Dictionary meaning of Post truth society means objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ .
Post truth is the understanding that ‘truth’ as we know it is becoming rarer in public life. Proponents of each ideology are able to argue convincingly about the merits of their approach without adhering to any factual basis. This has the effect of deceiving their audiences and giving them power and political mileage. During the Brexit campaign as well in the American elections, the discourse consisted of varying truthfulness or even outright incorrect information, leading to events whose impact was felt around the world.
Lies in politics is not a new phenomenon. The political Scientist Hannah Arendt, in her essay on “Truth and Politics” observes that truth and politics seem to be mutually contradictory and incompatible. Her observations were based on her studies of Nazi Germany where Hitler’s propaganda machine churned out facts that shaped public opinion without any basis in truth. As we know, the German population to the greatest extent remained mute spectators to the horrors of the Holocaust due to this propaganda.
This explains why it is important for truth to be an essential part of politics. Politics couched in untruth may lead to some short term gains, however the long term consequences are almost always damaging to democracy. Gandhi understood this very well as he tried to grapple with questions of truth both personal and political. Gandhian politics is thus, first and foremost a search for and a tyrst with truth. In this tyrst the means to achieve power need to be truthful for the ends to be in public interest.
Locally and globally, it is necessary for us to go back to this philosophy. Truth in public life cannot and should not espouse narrow public interests but should be open to only those interpretations that lend itself to compassion and genuine concern.