantly by neglecting and not making sure the accuracy and validity of the information or the news shared? Why it’s now that we have the most access to facts do facts mean the least? Why facts don’t matter anymore? I will look for the answers of the above-mentioned questions by basing my research question more specifically on: why facts are in some sort of diluted way and not matter enough anymore?
Our Inclination to the news and information grasps our attention
As it was brought up in the previous paragraphs, due to the innumerable information that technology (in our case, more specifically, information brought by the Internet and media) presents today, people got deprived from their energy of fact-checking the truthfulness and reliability of the source published or documented it. Instead of that, as Selçuk R. Şirin, professor of applied pyschology at New York University, emphasizes that, individuals are inclined to believe the information and news which attracts their attention, targets their emotional side of feelings, and since they are interested and tended to it, they don’t question it at all. In other words, content creators are also aware of what the media consumers or audiences are willing to hear, read and look for constantly, therefore, media owners manipulate the information accordingly to the interest of their audiences too. For instance, people’s trust on politicians is very low, and political scandals and corruption regularly lead the newspapers, and politicians of virtually every stripe are more than happy to tell [the people] their opponents are corrupt, incompetent or worse. In many ways, these long-standing low expectations have become part of the problem: faith in politicians and the political system is so low that anything coming from outside the mainstream seems refreshing (James Ball, post-truth). Therefore, the opponents of one political leader or candidate would want more likely to hear the accusations and allegations against that hated politician figure, regardless of the accuracy of the allegations presented.
To illustrate more, as New York Times published, in Nov 2016, an ordinary guy from Texas, USA, who had only 40 followers on Twitter, tweeted about paid protesters, released in the streets to organize demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump. The tweet which seamed normal and random one at the beginning, later fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory — one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting. The guy tweeted several images with the saying: “Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests #trump2016 #austin”. The post was shared 16,000 times on twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem was that the guy got it wrong. The magazine added, “An observation by a private citizen can quickly become a talking point, even as it is being proved false.” Since then, people who were pro Trump campaign had an implicit attitude, feeling and behavior you have unintentionally, where they were not in a position that they could check the accuracy of the tweet. The buses which were in fact hired by a local Technology company for conference which expected participants more than 13,000. James Ball, Author of the book Post-truth How bullshit conquered the world, emphasizing our inclination and tendency for some sort of information says, “One of the simplest things we’re all inclined to do is look for and accept information which supports our current beliefs – for example, if we’re against the death penalty, we’re more likely to look for and share articles which seem to show that the death penalty is ineffective or cruel, and even possibly more likely to remember material in these kinds of stories (though this is contentious).”
Science Causes confusion and deprives our sense of questioning
Furthermore, there are many other factors which have profound impact on the information and news reached out there, people are fed from a net thrown into the sea and they don’t know what will haul back in it. Science, for instance, manipulates and modifies the real facts of the researches conducted and presents the final results in away will please a few. In 1967, when scientists were arguing over the link between sugar consumption and increased risk of heart disease, researchers now claim that the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF) withheld findings that rats that were fed a high-sugar diet had higher levels of triglycerides (a fat found in the blood) than those fed starch. In a move researcher from the University of California at San Francisco have compared to the tobacco industry’s self-preservation tactics, the foundation stopped funding the project (Theguardian, pa. 2).
What’s more, the famous French philosopher Merlaue-ponty states that, “Science manipulates [facts, things etc.] and gives up living in them, it makes its own limited model of things” (159). And he adds, “When a model [of science] has succeeded in one order of problems, its tried out everywhere else (Ponty, 160). So, doing so, applying the same method of science on other things expecting the same result, does not guarantee that it will be successful in the other models too. What’s more, pre-assuming that as if the science is the only way to understand the facts lies beneath things and events and our surroundings straightforwardly, will consequently mislead us into neglection of the being of the facts. Which has been there already and supposed to be questioned and fact-checked. Yes, it’s true that, Science is what makes things and objects surrounded us easier to understand, make interpretations from them and give sense of meaning to them. However, it manipulates things too, it neglects and eradicate the way we perceive things, because, it finally leads us into endless confusion, and we won’t have the energy to know the post-truth narrated after all those falsely presented information and news.
Conspiracy: The Corrupted Elites
In 2016, when British people had to vote, there were these two campaigns opposing each other. James ball says in his book, that the one was campaigning for Remain the issue was economic stability. If the camp could convince voters that leaving would damage their finances, or present a major risk to them, they could win people over. They had many advantages too: expert and international support, access to civil service research until the purdah period began, and a reasonable poll lead coming into the campaign proper. And they argued that European Union membership and keeping Britain as member of Europe for the upcoming years will cost Britain 350 million pounds a week, but, the surprise came after they failed to account for the money received in return (New York times, pa. 1). Therefore, corrupted politicians always dominate and manipulate the public for the sake for their personal and political interest, as we have seen above mentioned example of Britain’s leave campaign. By the afternoon, it got clear that Britain was leaving Europe the Pound fell 10 % against dollar let alone suppressing it. On the other hand, in the US election campaigns, about 70 percent of Donald Trump’s “factual” statements fall into the categories of “mostly false,” “false” and “pants on fire” untruth. (New York times, pa. 1).
Due to over exaggerated, plenty news sources, too many methods, with different performance of reliability and credibility in this 21st century is one of the main causes led us into the enormous and tremendous information which its hard for us to fact-check it. Where there many of content creatures ready to be hired and publish information to make their living out of it. Science as well, manipulates researchers and publish the results for the benefit of some agencies and companies, and later lead us into confusion, we don’t know which statistical data true or false, we tend to believe the one grasps our attention and more inclined to our personal feelings. Corrupted Politicians on the other hand, lie to the public for their personal and political gain. And finally, can we still be speaking of “facts” when they no longer provide us with a reality that we all agree on? In short, if you think that something is true you should try as hard as you can to disapprove it. Only then can get at the truth not to fool yourself.
I would like to thank my Supervisor Ass. Prof. Ahmet GÜRATA, chair of the Department of Communication and Design at Bilkent University, for his help to find the resources for this topic. There are very few books written about this field, post-truth. But without him I wouldn’t be able to go ahead with my research question, let alone writing about it. He has motivated me so much. Thank you for all your constructive comments and wise suggestions, I have learnt a lot from you in that brainstorming and breathtaking class.
- Ball, James. Post-truth: How bullshit conquered the world. Book
- Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “Eye and Mind.” The Primacy of Perception. Ed. James E. Edie. Trans. Carleton Dallery. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1964. 159-190. annotation by Leila Wilson (Theories of Media, Winter 2003)
- Şirin , Selçuk, Post-truth (Hakikat sonraı gerçek) Applied pyscholog.
New York University, 2017.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFccCxMuU1g&t=587s . YouTube. Website. 2017
- Alloa, Emmanuel. Who’s afraid of the post-factual. 2017
- The Age of Post-Truth NewYork times. 2016
- PolitcFact: Donald Trump’s File. 2016