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What is meant by ‘post truth’?

1. The book describes post-truth as ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. My understanding of it is that facts themselves don’t matter as much as the interpretation you are giving concerning those stated “facts” to the public as well as the context in which you decide to use those so called “facts” to your advantage. It means that the facts themselves are not nearly as important anymore in comparison to how you utilize them in order to create the perception and the emotional reaction you want to project onto your audience. This is what is really impactful, not the facts themselves because those are widely manipulated nowadays into constructing a story that will favor the person telling it. At the end, it implies that it is all about the appeals to emotion. As an example, the book states some of Trumps comments about his successful political campaign: “Trump claimed – again with no facts to back him up – that he had actually won the popular vote (which Hillary Clinton had taken by nearly 3 million votes)”. Another quote from the book that describes what post-truth is: “Post-truth amounts to a form of ideological supremacy, whereby its practitioners are trying to compel someone to believe in something whether there is good evidence or not.” (Mcintyre, 2018)

How susceptible are you, in your life as a businessperson and ordinary citizen, to the effects of post truth?

2. Personally, I believe that as businessperson we are extremely susceptible to the effects of the post-truth. As a business person, we are obligated to follow the news, what’s happening politically and economically in different countries of the world. Our sources of information are mainly controlled by the press which are also primarily owned by very powerful individuals (such as Bernard Arnaud in France, which owns multiple of the journals). Due to this, those individuals are able to control what is seen, the context in which the information is unveiled and truly control what the “truth” is. A perfect example of that is described in the book: “Why search for scientific disagreement when it can be manufactured? Why bother with peer review when one’s opinions can be spread by intimating the media or through public relations? And why wait for government officials to come to the “right” conclusion when you can influence them with industry money?” (Mcintyre, 2018)

The author talks about both sides of the post-truth dilemma and says that you are either aware of it or you are not, but that post-truth is not something questionable. Within his book, he clearly states the stakes at risk as well as his view of the danger the postmodernism era involves. The truth is clearly endangered due to the subjectivity and the allowance to share your opinions that this post-modernism era has brought back up. In my opinion, being subjective and able to share your opinion is definitely a good thing, yet I do also believe that this should never come to the detriment of the truth. Individuals, such as myself, should be able to find out what the truth is instead of doubting what is true and what is not. This has for effect to completely underly the truth and its power in today’s world.

In continuation, the topic in which post-truth has had the biggest impact lately is politics. This sector has been focusing on the emotional reactions of individuals to convey them to believe what the politicians wanted them to believe, often disregarding facts. When facts have been brought up, politicians have been adopting a strategy that is only effective due to the postmodernism era we are in. Due to subjectivity, politicians now target the source of the information and will destroy the facts from its basis, by creating doubt and touching certain key topics that will create a bond in between the audience and the speaker. Doing so, politicians will use alternative facts in order to create a confirmation bias for their audience by using information that the audience wants to hear because that information will be aligned with their beliefs, creating an emotional bond. This way, facts do not matter and what truly does is how we feel about the information we are receiving. In my humble opinion, this is the same as falsification and takes our control (citizens’ control and rights) away from us. We now do not have the correct information anymore and so are not able to make proper decisions, especially regarding politics. (Mcintyre, 2018)

To conclude, those are some of the reasons why I strongly believe that we, businesspersons and citizens, are extremely susceptible to the post-truth effects.

What is postmodernism, and how is it related to ‘post truth’?

3. According to Michael Lynch, “pretty much everyone admits that it is impossible to define postmodernism. This is not surprising, since the word’s popularity is largely a function of its obscurity.” Yet, post-modernism is referred to as “Any of a set of beliefs associated with a movement in art, architecture, music and literature that tend to discount the idea of objective truth and a politically neutral frame of evaluation.”. (Mcintyre, 2018)

Post-modernism is an approach that I personally relate to quite a lot due to the fact that I am French. French people tend to have a very critical and skeptical behavior which means that they do not like to assume things without being sure where the concept or idea came from. Due to this, French people tend to question everything, always. In the past, the French population has elected multiple party leaders due to their lovely narratives, without checking the source of their information. The expectation they then had was high and the audience which elected those party leaders often could relate to the speech given by those politicians. Yet, the outcome was very, very, different and most of the time they only realized after the elections, or even after the mandate had ended that the facts stated, the action plan mentioned, and the numbers evoked were nothing but smoke. The post-modernism is a concept where everything is being questioned. It is really hard to synthesize the truth from all of the information out-there. Another good description of postmodernism in the book was stated by Alexis Papazoglou, “Once we realise that the idea of an absolute, objective truth is a philosophical hoax, the only alternative is a position called “perspectivism”. (Mcintyre, 2018)

Furthermore, the book states that postmodernist attacked literature first and then science by undermining the truth, the research, the conclusion that rose from those researches themselves and the language itself, saying that it is all up for interpretation. The post-modernism movement was meant to bring subjectivity to the studies performed. You can look at science and literature from multiple perspectives and everyone can have their opinions, but this movement opened up the door to individuals that created an environment of confusion by questioning everything.

