Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2018-19/Truth in Politics
Oxford Dictionaries define 'post-truth' as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief"[. The term is deeply embedded in politics as Newt Gingrich argued what people feel about the truth is more significant than actual facts in politics.
Most Western countries, where the term 'post-truth' was mostly used, are democratic countries and the word democracy originates from Greek words ‘demos’, meaning people, and ‘kratia’ meaning power. Thus, democracy signifies ‘rule by the people’ yet ‘demos’ also means ‘mob’ illustrating that politics can be led by the majority of ignorant people. Therefore, 'post-truth' in politics is perhaps inevitable and it may interpret factual truth in other disciplines based on political belief.
Climate change: scientific and political truth
Scientific truth is often considered as objective and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) who assesses climate change from a purely scientific perspective, concluded that the temperature of the Earth will increase 3C° and that it is related to human interactions. However, political truths are different. Trump argues that scientists are not free from confirmation bias and they have 'political agenda'. He also suggested the temperature could well fall and, thus, does not want to spend trillions of dollars combating global warming. Despite he hasn't provided objective evidence to explain his belief, the validity of his claims is irrelevant. The poll suggested a few strong Trump supporters trust the mainstream media, whereas the majority of them believe Trump. Therefore, what he believes becomes political truth, at least to his supporters, who as the majority determines actions in politics. Consequently, Trump could cut $2.8bn budget on the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and reduced the influence of scientific truth. Therefore, in recent politics, scientific truth is less likely to correspond to the public view of truth, and political truths may eliminate any other truths in climate change such as human geography in order to obtain desired conclusions
Truth in law and political truth
Similarly, truth in law strictly considers objective evidence and judgments are bounded by limitations such as the Constitution. However, Brett Kavanaugh, now the Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, was accused of sexual misconduct carried out in the early 1980s. During his appointment process, the allegation was debated hastily, nonetheless, more so in relation to whether he should be confirmed as the Supreme Court Justice regardless of truth in law. People who opposed the appointment argued that even if the nominee denied the allegation, the appointment should not continue until FBI investigation while Republican advocates of Kavanaugh said he is entitled and well qualified for the role anyway. Ultimately, he has been appointed for the Supreme Court Justice without the investigation.
The US Constitution, the most fundamental principles in law, insist the law must be implied the same regardless of whom and, thereafter, the truth should not vary. Yet, it is uncertain the rule of law is applied when it is defining a political truth. Consequently, truth in law can alter when the case is loaded with political questions in order to favour certain political belief.
Ways of Knowing in Politics
Essential WOKs in politics are reason, language, and emotion. Locke argues: "The freedom of man and liberty of acting according to his own will, is grounded on his having reason ", hence reason enable citizens to establish a just political regime through democracy - without it, the electoral process is flawed. Contrarily, emotion has been portrayed as a detrimental force undermining our capacity to reason and therefore must be controlled, if not extirpated. This conception has dominated the classic Greek period and remains influential in modern psychology. Despite classical economists assuming human rationality, psychologists - like John M. Grohol, who believes emotion dragged America into Vietnam - and Iraque war - argue emotions can undermine a person’s capacity for rational decision-making. Hence emotion in political decision existed before post-truth era, illustrating the natural impossibility of truth without emotion in politics. Accepting the classical approach which denounces emotion, democracy with a perfectly informed electorate is indeed also impossible. However, there are arguably examples where emotion benefits political truth. Emotion reaches a more profound truth in relation to the refugee crisis. Truth is obscured by emotion, however, when demagogues manipulate national emotions such as anger or fear. History shows this pattern in Western democracies - the rise of extremist views and autocratic leaders. When emotion prevents truth, this has ramifications beyond politics - most notably the level of democracy, but also economic theory predicts news market failures in response to the rise of fake news.
Statistics justifying political truth
Statistics as evidence produces knowledge by justifying a belief to make sure that it is true as according to Plato’s definition of knowledge. Nevertheless, statistics in health, particularly diet, consistently denotes the opposite, namely ambiguity and conflicting conclusions which can lead to confusion and even mistrust. In a study, 37% of Americans agree that “research about the health effects cannot be trusted because so many studies conflict.” Perhaps in practice, due to casual claims, collective statistical illiteracy, and economic aims of food – pharmaceutical industries, the use of statistics in politics as well as other disciplines, is flawed in justifying a truth. Statistical data doesn't allow for lies so much as semantic manipulation: numbers drive the misuse of words.
An Inconvenient Truth
Political truth transformed factual truth into a controversial topic by making it changeable or interpretable. Hence, factual truth changed not only in politics but also in other disciplines. Politicians capitalised on people’s psychologies. As technology improved it became easier for leaders to operate with their own facts by triggering their emotions, which undermine their capacity to reason. It made them believe unreasonable 'truths'. The issue of truth in politics is displayed in various disciplines. An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary by Al Gore, emphasizes the severe issues of climate change. It raises awareness on the issue and demonstrates that, even when scientific facts are provided the determination is nonexistent due to the "truth" in politics. For instance in filmmaking, HyperNormalisation, documentary by Adam Curtis, is a contemplation on life in the post-truth era. According to conspiracy theorist, Renee DiResta, the internet no more reflects the exclusive truth it shapes the entire reality that operates with its own facts. Politicians use language to manipulate people's thoughts and decisions. George Orwell wrote, "political chaos is connected with the decay of language." which states that language creates a gap between leader's real goals and declared aims. President Trump spreads his own truths and creates a disoriented public. Therefore he adapts everyday language to control how people communicate. As a result, politicians distort the truth in law and truth in science, such as climate change.
Emotion in politics is inevitable according to psychology and history, however, this combined with Greek philosopher’s view on emotion, hasn't prevented democracies thriving. There can never be one political truth – individual truth depends on perception, and collective truth changes constantly. However, citizens have a basic right to information in a democracy and the level of factual truth affects the political structure, the economy, and the knowledge produced across multiple disciplines.
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