Whenever we read the prefix ‘post’ in any context other than mailing, an internal BS monitor should start to tingle. Post-truth is the latest buzzphrase to explain why we’re going to have a president named after a duck, but not quite so clever. Partly it’s due Macedonian teenagers finding a paying market for whatever lurid tales they could imagine about American politics. They’ve been called out by those beacons of journalistic integrity, the newspapers.This new label may usefully signal something in the zeitgeist (another overused and pernicious word, but for another day) although its explanation by those who shamelessly exploit our weaknesses is dangerously off beam.
According to the campaigners representing the unlikely cabal of vested interests, billionaire’s club, Zionists and Neo-Nazis who are going to run things now, our society has reached the point where if enough people believe something, it becomes true (hopefully they do not yet apply this doctrine to farming, medicine, heavy engineering, but science and the justice system are fair game) – as if consensus vindicates their deceit. Unfortunately for them, the truth is out there – still, and a lie is still a lie. They overestimate their own persuasiveness. It’s simpler and truer to say people have got used to pretending to believe what they’re told to.
It’s not a question of actual credence. Ninety percent of those reading fake news don’t even consider whether or not it’s real (a statistic I just made up). News is just entertainment to confirm prejudice and give us something to talk about. The majority of us have simply opted for the blue pill that takes us back to the Matrix and we’re trying desperately to ignore that grumbling Laurence Fishburne character who keeps insisting it’s not really there.
How did we get to this? Culturally, the ‘I choose Idiocy’ movement has it’s roots in the late 70’s, with stupid cinema (Star Wars -1977) stupid music (Sex Pistols “Never Mind…” 1977) and stupid politics (Margaret Thatcher 1979 election result) – stuff that is deliberately moronic but clever people are allowed to like in an ironic way. Practically, white collar workers of my own generation and younger found out long ago that intelligence applied in the workplace is unrequited, unless directed to more effective toadying and wheedling promotions. Applying brainpower to the task in hand is pointlessly dangerous and a distraction from the important business of pretending to believe the corporate reality – ingenuity should be reserved for clouding the understanding of others but mostly of one’s self. And remember we’re all (allegedly) better educated now, so choosing idiocy takes more effort than it used to.
Most blue collars I know don’t get this at all – for them either something’s bolted on like it should be or it isn’t. It’s a middle class deal. I’d like to claim unhappiness gnaws at the souls of those who elect to be stupid, but unfortunately I see very little evidence for it (unless angst emerges in that generalised resentful malaise of feeling insufficiently rewarded for the essentially pointless and occasionally harmful ‘work’ that most of us do – ‘but we deserve more, we’ve traded our souls!’).
The pretence that fake consensus legitimises fake truth is dangerous. It’s no accident that the title of Umberto Eco’s last book translates as From Stupidity to Madness. Everyone believing the Titanic was unsinkable didn’t help it float. And we’ve been here before, in the 1930’s, when indifference to objective truth was more grandly labelled ‘the triumph of the will’ of Ein Volk, by certain parties – remember how that ended.