Virtually unknown a few years ago, the terms “post-fact” and “post-truth” have exploded onto the media scene in 2016, with thousands of articles around the globe expressing concern over the absence of a shared body of facts and evidence in public and political debate. This concern is buttressed by evidence that the public is misinformed about a range of issues, from vaccinations to climate change and the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
Politicians have always sought refuge in fantasy or subterfuge when confronted by uncomfortable facts. So why the sudden concern with the emergence of “post-truth” politics? Two factors can be identified that confirm that the landscape of public discourse has changed: first, the brazenness with which some politicians have unshackled themselves from the constraints of evidence and reality, and second, the public’s acquiescence with this flight into fantasy land. Continue reading →
In every American election cycle, superlatives abound. In 2016, they have been predominantly negative: the election is characterised as the worst or most depressing ever, but some have emphasised that the nation has recovered before after divisive campaigns. As a historian, I am acquainted with explaining the present through the past: we evaluate similarities, continuities and changes to explain the state of today’s world. But what can we actually learn from the past regarding the 2016 election?