Post-Truths, Multiple Realities and the Trump Campaign
The notion of “post-truths” is tremendously relevant within the political arena, leading to extreme polarization and stunted political progress. As Thomas B. Edsall in his article “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready,” Democrats and Republicans “view the same reality through a different lens” (Edsall 2020). He explains that dissimilar perspectives on a shared reality lends itself to growing political polarization. Not only are disagreements regarding policies difficult to resolve, but the shared reality in which those disagreements exist are viewed from polarized lenses. The political perspectives of the left and right exist in different realities. As Edsall explains, one major catalyst for these realities is the weaponization of lies and fake news. Edsall cites president Trump’s reelection tactics while exploring the idea of post-truths and different lenses to the same reality. With a combination of constant truth-breaking, transgressive advocacy, norm-violations, and media-bashing, Trump is gifted the ability to fabricate and perpetuate a cycle of realities in which he and his campaign are seen in a good light.
Post-Truth Politics and the Global South
Also writing within the realm of politics is Laura Chinchilla, who in her article “Post-Truth Politics Afflicts the Global South, Too,” speaks about the digital age and the ways in which it provides us with a ripe environment for the reproduction and visibility of both fake news and hate speech. As she explains, there are a multitude of benefits that the digital age has introduced. Thoughtful communication allows our political systems to function and adapt; freedom to speak one’s mind is empowering to both the individual and the collective and is able to advance interest that may otherwise go unnoticed (Chinchilla 2019). However, with this new age comes the influx and rapid spread of misinformation through digital channels, sparking fear about how digital freedom is being exercised. Something really wonderful about this article is the way in which Chinchilla is able to demonstrate to the reader that there are no easy truths when it comes to the benefits and perils that social media and other digital channels now present to our governing bodies; these platforms can be great ways of encouraging citizen participation in decision making and introducing new voices, but can also be used manipulate public opinion and incite hatred and violence.
It seems as though these issues should be taken seriously by all at the international level. However, as Chinchilla writes, that is not the case, especially in the Global South and its relationship to election manipulation. There is danger in overlooking this fact, including global democratization and democratic consolidation. Chinchilla provides us with this powerful statement in regards to this, claiming that, “the most important debate we could be having, in both developed and developing countries, might be whether or not the quality of our public conversations, as informed by national levels of education, human development, and institutional strength, is sufficient to reveal the advantageous and the harmful, or to separate the just from the unjust”. With so much discourse being centered around our voices, we should certainly be using them to familiarize others with the perils of the digital age.
With that being said, the idea of post-truth and multiple perspectives extend beyond just politics, entering the realm of environmental engagement.
Post-Truth and Sustainable Northwest
Sustainable Northwest seeks to unite people from various communities with diverse interests, especially in times of contested debates related to natural resource management. They work across the Pacific Northwest, with a focus on eastern Oregon, to help facilitate conversations and projects related to Forests, Water, Energy, and Rangelands. Of all these projects, we found that concentrating on forests revealed a multitude of controversial facts that have led to great debate over issues, such as the timber industry and its role in the economy and land management.
Mentioning logging at the dinner table can lead to a dispute between your Uncle Bill and your vegan little sister, but the debate gets more contested when those in logging communities that depend on logging for their livelihood get involved. For these communities, logging is not simply a way to earn wages. It helps form their identity and is a large part of the development of their shared traditions and values (Reimer 1995). Current land management has worked to develop forestry and logging into a practice that treats forests as complex ecosystems, discouraging practices such as clear-cutting and encouraging an approach that can maintain forest biodiversity and health.
“There are few ecologically valid reasons to avoid timber harvest. Cutting trees provides for regeneration, improved habitat for many species, maintains forest health, and helps us shape forests for the future. For forest owners, it does all this while providing revenue.”– Bill Cook, Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
However, there continues to be a lack of consensus on if timber harvest helps or impedes on the health of forests and the organisms living in them. The assumption that there is a way that forests can be managed in a way that retains ecosystems and native species while still providing some level of timber production is both unproven and not universally held (Cissel et. al, 1994). While people such as ecologists and policymakers are debating over the pros and cons of logging, Sustainable Northwest works to include the members of the timber industry in the conversation. Instead of adopting a mentality of environmental interests vs economic interests, they believe that jobs and the environment are not incompatible. This idea was one of the main foundations of how the organization came to be. Sustainable Northwest believes that there are ways to successfully manage resources where the community and the local economy is strengthened, and the environment is restored. They work to recognize that there are a variety of considerations that have to be made, and aim to reach collaboration and consensus.
Chinchilla, Laura. 2019. “Post-Truth Politics Afflicts the Global South, Too.” New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/politics-global-south.html.
Cissel, J. H., F. J. Swanson, W. A. McKee, and A. L. Burditt. 1994. Using the past to plan the future in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Forestry 92.30–31: 46.
Cook, Bill. 2012. “Tree Cutting Does Have Positive Environmental Consequences.” MSU Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/tree_cutting_can_have_positive_environmental_consequences
Edsall, Thomas B. 2020. “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html.
Reimer, Daniel S. 1995. “The Role of ‘community’ in the Pacific Northwest Logging Debate.” University of Colorado Law Review 66, no. 1: 223-254.