What Is "Post-Truth"? The New Oxford Word of the Year Perfectly Explains Trump's Election
Oxford Dictionaries announced its word of the year for 2016 and you might not have heard of it: post-truth. While it's not part of the vernacular or as recognizable as the runners-up like "alt-right," "adulting," "woke," and "Brexiteer," you'll recognize how it played a major role in the election of Donald Trump.
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," post-truth points to the dissemination of information that's based less on fact and more on emotion or confirmation of beliefs. The post-truth phenomenon played out acutely on Facebook during the election, where fake news like the Pope endorsing Donald Trump was shared across newsfeeds (sometimes millions of times).
It also helps to explain why Trump himself was able to run a campaign filled with constant lies and still win the presidency. The truth of his words did not matter as much as they reflected what people wanted to hear.
As with every word of the year, Oxford Dictionaries selects words that encapsulate "the ethos, mood, or preoccupations" of the moment. Post-truth wasn't just evident in the US presidential election; Brexit in the UK also signified an alarming dismissal of facts about refugees and immigration.
Post-truth was first employed by The Nation in 1992 to describe the Iran-contra disaster and the Persian Gulf War, according to the New York Times. With four years of a Trump presidency ahead of us, we suspect post-truth will only become more popular and commonly used.