If you are a linguaphile, by now you must have known the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016. Oxford Dictionaries (OD) has announced post-truth as its 2016 international Word of the Year. It states the use of the word has increased by approximately 2,000% over its usage in 2015.
What does post-truth mean? In many compound words prefixed with ‘post’, the prefix has these meanings: after, later, and subsequent to. The examples of such words are: postmortem, post-conflict and post-lunch. If you try to guess the meaning of post-truth based on your knowledge of etymology, your guess won’t be correct because the prefix in post-truth has a nuance.
The term, as an adjective, “relates to or denotes circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Here the prefix has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’.
In many election campaigns, misinformation and disinformation have victory over information. Facts are no longer considered important in campaigns characterised by post-truth situation. People, manipulated by emotional appeals, treat misinformation and disinformation as information. Recall two recent events — the Brexit and the Trump campaigns. In both the campaigns, emotional appeals and feelings, and not facts (truth), were the factors for Britain leaving the European Union and the triumph of Trump.
Evidence-based facts and analysis that Brexit will not be beneficial to the country did not convince fifty-two per cent of the voters in the UK. As Sir John Major has said, the voters were bamboozled by ‘a whole galaxy of inaccurate and frankly untrue information’. It was a post-truth campaign. Take the recent US Presidential campaign by Donald Trump. Though about seventy percent of the statements he made during the election campaign were rated false (by PolitiFact), which was nearly three times the falsity score of Hillary Clinton, Trump was considered more honest and trustworthy than Clinton.
It is a classical example of post-truth politics. The nouns that collocate with post-truth are: politicians, era, age, politics, journalism, journalists, brigade, presidency, etc. Examples: post-truth politicians, post-truth era, post-truth journalists, and post-truth brigade. Here are examples of how the word is used in sentences:
Mr Trump has been described as the leading exponent of post-truth politics — a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact.
Post-truth politicians along with post-truth journalists and post-truth campaigners are responsible for creating post-truth voters. In the post-truth age, using euphemisms is a trend to convey that someone is a liar. He misinformed the public.
Dr Albert P'Rayan is an ELT Resource Person and Professor of English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org