Understanding “Post Truth”
We are living in a time like never before. Trump’s inauguration has polarized our nation in such a way that most would deem depressing and in some cases even apocalyptic. Thomas B. Edsall’s article “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready” is not only relevant but very thought-provoking. As presented by the article, a group of Harvard economists wrote that “Evidence is growing that Americans are polarized not only in their views on policy issues and attitudes toward government and society but also in their perceptions of the same, factual reality accompanying it.” Edsall later explains that not only is the divide between political parties large, but the division between Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters continues to grow. This may make one think: If the divide between Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters is so great, then why does he still have so many people backing him? This can be attributed to “transgressive advocacy,” which is one of Trump’s biggest schemes for gaining support. Transgressive advocacy is defined as “norm-violating means, i.e., lying, to achieve a preferred end”. Trump made 16,241 false or misleading claims in his first three years. This was a statistic from the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler which shows that it took over 16,000 lies to deceive the American public. This use of what can be referred to as “alternative facts” shows that we engage in a plurality of information with Trump’s administration emphasizing advantageous, but possibly falsified, information. By understanding “Post-truth” we can begin to start a conversation at what we believe to be “real” and what we believe to be “fake”.
“Post-truth politics afflicts the Global South too”, by Lauren Chinchilla, provides commentary on why the Trump administration’s “alternative facts” have the persuasive sway that they do. In recent years we’ve seen a great leap within the field of technology, allowing a platform for anyone to voice their perspective and find a likeminded community online. It is on this platform that President Trump haphazardly creates content that is not backed by a form of evidence but rather a persuasive perspective. This perspective has been argued as an alternative truth implying the existence of multiple truths that simultaneously contradict each other.
In this chaotic realm of “post-truth”, there is pushback against the idea of alternative facts, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) emphasizes the importance of basing information and knowledge in an empirical and accountable way. The AAAS grounds their production of knowledge within scientific studies that can be disproven but only via the same scientific method framework it operates under.
How CDE Interacts With Multiple “Truths”
The Center for Diversity and the Environment (CDE) our partnership group works too, “harnesses the power of racial and ethnic diversity to transform the U.S. environmental movement by developing leaders, catalyzing change within institutions & building alliances.” Historically, movements in the United States regarding all facets of the environment have been largely created and run by white people with a disregard towards the idea of intersectionality across class, gender, and ethnicity.
“Large environmental organizations were mostly run by well-off white people concerned about conserving critters and our country’s natural beauty, not the health and welfare of its people.”
While discourse has begun moving towards greater inclusion, for example, the Green New Deal addresses issues of climate change with issues of economic and racial injustice (Coleman 2019). There remains a misconception that issues surrounding climate change are of low importance to people of color, “African American voters are much more concerned with unemployment, lack of education, and income inequality than they are with climate change. The same result found for Latinos” (Mock 2014).
The difficulty in this situation is that polls are contradictory, some have suggested that POC place the environment low on their personal prioritization while others show the level of importance POC holds issues of sustainability. (Image provided by CDE)
Within this disconnect, CDE works to include diverse voices into the conversation to shift these perspectives towards an understanding that people of color not only prioritize issues of sustainability but also desire to become an actor within the discourse. In order to create a more comprehensive truth, organizations like CDE work to include voices and perspectives that have been historically and systematically ignored. They do this in what they refer to as a three-prong approach that integrates change at the individual, organizational, and community levels. Through these various programs, CDE works towards reshaping the post-truth narrative in a more diverse and inclusive one.
- Coleman, Aaron Ross. “How Black Lives Matter to the Green New Deal.” The Nation, March 14, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/reparations-green-new-deal-aoc/.
- Edsall, Thomas. “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 12, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html.
- Kessler, Glenn. “Fact Checker: The Truth Behind the Rhetoric.” The Washington Post. WP Company. Accessed March 3, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/.
- “Latinos And The Environment.” Earthjustice, January 23, 2018. https://earthjustice.org/features/poll-latino-opinion.
- Mueller, Allison, and Linda J. Skitka. “Transgressive Advocacy: People Are More Likely To Excuse Others’ Lies When They Support Shared Morals.” Science Trends, November 2, 2019. https://sciencetrends.com/transgressive-advocacy-people-are-more-likely-to-excuse-others-lies-when-they-support-shared-morals/.
- Swaminathan, Nikhil. “Why Is the Green Movement Still So White?” Narratively, June 23, 2019. https://narratively.com/why-is-the-green-movement-still-so-white/.