Life After Truth?
Business, Politics and life in a Post-Truth Age
Donald Trump’s profile on the truth-watch website Politifact suggests that around 4% of his statements (of the 386 they have analysed) are actually true. A whopping 33% are classified as patently false and 17% fall into the category of brazen “Pants on Fire” lies.
In one of his most recent humdingers Trump, after meeting with Angela Merkel, tweeted that Germany owed vast sums of money to NATO. Germany in fact owes Nato nothing.
These and other recent developments have reminded me of the powerfully prophetic insight of George Orwell in his masterwork 1984. The protagonist of Orwell’s dystopian vision, Winston Smith, works as an employee of the Ministry of Truth where all day long he skilfully falsifies and rewrites public records so that they line up with The Party’s official version of history.
Orwell understood perfectly the delicate nature of truth and its vulnerability to manipulation by the powerful. Total power, saw Orwell, must include the right to define what is true and what is fake.
The relationship between power and truth is also a clear theme of the gospel narratives. The famous interchange between Jesus and the Roman Governor Pilate is the best example: When faced with Jesus’ insistence that his followers are those who are seeking the truth Pilate simply retorts, “What is truth?”.
Despite its two thousand year old pedigree this statement has a thoroughly cotemporary ring to it. In the face of a truth claim from one of his subjects, the political big man effortlessly defends his right to do whatever he pleases by a simple appeal to the unreliable nature of truth itself. “It’s probably just fake news”, we can almost hear him say.
But is the emergence of post-truth politics and fake news really such a surprising development? Or are they a natural occurrence in a mass media consumer culture where we are bombarded with 100 truth claims per hour; where what we used to call propaganda we now call advertising; what we used to call lies we now call spin.
Have we simply lost touch with the importance of truth? Or, like Pilate, are we even uncertain about the existence of such a thing?
In our next CHOW we will explore the contours of the term “post-truth”. We invite you to join us for lunch, music and reflection on the effects and cost of becoming a "post-truth" society. What does it mean for our work, politics and humanity when we cannot trust the "facts"?
Joining us to spark and inspire our discussion are our two speakers - Ben Shenton, a Finance Director, media Comentator and former Politician and the London based Entreprenuer and Linguist Tim Nash. They will each deliver a short talk in the Pecha Kucha format.
Providing the soundtrack will be Musician and Cultural Activist Kit Ashton.
And of course, in the Spirit of CHOW, we’ll be relying on you to converse with your tablemates and enrich our discussion with some memorable and insightful comments and questions.
…Oh and the food and coffee will be good too.
We hope to see you in Church House from 1-2pm.
Please note that you must register to attend CHOW. If you do not register we cannot guarantee you a seat at the event. Please reserve your place here.