'Truth is on the Ballot'
It's no coincidence that the year Donald Trump was elected was the year in which 'Post-Truth' was awarded the Oxford Dictionary word of the year. Post-truth is defined as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
While academics continue to debate the merits of such a term, and what sort of impact we’re seeing, it’s clear that more and more topics and issues are ripe for politicisation, division and bitter conflict. It’s not that truth doesn’t exist - history still unfolds before us - but narratives are increasingly constructed and contested in problematic ways.
For every story, there’s a counter-narrative of what happened, motives are assigned, actions, accusations and emotions are rationalised, and inevitably 'whataboutism' pops up to tip the ledger on the moral equivalence scale. And of course, this makes it incredibly hard to not only have a meaningful and fruitful conversation, but to agree on anything.
The ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ has been replaced with the ‘Culture Wars’ – which says something about the general mood, and possibility for people to meaningfully engage with those they disagree with. It’s less about virtue, civility and compromise in politics and all about winning and maintaining power over one's enemies.
With the U.S election taking place over the next few weeks, and the carnage that is sure to follow, I want to reflect on it from a distance as a Christian in Australia. I suspect for many it will be easy to look abroad with incredulity, sorrow, bemusement, maybe even detachment. We are witness to the decline and fracturing of a once great superpower - which share similar values and ideals. We are, in effect, seeing a great nation on it's democratic knees.
But we mustn't assume that it cannot happen here. Many of the problems that have been amplified over the last four years in the U.S. are sneaking out of the shadows and into plain sight here too. And so as part of this blog series I want to tackle three important markers which have heavily impacted the upcoming election, and they all relate to truth:
1) Hyper-Partisanship and Crisis Politics
2) Misinformation, Disinformation and Media Bias
3) The Rise of Dark Conspiracy Theories
Christianity is actually well equipped to give us some tools for restoration, although a significant number of Christians have been drawn into the fracturing and divisive arguments taking place across Western Democracies.
Truth is on the ballot, and it's up to all of us to commit to truth as a way of life. Stay tuned for some thoughts on how we can do that.