Declared as the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2016, post-truth is an adjective defined as “'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Oxford)—put simply, it’s when facts matter less than fiction.
Unfortunately, many of us can become victims of misinformation—frankly, it’s likely that we already are. A lot of people claim that we currently live in a post-truth era, given the widespread of misinformation and disinformation both online and offline. There are a number of factors that amplify fake news, and some of them can actually be a result of our own actions—but don’t blame yourself; blame psychology. It’s kind of our reality as human beings.
What are cognitive biases?
When faced with new information, studies show that we tend to only acknowledge ideas that already line up with our current beliefs, and ignore those that do not. Thanks to our biased reasoning, we often end up making warped conclusions or bad decisions. Though often unintended, we frequently fall into this trap because it is an effective coping mechanism—a way for us to avoid mental discomfort when faced with conflicting information.
But it’s not entirely our fault; fake news does come from somewhere, after all.
Where does fake news come from? Who is manipulating the media?
Well, take your pick! We have trolls, conspiracy theorists, influencers, and hyperpartisan establishments, among many others. But as the national elections day draws closer and closer, it’s becoming nearly impossible for us to ignore arguably one of the biggest culprits of all: politicians.
According to a report by Oxford University, governments from around the globe have turned to social media to deliberately spread fake news for their own benefit. Facebook is the most common platform manipulated by governments to either discredit political opponents, silence dissenting opinions, or even suppress human rights. And as the top users of social media in the world, Filipinos are particularly vulnerable to their deceit, even being recognized as the “patient zeros” of digital disinformation.
So... What now?
This makes it all the more relevant for us Filipinos to be conscious of the information that we consume at this crucial point in time. Be wary of your echo chambers—a whole ‘nother can of worms that you can read more about in our previous article here. As cliche as it may sound, it does start with awareness, because if you don’t want to save yourself from misinformation, no one can. As put by Nick Enfield, a professor and director at the University of Sydney leading a Research Excellence Initiative on The Crisis of Post-Truth Discourse:“We have to be able to do this ourselves. It has to be people who care about truth.”. So reflect on your biases, research on facts, and always keep an open mind.