Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year

Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year
Intermediate to advanced level (B2-A2)

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is ‘post-truth’. You can see it used in the phrases ‘post-truth politics’ and ‘post-truth world’. It refers to situations where public opinion is shaped less by ‘objective truth’ than by beliefs and opinions. 

Of course, there have always been lies, especially political lies, and exaggeration. A quick look at twentieth century history will give you plenty of examples of disinformation and propaganda. However, over the last year or so, the political events surrounding Brexit and Trumps’s election have highlighted the issue of what people take as true.

Until about 10 years ago the main sources of news were the TV, radio, newspapers and the people you spoke to, but today many people use social media to find out what is happening in the world. From my experience of looking at posts, there seems to be a great deal of ‘confirmation bias‘ going on. This is where people look for or prefer opinions that agree with their own. To this, one could add the setting up of fake news websites. All this seems to have led to a greater gulf in people’s opinions, and a rise in suspicion, cynicism and a belief in conspiracy.

Perhaps this is all symptomatic of a political disillusionment at a time of economic stagnation and persistent inequality. Some claim it is, in fact, partly a result of international interference aimed at destabilising the West.

What is new today is not perhaps the manipulation of truth or even the feeling that you know what is true but how you can so easily convince yourself that you are the proud possessor of the truth. A bit like looking in the mirror and saying: ‘You know what? I agree with you’.

Related words / phrases: 

conspiracy theory
hoax (n)
rationalise (v)
political hyperbole  /haɪˈpɜː.bəl.i/
fact checking