- December 30th, 2016
Today I will dismantle a buzz-phrase that's become quite popular lately: "Post-Factual Reality" and it's variants. First, that particular phrase is an oxymoron, and you don't need to be a philosophy major to realize that. Other versions include "Post-Truth Society" among others, and that's the version I'm going to use for the purpose of this piece.
As you probably already know this buzz-phrase has to do with all the garbage, lies and bullshit that's been propagated by the internet media over the last decade or so. While other news outlets have also fallen to this behavior, the internet media in particular is by far the best example, and it's easy to see why: The economic model supports this behavior.
In the old fashioned world of print media, advertisers, who were beholden to their patron companies, had to be careful about which print media they published in lest they end up on the wrong side of public view for their target demographic. This concern has vanished in the internet media domain, and the new model doesn't give a flying fuck about reputation. Rather it is only interested in getting read by anyone (another sign of a decaying economy: desperation) and to that effect is only concerned with one thing: Clicks. Lots and lots of clicks. What's worse is that "click-through" revenue models (those where payment was only made for advertisements that viewers actually clicked on to know more) have given way to simple "saturation bombardment" revenue models that just try to fill web pages with as many advertisements as possible. Either way, however, the result is the same, just to different degrees. That result is that clicks > content. In fact, clicks are now all that matters. Content? No one cares. Truth was a type of content, and that's why truth is gone, now. All that matters is that you clicked on the page and the ads got loaded into your browser. Why is irrelevant. They make just as much money with a five-minute copy paste of Twitter quotes as they would from spending a week doing in-depth investigative journalism. Why work for a living when you don't have to?
This is the real reason why deceptive marketing is the only kind left on the internet. This is why YouTube is filled with misleading thumbnails and titles that have nothing to do with the video itself. This is why the internet is filled with "Top 10" lists and outrage-bait headlines. This is why it's nothing but bullshit, because somewhere along the way a marketing group/algorithm realized that actual journalism/good content required time & effort while creating bullshit was a zero effort game. Think about how many "news articles" today are nothing more than a list of stuff the writer pulled off Twitter? They couldn't even be bothered to get up from their desk - they literally just got paid for checking their Twitter feed.
And so long as they keep getting paid for that it's never going to stop. Complain all you want, America, but until you stop clicking on the bullshit it's never going to go away. Until real, honest news starts getting more clicks than garbage then garbage is going to win. It's really that simple: Market dynamics. Look, the internet has become automated. It shows you what you want to see. It's up to you to tell it that you want to see the truth for a change. It's up to you to tell it that you want real content and not another "Top 10 Cutest Kittens" rehash.
Now that I've completely derailed myself, allow me to get back on track. I assert that we are not a "Post-Truth Society," rather we are a "Pre-Truth Society." You don't need to do much studying of world history to realize that, either. Look up how Greenland and Iceland got their names. Ask any Native American about the track record for honesty & integrity of Europeans. Dig into the history of jingoism and "The Yellow Press." The fact is that, historically speaking, honesty was the exclusive luxury of tyrants, because only those in a position of absolute power could afford it. Dishonesty in the media goes back to invention of the written word, as any atheist can tell you. Governments maintain power through lies simply because it's cheaper than standing armies. Advertising and capitalism in general all pretty much require dishonesty to even function in the first place. Don't think for one moment that the press/news is above that, either.
Yet we think that, or we'd like to think that, they have some sense of integrity, right? Well, they did - for a very brief period of time (in the grand scheme of things). Starting around the Vietnam War and ending around the invention of Fox News, there was a period of about roughly 40 years where the US journalistic media actually had a commitment to tell the truth. Of course it was also a different world back then. Only three major networks, but each was a monolith, and the money & effort they could bring to compete with each other was equally monolithic. No internet and no instant access meant that news pieces took time to compile no matter what, so the incentive to be the first gave room to being the most accurate as well. No partisan algorithms means that people couldn't filter out the truth and just feed themselves a comfortable diet of bullshit unless they wanted to live in a bunker with a tinfoil hat. Like the giant insects of the dinosaur age, honest news & journalistic integrity existed only because the conditions at the time made it possible. Likewise, once those conditions ceased to be so did the creatures that lived in them.
So that's what we really had, folks - a 40 year bubble of relative honesty in the 5000+ year human history of endless bullshit. The proverbial drop in the bucket and it only matters to some of us because we just happened to be around at the time to experience it. The younger generations that grew up after this period of grace ended have never even seen honest journalism. How can they expected to miss something that they've never experienced in the first place? Skip ahead another generation and the barrage of lies & bullshit are even more constant. Is it any surprise, then, that it is from this latest generation that we're seeing the ever growing phenomenon of completely fake outrage-events designed just to draw attention to themselves? By this I mean the people who false-flag everything from beatings to harassment of all kinds and, by the way, both sides of the partisan fence have been caught doing this. To that generation there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. To them creating fake news isn't a sin because all the news was fake to begin with. What's one more turd in the septic tank, and besides, isn't that what the septic tank is for? Of course this is fine by them, why wouldn't it be? They've never know anything else. Just like with the corporate/government surveillance, just like not caring about the war that has, if you're 16 or under, been going on literally since the day you were born. Think about that for a few minutes.
In the end, we are not a "post-truth society" at all. Rather we are a "pre-truth society." We are a society that, on the whole, never knew truth to begin with. There was that one, tiny, 40 year chunk where we experimented with the truth, but that's all it was - an experiment. Some of us remember that experiment and miss it, but we're in the minority and as age, entropy and death does it's job that minority is going to shrink away to nothing. Eventually we will go back to the status quo of human existence: All bullshit, all the time, forever.
So why do I still believe in honesty? See "tyrants" above. To be honest is to speak from a position of power. The weak lie to hide their weakness. A person who is honest is a person who is unafraid. Honesty shows confidence & strength. What's not to like about that?