As “post-truth” is named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, have we really entered the era of post-truth politics?

Republican National Convention: Day Four
A post-truth politician, or just a politician? (Source: Getty)

Rachel Cunliffe, deputy editor of Reaction, says Yes.

Donald Trump was always against the Iraq War. The US has an $800bn trade deficit. Clinton started the birther movement. Three lies told by Trump during the second debate, with a dozen more examples from that 90 minutes alone. The moderators didn’t fact-check him, and even if they had, it wouldn’t have bothered the 60.8m people who voted for him.

Since his victory, the lies have continued. Trump claims he never said things which he has been filmed saying. Who cares? More Americans read Facebook than read newspapers, and Facebook doesn’t fact-check.

And it’s not just the US. There never were 3m British jobs dependent on EU membership, but nor will the NHS get £350m extra a week post-Brexit. The Hungarian government claims there are no-go zones for whites in London, while Russia’s fake news industry is a global export.

With the speed of social media, the debunkers can’t catch up. Lies get much better ratings than explanations, so there’s little wonder politicians no longer see the point in telling the truth.

Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Online, says No.

I bristle when I hear the phrase “post-truth politics”. It has an arrogant, religious feel to it. The implication is that I – decent Remainer, Hillary supporter – have access to a truth that you – Leaver, Trumpite, pleb – do not.

Let’s leave aside the fact that both Remainers and Hillaryites have engaged in less-than-truthful politics themselves, presenting the anti-democratic, anti-working-class EU as a paragon of liberal decency, and war-making, banker-loving Hillary as exemplar of left-wing values. More important is the way that the accusation of post-truth is used to chill properly political debate.

It elevates evidence (or pseudo-evidence) over conviction, pie charts over belief. It speaks to a failure to understand what politics is about – ideas, argument and clashing views of the good life, not the cold analysis of the few who apparently already know what is true and right. Politics is pre-truth – an ongoing debate about the future, between all sections of society.

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