Are we in a post-truth era? Possibly not

Found this interesting A philosopher of truth says we’re not living in a “post-truth” world after all

In a world where Donald Trump declares an audio recording of his statements “fake news” and insists to supporters that “what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” it’s easy to despair for the truth. “We have entered an age of post-truth politics,” lamented the New York Times.

Simon Blackburn, philosophy professor at Cambridge University, isn’t worried. Blackburn, who received acclaim for his 2005 book Truth and has recently written another book on the subject, On Truth, says the truth has always been twisted by politicians. “In the nineteenth century the politician Joseph Chamberlain said of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli that he never felt the truth except by accident,” he wrote in his latest book.

But doesn’t so-called ‘fake news’ contradict this narrative? Isn’t there a ton of fake news on Facebook, such as hoaxes and conspiracies? Some say we’re in a post-truth era, yet there is more fact-checking than ever. Whenever Trump says something, all the fact checkers immediately jump on it. Not to mention, the post-2016 surge of the IDW as a force against partisan-motivated discourage. Yeah, politicians and pundits may continue to skirt the truth, but there will be more forces in the opposite direction too. The fact-checking works both way. Look how quickly the initial narrative over Covington was debunked, although one can argue that the damage was already done by unfairly branding the kids as racists. Another attenuating factor is that, as discussed earlier, the size of one’s social network is proportional to IQ, so the low and medium-IQ people who are spreading fake news tend to have small social networks, with maybe a few hundred followers on Facebook and Twitter, whereas high-IQ people have thousands.

Cults such as Scientology thrived in 60’s-80’s because there was no cost effective way to debunk them, because the major mediums of information at the time–television, newspaper, and radio–were expensive, and anti-Scientology ads could not possibly complete with a pro-Scientology ads. Scientology (as well as most cults) is very profitable but debunking Scientology is not. The internet changed everything by making it economically feasible to debunk Scientology and other cults. Now anyone can perform a Google search and readily find an abundance of Scientology criticism and debunking. Although investigative journalists can can have some impact in terms of spreading awareness, it’s does not have the same permanence as a Google result that stays up for years. This is why companies exist to bury bad Google results and negative reviews, but such services are expensive and of limited efficacy. You are not going to be able to bury Wikipedia or a very old and established site.

The fact-checking is not just limited to political articles and speeches, but also to more mundane social commentary, as well in the comment sections of such articles and videos. A declarative statement or opinion presented as fact will without fail be met with rebuke. In response to an article about social media, someone wrote about how we live in a society in which “vapidity is not only tolerated or accepted but encouraged, lauded, and rewarded,” and then multiple people responded that such vapidly predates the social media era, and how conspicuous consumption dates back to the 80’s, and so on.

We’re in the “era of the expert”… all over major sites such as Reddit and 4chan, you have thousands of people in engaging in technical, detailed discussions about all sorts of complicated, esoteric things such as philosophy, history, mathematics, physics, etc. Because there are so many experts, inaccuracies, nonsense, and conspiracies are quickly corrected and or down-voted, while correct and quality answers rise to the top. This is also observed for other sites like stakcoverflow and mathoverlfow. A decade ago, such filtering mechanisms didn’t exist or were more crude. Facebook and Twitter have a lot misinformation, but it’s different in that in that, as discussed earlier, most people who use Facebook are of average IQ and hence have small social networks, so Fake News tends to stay confined to the site.