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The Post Certainty Era

by Chauncey Tinker – 13 Aug 2019

Back in 2016 the BBC produced a program which was titled “The Year Everything Changed“. The presenter Allan Little bemoaned the successes of President Trump’s election and the Brexit referendum result, and used the phrases “post-truth politics” and “fake news” in his attempts to discredit the two results. Those of us who see through the BBC’s propaganda of course know that the BBC has for a very long time been guilty of distorting the truth, albeit often in rather subtle ways that are quite difficult to describe precisely. For example they have a habit of simply not bothering to report on certain inconvenient events at all, or reporting on events but suppressing key facts about those events (lying by omission), or downplaying the event by for example placing an article in a subsection of their website rather than on the front page.

In the program Mr Little tried to claim that the US had really gone over the edge into a “post-truth” era. Seemingly in an attempt to back this claim up with some hard evidence, he then interviewed an old school news editor who referred to a satirical “fake news” website that emerged during the Trump campaign:

13:29Pope Francis shocks world endorses Donald Trump releases statement” …. This was shared a million times on social media, the debunking of that was shared 30,000 times.

We cannot conclude from that statistic alone that those who shared the claim actually believed it to be true. The fact that it was shared a million times also does not prove that a significant number of people who voted in the US election were influenced by it (there are after all over 327 million people in that nation, and many of those “shares” may not have even originated in the US). However, clearly the BBC wanted us to think that significant numbers of voters in the US believed the story to be true and were influenced by it.

What we were really living in previously was not a “truthful” era, but an era of certainty (relatively speaking). The certainty was provided to us by a mainstream media that spoke by and large as a single voice, repeating tropes and suppressing uncomfortable truths and ideas that did not fit the mainstream media’s worldview. TV broadcasting was absolutely key in maintaining the narrative, as TV channels could reach the passive audience that newspapers could not (you had to physically choose to pick up a particular newspaper and pay for it but people often turn the TV on almost at random). Far more than the print media, television stations all held a similar worldview – for example in the UK they were generally pro-EU, pro immigration, and tended to lean on the left side of the centre of politics generally.

There are an ever growing number of alternative news media websites appearing on the internet now, and of course some are more reliable than others. Some find the sheer number of sources bewildering. Some people are troubled by the uncertainty of this new era, and many are wondering who they can now believe. The mainstream media only have themselves to blame for undermining the credibility of the journalistic profession with their biased and often highly selective reporting. In the UK the BBC are in fact the most powerful and worst offender in this regard, despite their protestations to the contrary. The consequence of their failure is that we have now entered what I think could be more accurately described as a “post certainty era“.

My own observation is that there seem to be growing numbers of people who are questioning all sorts of previously accepted truths, at the extreme end I more frequently encounter holocaust deniers, 9/11 truthers, false flag conspiracy theorists, moon landing deniers, and even flat earthers. Some people are troubled by the popularity of these beliefs, a former UK Prime Minister David Cameron even suggested that his government should enact legislation against “conspiracy theorists”. Of course not only would such a move be a gross attack on our freedom of speech, but also any such moves by governments would only pour fuel on the fire and further arouse suspicions of government plots. We should let these so called “conspiracy theorists” have their say and let their theories be scrutinized in the clear light of day. I think in many instances people are motivated by mere curiosity when they listen to such opinions in any case, and there may even be some entertainment value for many.

A particular phenomenon of the internet age is the emergence of large numbers of independent “vloggers” – people producing videos where they speak to the camera voicing opinions on every subject under the sun, often with accompanying images to make their points. The words and images fly by so fast that you don’t have time to stop and question logically what is being said, in many instances sources for the claims being made are not even quoted. It is also difficult to remember what has been claimed in order to check the claims from other sources after watching the videos. Really I prefer the written word because I think it leads to greater transparency and accuracy. My readers can simply copy and paste any of my claims into a search engine page to check them. However in terms of reach it is almost impossible for mere writers to compete, video and audio formats are much more popular. I may take a closer look at specific examples of such videos in future posts in order to illustrate my points here.

The recent reported death of Jeffrey Epstein has understandably given rise to a great deal of intense speculation about his death (or non-death, many believe he is in fact still alive). Not only are the mainstream media suspected of failing to report the truth, but also perhaps more importantly the law enforcement authorities are also suspected of either covering up a crime or even of being complicit. We see headlines such as this one from the Gateway Pundit:

Here It Is… Complete List of Clinton Associates Who Allegedly Died Mysteriously or Committed Suicide Before Testimony, Including Jeffrey Epstein

Another one from Breitbart:

Alec Baldwin Claims Russia Killed Jeffrey Epstein: ‘They’re in Charge of Everything’

My intention was not to speculate about the facts of the Epstein case here but rather to ask a much bigger question about where journalism is heading today and whether we can help to steer it in a better direction. (If people would like to debate on the Epstein case in particular we can do a separate post on that later in the week).

Should we draw attention when we think there are suspicious circumstances surrounding an event? Absolutely, suspicious circumstances may well point to the truth of that event. What we should not do however is pretend that merely suspicious circumstances constitute hard evidence; when we are speculating we should make it clear that we are speculating.

Some degree of political bias in journalism is perhaps inevitable. As I already implied above, there is bias in WHAT journalists choose to report as well as in the way they report events. At the moment journalism seems very partisan to me, we see outlets such as Breitbart and the Daily Mail drawing attention to the wrongdoings of immigrants, whereas the mainstream TV channels almost constantly draw our attention to the suffering and plight of migrants, who they often describe with emotive words such as “refugee”. In an attempt to suppress the realities, the mainstream TV channels routinely mock and deride those media outlets who report on the wrongdoings of migrants.

I believe that a shake up of TV broadcasting is one of the most important steps that will take us towards a more truthful era, where both (or multiple) sides of a story can be heard, and where important events are no longer suppressed. Lop sided coverage of the migration crisis, crime, and terrorism in particular are areas that really ought to be reported on in a more balanced fashion on the airwaves. If political bias is inevitable then at least we must have TV stations that better represent the right in politics (I am speaking particularly of the situation in the UK here).

I mentioned the importance of knowledge of logical fallacies in a recent post How To Write A Good Article. Knowledge of the logical fallacies may not only help journalists to write better articles but also help wider society to more critically analyze everything they are being told by all sources. We may be able to help steer the public discourse in a better direction by popularizing the terms – ad hominem, strawman, post hoc, non sequitur etc.

Above all what we need is a new generation of journalists to emerge, who have the principles of impartiality and innocent until proven guilty at all times uppermost in their minds as they carry out their investigations. Perhaps then we may begin to move beyond this troubling “post certainty era” and towards a new era of greater accuracy in journalism. I expect it will take a while for this generation of journalists to emerge, but we can help the process along by questioning absolutely everything, and by learning the logical fallacies and frequently using the terms.

RELATED:

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers – Case 2, Snopes and the Young Male Migrants

Fact Checking The Fact Checkers – Case 1, A Disturbance at Starbucks

The Propagation of Political Correctness

Saturation involves persistently repeating politically correct points of view, and suppression involves preventing other points of view from being heard, and suppressing facts.

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

From the Oxford Dictionaries:

Word of the Year 2016 is…

(the word was “post-truth” apparently).

Mark Dice’s petition to gain approval for Karl Marx’s appointment as Hillary Clinton’s economic adviser

From spiked-online:

Jeffrey Epstein and the age of hysteria

Good for a laugh:

Learn how the BBC is working to strengthen trust and transparency in online news

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