Personally, I think an obsession with the “truth,” or the return to it, only takes us so far. It can even be a distraction. This point is actually even more crucial at a time when “fake news” is an obsession, when conspiracy theories circulate with unusual intensity.
Let me explain.
“Post-truth,” of course, was the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016, reflecting how the Brexit campaign in the UK and the 2016 election in the US rattled mainstream certainties. The term beat out such important contenders as “alt-right” and “woke,” “hygge” and “adulting.”
We live in an “age of post-truth politics.” That phrase has a nice, philosophical sound to it. The “post-” part marks a clear break, reflecting the sense that something seems to have broken in 2016, some tipping point was passed.
But there are precedents.
Back in 2006, Oxford rival Merriam-Webster tapped the strikingly similar “truthiness” for its own Word of the Year pick. Defined as “what one wishes to be the truth regardless of the facts,” the Stephen Colbert coinage crystallized the liberal disdain for the cowboy rhetoric of the George W. Bush administration. (It beat out such zeitgeisty contemporaries as “podcast” and “soduku.”)