“Britain has had enough of experts.”
You may remember that memorable line by Michael Gove in the interview with Faisal Islam on June 3rd, 2016. The quote was ricocheted throughout the media by journalists who simply could not believe what they were hearing.
I listened to the sound bite on the radio whilst at work. I was furious that someone who had chosen to go into politics, a career that demands expertise in myriad aspects of life (and we trust them to be experts in their fields) could say such a thing.
When I got home I pulled up the video on youtube and watched, and re-watched, the interview. That was the first time that I actually wondered if the country really would vote to leave the European Union. Twenty days later, the answer came.
With that crippling simple statement Michael Gove became one of the many people who helped propagate what is known as the Post-Truth movement. Post-truth politics – the rebuttal of facts by appealing to emotion – became a leading theme in western politics throughout 2016/17. In the case of Brexit, Ian Dunt wrote:
‘At the core of Britain’s current dilemma is a refusal to engage with objective fact. The debate about Brexit was lost, almost as soon as it began, in a tribal and emotional dogfight which bore little relation to reality.’
Brexit, What the Hell Happens Now?
Tagline: “For people who still believe in experts.”
Michael Gove’s statement had an incredibly negative effect and not just for Brexit. He made it acceptable to ignore truth.
This was a theme that ran on throughout the referendum campaign in the United Kingdom. Disinformation, or at the very least the shooing of information, became the spearhead pulling the campaign through that pesky cloud of facts. Aaron Banks, a man who put millions into the Leave campaign said: ‘Facts don’t work. You have to connect with the people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.’
A blatant declaration and admission that facts were ignored, and that it was okay to ignore them. And this coming from one of the key figureheads of the Leave movement.
This is the kind of mind-frame that took the United Kingdom into one of the biggest crises to shake our foundations since the Second World War.
The leave campaign was driven with slogans to incense the people “Take back control” (from the European Union) “Don’t let them in” (regarding refugees) and then lies to clinch the deal such as: the European Union are the ones that allowed free passage of immigrants from outside the E.U into the country. This is a falsehood since the government had the power to increase border force and stem the flow of immigration whenever it chose to. The real problem facing the government here was that they were not prepared to admit that they had always had the power to implement change but had simply decided it was too expensive to go ahead. This would weaken the Conservative position which they had absolutely no intention of doing.
The worst lie uttered by the Leave campaign was one that played on the heartstrings of the majority of the U.K regarding one of its most cherished institutions – the National Health Service.
We all remember the giant sign plastered on the side of the red bus declaring that the £350 million we give to the European Union would be put back into the NHS. This was a deception of the highest magnitude and was ditched as soon as the Leave vote was cast.
The crucial thing to remember is that the people who voted Leave had some genuine concerns that were not being addressed by the government. The issue is that the Leave campaign latched onto these concerns and redirected the anger toward an outside force.
Across the Atlantic during the presidential campaign of 2016, the soon-to-be president Donald Trump rebutted economic strategy and plans for reforms from the democratic side with slander. The entire campaign instantly lost any level of authenticity. Unfortunately the already controversial candidate, Hilary Clinton, stooped to his level. The fight for the White House was a fiasco.
When Donald Trump gained power, Kellyanne Conway (counsellor to U.S President Donald Trump) gave the new government free reign to lie when she addressed the press regarding Sean Spicer’s blatant inaccuracies regarding the number of attendees to President Trump’s inauguration. During an interview on 22nd January, 2017 with Chuck Todd on NBC, Conway claimed that Sean Spicer had not lied but had instead used “alternative facts”.
Trump’s presidency was born in a cloud of misinformation.
Chuck Todd also recently interviewed ex-mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani, who – when talking about Donald Trump’s meeting’s with Mike Comey – said that people have “different versions of the truth” and “the truth is not the truth”. The pollution of the truth is an ongoing tactic throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, something that he bolsters with the firing of anyone who questions his authority. This is a blatant disregard of a democratic process in which government officials are meant to be held accountable by the people and governing bodies.
Without a doubt the most useful tool in Donald Trump’s arsenal is the use of “Fake News”.
Used throughout his run for presidency and still used to this day, Trump throws “fake news” at any news station or journalist that does not bathe him in good light. The use of “Fake News” shakes peoples trust in what they read, what they hear and what they see so that, when the truth is told (whether it be in regards to his interactions with Stormy Daniels, the silencing of his ex-wife with huge payoff or possible collusion with Russia) it will only be lost in the fires of confusion constantly fed by the words of Trump and his associates.
The age of unreason is a new and devastating era. Post-truths, alternative facts, having had “enough of experts” – this is all intrinsically damning to our way of life.
Corroborative hard evidence is being met with opinion. Measurable facts met with blasé indifference. People are being told that it is okay to go on their gut instincts and throw facts to the wind.
What this does in reality, is give reason (or the illusion of reason) to the unreasonable. A stomping ground to anyone with a gripe who does not truly know where to point their anger.
It was most succinctly put my Matthew D’anconia in his book Post Truth, The New War on Truth and How to Fight It when he says in his introduction that he will “explore the declining value of truth as society’s reserve currency, and the infectious spread of pernicious relativism disguised as legitimate scepticism”.
This can be said for a number of views that have become widespread and accepted by some communities, for instance:
– Climate change denial in which 97% of climate scientists believe that the climate is changing due to human impact and yet Senator James Inhofe can bring a snowball into a senate committee to show to everyone that it is cold outside as if that was evidence that the entire planet is fine.
– Holocaust denial in which a small group of people believe that the systematic slaughter of Jewish people never happened despite countless pieces of evidence in the forms of written statements, prisoner names and numbers filed away in folders at death camps as well as actual video footage. Holocaust deniers put the evidence down to fabricated documents and actors.
– The Anti-vaccination movement in which people fight the science of modern medicine and believe that vaccinations cause autism whilst what it is really doing is making their children susceptible to disease.
– Flat earth theory
The crux of the issue does not just come down to people being fed false information, but people willing to believe false information that matches their own views. It is no secret that Donald Trump aimed his argument at the disgruntled white working class and told them their problems were because of Democratic party policy and, of course, foreigners. The same tactic was used throughout the campaign to leave the European Union. After all, it is easier to point the blame at an easy target when the problems are much deeper and run through our own governments and the way we handle businesses.
Arguments, conversations and campaigns should take place, after all they help our society progress and evolve. But they need to be backed with truth. After all, if we do not have truth, we live in a society in freefall.