HSS8120 “Post-Truth” Oxford Dictionaries word of the year

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Childhood is bliss and there is no better time to make memories.

In June1997 a civil war broke out in the Republic of the Congo. My parents made it their main objectives to get my sister and I out of the country as soon as possible to family relatives and we ended up living in France for a year and a bit. I recall that time away from home to be very stressful and distressing. I missed everyone, my family and my friends and being in a foreign land brought its lot of challenges. All I wanted was to get back together with my family and my friends. I understand what its like to have to leave your home for another safer place and it’s quite interesting to see how people on the other side sees things.

Since moving to the UK,  I have noticed that refugees were frequently portrayed or regarded as some kind of free loaders coming to this country to take advantage of the system. David Cameron speaking during a visit in Vietnam “you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live “ .

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Politicians have been heard using language which effectively dehumanise a group of people and install fear in the minds of the population.

During the Brexit referendum the Leave campaigners, including UKIP, could be seen using racist rhetorics and deceptive facts on immigration to win support. Polling data gathered by various polling agencies, such as IPSOS MORI, revealed that the number of people who voted Leave had the least exposure to people from other cultures while the ones with more exposure would’ve been more likely to vote Remain. Arguably the fear of the other and misinformation led the Leave camp to victory.

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“Post-truth” perfectly describes political culture where it’s acceptable to say things which have no factual basis in order to divide people. Surely that’s just called lying? I mean surely someone should be held accountable. How can we hold these people accountable? Is it possible that the mass of information at our disposal is making it easier for us to be deceived and manipulated?

Maybe.

When what feels true is more important than the facts, political figures such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have an easy time, reinforcing prejudice by saying things that are not true but appeal to people’s sentiment of anger, division and ignorance.

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It can be argued that the mistrust in politics and politicians along with social media and the mass of information online, helped create a situation where people only look for information that validates their views and opinions.

Social media allows for these people to get heir news and information in various format and not just a  newspaper article anymore. Anybody can quickly pass around a fake story that will sound real and people can easily triggered emotionally by something like that and they will not hesitate to share it on their social media page. We’re slowly starting to see how this could be used to affect politics and exacerbate polarisation.

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In the United Kingdom the best example of it can be seen with the Brexit referendum and how the Leave campaigners, most notably Nigel Farage, did not hesitate to mislead people into thinking that the £350m EU membership fee would be poured into the NHS if the UK left the EU. In the United States, Donal Trump said that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico as a viable solution to reduce and control  illegal immigration. He also did not hesitate to go as far as to say “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists” in regards to Mexican immigrants.  That man is due to take office in just a little over a week from now. Things are starting to get messed up.

Many hoped to see the internet become a tool to free and bring people together via the widespread of information and communication. We saw a glimpse of it with the Arab spring, where a series of anti-government protests and uprisings spread across Northern Africa and the Middle East. Many groups formed on social media and organised themselves to take to the streets of their countries. This empowered many people and reinforced the idea that the internet and social media could be used to change the world and free people.

I think it is important that we do more research regarding the internet and how it could be used to filter through the mass of information at our disposal to find the truth.

As the internet evolves so do we and our relationship with each other changes. This powerful engine can be used in many ways to create and interact with each other.

In my next article I’ll be exploring how the internet and open source investigation can be used to find information and how intelligence gathering can help find the truth in this post truth era.

Mevars Raen