Post-true & pre-false
We live with fakes and truth-lites and the post-truths. There is lies, damned lies and the post-truth. What does this most popular Oxford English Dictionary word of the year 2016 mean? Not much. It means that words, like people, can become celebrities not for a lasting achievement, but for a temporary chic, click, fashion and glitter. There is a change of a semantic climate here. Nobody seems to care. Call the global warming a fake and you are immediately transported to the communicational gas chambers of politically correct concentration camps for the enemies of sustainable future. But call a democratically elected president of the US a fake and you are lifted to heaven, where you brace up for eternity while listening to the angelic songs by most media. It does not really matter if they are mass media, or social media, or just temporary roadside attractions, like Facebook, just truckin’ on and filtering through until we all end up in gated chambers of individualized whisperers.
Fifty years ago, as Cass Sunstein reminds us, only 3% of the US citizens would object if their son or daughter married a supporter of another political party (say, a Republican if they voted Democrats). Nowadays it is more than 40% and rising. It ain’t right: “in a well-functioning democracy people do not live in echo chambers of information cocoons”(Cass, again, in the very first sentence of “The Republic. Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media”). If things go wrong in the most exemplary democracy in the world, what hope do we have for the rest of us outside of the US? What hope do we have for us as the less fortunate plagiarists of the globally best and the globally brightest?
There is a hope, there might be a will, and there certainly will be many ways. One of them has been discovered and rediscovered many times over all over the world. Not that this sounds unique. St. Augustine noticed that when he doubts, he becomes more aware of himself. Descartes stole it and cashed the cogito ergo sum. But Mark Twain beats them both at the finish line. He calls for a constitutional faith in a difference of opinion. Why? Because a difference of opinion is at the root of two highest achievements of our civilization. Democracy and horse races. God bless the horse races. They add glamour to democracy and they help to kill fakes. Who are you betting on?
Rotterdam/Cracow April 6, 2017