Post truth phenomenon and separating news from facts

Recently a new glossary of media terminologies has emerged and is circulated widely

Essayid Weld Ebah
Essayid Weld Ebah
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The German parliament is debating proposed new legislation to counter the proliferation of misinformation - or fake news - in social media. Simultaneously - and for the same aim - the French authority is considering introducing a watchdog mechanism for controlling these websites, while the British House of Commons is discussing a similar initiative.

These collective initiatives came as fingers point to social media facilitating rigging elections by spreading fake news which, in one way or another, influence the public opinion who became indifferent toward serious media.

Recently a new glossary of media terminologies has emerged and widely circulated such as “fake news”, “alternative facts”, and “post truth”. The first idiom became widely used after US President Trump denounced the mass media, in his first press conference after his election - singling out CNN and Buzzfeed in particular. In fact, the phenomenon is the focal point of media and social studies chiefly to analyze the political rhetoric and its influence on election campaigns.

Some surveys claim to have proved that candidates for the last US presidential election (Trump and Clinton) resorted to “fake news” in their campaigns - mainly unreliable websites. As for the “alternative facts”, the phrase emerged after Trump’s senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, made a statement justifying the White House press secretary’s false claims about the size of the crowd at president Trump’s inauguration saying “we feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there”.

Furthermore, the definition of “post truth” according to the Oxford Dictionary is: “relation to or denoting circumstances in which objects facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

We need to underscore the “split of news from facts” phenomenon, which is the formation of these interrelated factors: “the rift between the elite and ordinary people and proliferation of social/digital media, versus the wane of traditional media.

The disintegration of parties has paved the way for the unleashed populist leaders, they are the emerging figures now in most of the democratic nations

Dr. Essayid Weld Ebah

Frame of reference

However, fake news or post-truth are not new political trends considering that Plat, during the democratic Greek era - believed that the Justice criteria based on truth and reason cannot be created in a political system that makes the public debate a framework of reference and resolutions, considering that such a society would be dominated by the “sophist”, the eloquent and the rhetoric, which is the commons persuasive tools.

It is the critiques directed by radical assessment theories to the current democratic parliamentarians being founded on “complicity industry” through the media, which may seem free, while it creates awareness and guides it. However, what seems new is the collapse of public communication methods constituted by modern democracies.

There are three major modules: the political party being the tactical and organizational structure for a political action the newspaper, which is the media source for debate and guarding beliefs and programs, the elected institution which represents the party and source of decisions.

The disintegration of parties has paved the way for the unleashed populist leaders, they are the emerging figures now in most of the democratic nations. The ebbing of traditional media opened the doors for the uncensored and unverified social media that reflects passions and emotions rather than the established views and opinions. Moreover, the erosion of the systems undermined the voters’ ability to influence crucial decisions that determine their future.

In a distinct article entitled “truth and politics”, which dates back to the beginning of the sixties of the last century, German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt said the chances of factual truth surviving the onslaught of power were very slim. What prevents photos, stories, and hypothetical events from becoming a viable substitute for reality and events, he added.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Dr. Essayid Weld Ebah is professor of philosophy in Mauritania and visiting professor to many Arabic universities. His writes for various publications across the region.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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