Context: Untroubled by factuality and diversity, privilege and power are shaping public opinion in troubled democracies.
What is the relation between truth and politics?
- “Factual truth”: It is a reference to observations by living subjects of constantly changing reality. But factual truth was always prone to challenge as being no more than opinion.
- “Formal truths”: On the contrary, it is a part of the received wisdom, such as the proposition that two and two made four.
- Truth and politics: Both of them had always been “on rather bad terms with each other” and “truthfulness” was never counted “among the political virtues”.
- This was a reality with a deep bearing on the practice of politics, since “facts and events”, the outcome of the collective life of humanity, were the “very texture of the political land”.
How is truth altered by deception?
- Factuality:The lie in normal circumstances is “defeated by reality”. However large the tissue of falsehood, even when twisted with the help of computers, it would be inadequate to “cover the immensity of factuality”.
- Radical destruction:A fact could be removed from the world if a sufficient number of people believe in its non-existence.
- But this would require a process of “radical destruction”, an experiment that totalitarian regimes had undertaken with frightening consequences, though without the intended result of “lasting deception”.
What is the role of social media?
- The role of social media: Earlier modes of harvesting attention and securing assent for a particular perception of reality have been transformed in this intensely networked situation.
- Since the events of 2016, notably the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as the U.S. President, social media has come in for intense scrutiny for its ability to create bubbles of political misinformation.
- The economist, Raghuram Rajan, and the philosopher, Michael Sandel, have in recent times pointed out how daily lives in the U.S. today are increasingly about sameness, less about exposure to diversities of culture and social perception.
- It is a context that enables particular population units to pretend that other worlds do not exist, that their perceptions, fortified in regular “check ins” with social media, are all that matter.
- Customary deliberative processes have been dispensed with: Parliament sessions conclude without the Question Hour and consultative meetings across party lines over significant legislative initiatives have been scrapped.
- Public opinion in democracies is now fashioned within cocoons of privilege and power, untroubled by factuality or diversities in perception. The U.S. seems to have tapped the sources of countervailing power to neutralise this drift towards a world of alternative truths.