Post-Truth in the U.S. and Globally
Politicians are notorious for lying, and this is acknowledged by many. Even some of their supporters are aware of their deviance from the truth, yet are indifferent about it. According to “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready,” an opinion piece by Thomas B. Edsall, Trump has lied or misinformed over 16 thousand times, and he is not alone in this. Right now, we are living in the world of post-truth, meaning politicians have moved past basing arguments in reality in favor of a platform based in misinformation. This made us wonder, how do we decide what counts as truth? How do we distinguish between reality and falsehood without being biased?
According to Edsall, it isn’t just that Democrats and Republicans have contrasting values; we’re actually viewing the same reality through different lenses. Trump is very aware of the fact that especially today, it is easy for political leaders to get away with lying and create an alternate reality for supporters based on these falsehoods. Unsurprisingly, other politicians can also create false or misleading personas for themselves based on their intended audiences. Edsall claims that certain imperfections, such as political incorrectness, actually makes political leaders seem more authentic despite the fact that it is most likely a mask. The article cites a 2019 study, “Tell it like it is: When politically incorrect language promotes authenticity,” which concluded that politically incorrect leaders are interpreted to have beliefs that are truly held and not susceptible to social pressures, making them seemingly more predictable in future events.
A related article by Laura Chinchilla titled “Post-Truth Politics Affects the Global South, Too,” explains that post-truth politics are not limited to the United States, and alternative facts are used globally to influence elections and public perceptions. She discusses the role of social media as a platform to spread misinformation which significantly alters the outcome of elections. Facebook, Twitter, and similar platforms provide an easy, accessible way to make shocking images and videos go viral with little regulation. However, the spread of misinformation has increased in the same countries where Whatsapp and other peer-to-peer messaging platforms have grown in popularity. These platforms differ from Facebook and Twitter in that they are not monitored and they have end to end encryption, making it nearly impossible to see what is sent and to whom. This makes the spread of misinformation increasingly difficult to track.
How We Respond
On the AAAS Website, the page How We Respond provided valuable resources for motivated individuals to engage with environmental issues in a post-truth world. Through seeing other stories of how communities have successfully engaged in the past, people can gather knowledge from these situations in order to see how effective engagement can be done. People are always asking what they can do to make a difference, and there is so much misinformation out there that steers well-meaning individuals in the wrong direction. This page provides resources for taking action as an individual, as a community, and on a national/global level.
Post-Truth at the Oregon Farm Bureau
Post-truth is relevant to the Oregon Farm Bureau because many of the issues they deal with are highly subjective. The bureau’s mission is to promote the views of farmers in order to influence voters to support them, but what is considered to be true by the Oregon Farm Bureau is not always viewed the same way by voters. The OFB’s purpose is legislative, which in turn means that it is political. To be political requires an understanding that we live in a post-truth world, and that the OFB, voters, and politicians view this world through strikingly different lenses. In America today, people frequently doubt what different political groups say, and why shouldn’t they? As politics become more and more polarized, in some part due to the era of post-truth, people hold more tightly to their beliefs than ever. Many of OFB’s values lean towards the right, something which is likely a part of their public image, and which may make things difficult for them in Democratic-leaning Oregon.
Cap And Trade
One example of an issue seen through vastly different lenses is that of cap and trade. “Some In Oregon Ag Say Cap-And-Trade Is Needed” from the Washington Ag Network dives into this, discussing the opposing views between groups on this issue. Left-leaning, environmentally concerned voters are likely to be strongly in favor of cap and trade, but a number of local farmers and ranchers are concerned about the burdens they will have to bear because of it. Some organizations worry that cap and trade “threatens their livelihood” (Vaagen 2020). The Oregon Farm Bureau is one of many groups that are strongly opposed to the cap-and-trade bill, as discussed on their website. This is no surprise, because who would want to pay a tax imposed on them by people who have no idea what it’s like to run a small farm? According to an article by OPB, one of the key concerns about cap and trade is that no one seems to know exactly where the money from it will go. If it is truly a tax, the money might go to the next highway project and will drive up fuel prices. This could mean more bike and bus lanes, helping to reduce emissions, but there is no way to be sure. The Oregon Farm Bureau is mobilizing around this issue along with other groups, attending public hearings and defending their right to farm without being disrupted by this tax.
The legislation itself is highly controversial and emphasizes the difference between democratic and republican priorities. This is a classic example of truth not being universal, and although no party is necessarily lying, the lenses through which they see cap and trade contrast so harshly that they are hardly looking at the same reality.
Chinchilla, Laura 2019. “Post-Truth Politics Afflicts the Global South, Too.” The New York Times. The New York Times. Accessed March 3rd, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/politics-global-south.html
Edsall, Thomas B. 2020. “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” The New York Times. The New York Times. Accessed March 3rd, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html
Vaagen, Glenn 2020. “Some In Oregon Ag Say Cap-And-Trade Is Needed.” Washington Ag Network. Accessed March 3rd, 2020. https://www.washingtonagnetwork.com/2020/02/10/some-in-oregon-ag-say-cap-and-trade-is-needed/
VanderHart, Dirk. “Does Cap-And-Trade Merit A Tweak To Oregon’s Constitution?” Oregon Public Broadcasting. OPB, May 21, 2019. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-constitution-change-cap-and-trade/.