To that end, I would say that Post-truth is extremely related to the postmodernism concept. By creating a confusing environment where nobody is certain of what is true and what is not, it facilitates the use of emotional targeting. In this perplexed environment, it is easy for politicians to use fake news. It also promotes the concept of motivated reasoning. The human race, when unsure, will often go back to something that will comfort them and so will go back to look at sources where they found information that agrees with their beliefs. That is due to our inherent confirmation bias. Furthermore, politicians amongst others, use post-truth to rally other individuals to their cause through the use of their feelings and beliefs. The possibility to do so increases due to the environment that post-modernism creates. (Mcintyre, 2018)

How has the Internet contributed to the rise and spread of the post truth phenomenon?

4. Back in the day, the medias were mainly the prestige press and the television services. Most of the information was found in those 2 types of communication until there was a decline that let place to social media and the internet. The medias were originally used to inform the population about topics that were for “public knowledge” and the ones that some people would have preferred the population not to know about. Since the internet arrived, the information streamed has been both harder and easier to control. (Mcintyre, 2018)

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Harder because everyone can post what they want (mostly), meaning that if the wrong information gets into the hands of someone, it can go viral instantly and affect many people. Easier to control due to the data analytics which analyze the behavior of people and allows the people in control of the press and most of the information out there to have even more control over it. The book best describes this as such, “If we look back throughout history, we realize that the rich and powerful have always had an interest (and usually a means) for getting the “little people” to think what they wanted.” (Mcintyre, 2018)

The contribution to the rise and spread of the post-truth phenomenon through internet and social media is due to two specific factors. Due to internet, it is easy to post your opinion for everyone to see, to criticize anything you want and to doubt anything you’d like online. By doing so, you are allowing other people to see all of those questions, doubts and criticism instantly which creates a post-modernism environment. It creates confusion. At the same time, the people that are behind all of the data collected from the internet, our social media accounts and our entire activity online associated with the analytic tools out there, can now predict quite precisely our behaviors, which ones are our trigger points, what are our beliefs, our personality and so on.

To summarize, not only does the internet create confusion concerning what’s true and what’s not, it also is used to collect data that can be managed to understand individualistic consumer behavior. This allows anyone that has that data to manipulate the perception and to create specific reactions out of it. It allows the users of that data to diminish the impact that “facts”, the truth, has and to play with the feelings of each individual in order to obtain what they want. Furthermore, it allows individuals to use fake news in order to convince people. The fact displayed might be fake, but the effect it has on the individual is carefully studied in order to create the closest reaction possible as to what they had in mind. An example of this is, as discussed in the book, that some individuals orchestrated the Spanish-American war through the display of fake news. In a way, this truly shows that the internet has allowed the concept of both post-truth and postmodernism to expand. (Mcintyre, 2018)

Is this a serious problem or is this a ‘phenomenon’ that has been perhaps created by and definitely blown out of proportion by the extreme liberals/leftists?

– If it is a serious problem…

How should it be combatted?

What should you do in your own life?

5. From what I have understood from this book, I believe that the author answers this question quite well himself. The author infers within this entire book that this is a serious problem that is really not new at all. This serious problem has existed for many years but is only taken into consideration now, and this might be due to the expansion of it through the internet and social media. The sight and little awareness that a few people have on the problems evolution and repercussions might also have something to do with it.

Within both, the preface and the last chapter, the author describes it as a real problem and I personally agree with him. The problem is quite complex, but I believe that fighting for the truth is important and so does the author: “…to stand up for the notion of truth and learn how to fight back.”. Creating an environment where you never know what is true and what is not is not where our society should be heading. (Mcintyre, 2018)

How it should be combatted is quite hard to express. First it is important to be aware of it and understand that there really is a problem. Second of all, we should always try our best to fight in order to let the truth come out, no matter how outrageous the lies out there are. The reason to fight against lies is not to try and dissuade the liar but the audience listening to the lies. As once again the author said: “In an era for post-truth, we must challenge each and every attempt to obfuscate a factual matter and challenge falsehoods before they are allowed to fester”. As mentioned in Chapter 7, it is empirically possible to change the misinformed beliefs of partisan’ minds by hitting them with correct information over and over again until they cannot refute it anymore. This strategy has to be implemented carefully though as research shows that when people are insecure and threatened, they do not tend to listen which could have a back-fire effect.

Another thing that we can do to fight post-truth is to deal with it inside of us first. To be aware that our cognitive biases might create a post-truth phenomenon. By doing so, we are already fighting post-truth from within. To regulate that and not deal with confirmation bias as much, we must diversify our sources of information in order to have the most accurate ones. It is not easy, but I truly believe that this can help. We have to learn to be more skeptical, yet we have to be careful with the fake news out there too. As senator Daniel Moynihan said: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” We should bring the attitude that scientists have onto this problem. Scientist always check and re-check their beliefs and assumptions against the empirical evidence which allows them to be more objective. (Mcintyre, 2018)

To that end, we need to be aware of our cognitive biases and live in pre-truth era. Post-truth is not about reality but about how we react to reality, so I would suggest that we work on ourselves in order to understand us better. After that, we will be more able to take proper decisions, understand the information in front of us and analyze it better. (Mcintyre, 2018)

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