Welcome to the era of post-truth. All thanks to its worldwide proponents from Trump to leaders of the Brexit Leave campaign, ‘post-truth’ has been selected to be the international word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary after its use has skyrocketed twentyfold over the past year.
What, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the definition of post-truth? It refers to politicians producing pictures and beliefs to the public which may not constitute or consider facts or objective circumstances. It’s not hard to think of Trump quotes under this description. After all, this is probably his most frequently used election strategy. ‘I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words’. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But what are the dimensions of the wall, or the cost? How can anyone make Mexico pay for it? Trump’s promise seems far-fetched and hardly achievable, but without being convinced with facts and figures, supporters for the President-elect go with it nonetheless.
It, too, has become the new normal in Hong Kong, regardless of camps and political affiliation. Two photos featuring a schoolgirl smoking, and a Japanese adult film star, both bearing resemblance to soon-not-to-be LegCo member Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎), were widely circulated in social media, especially in pro-establishment media. Although the person in these images were later proven not to be Yau, that did not prevent her from being continually portrayed as a reckless immoral individual. And who could forget the shocking allegation made by lawmaker Ng Leung-sing (吳亮星) that the “disappeared” bookshop owner Lee Bo (李波) illegally travelled to the Mainland by boat to seek prostitutes, based on a viral Whatsapp message.
The Pro-establishment camp isn’t the only source of untruths either. During her Legislative Council campaign, Lau Siu-lai (劉小麗) promised to fight for a Universal Retirement Protection Scheme that would exempt all citizens and companies from contributing funds (免供退保), thereby placing the burden of funding entirely on the government. This utopian and highly infeasible suggestion was later disavowed by her campaign, but is likely to have attracted voters and helped win her the election.
Post-truth politics is becoming more prevalent globally. One of its potent catalysts is the increasingly smart social media. Under the algorithm of Facebook and Google etc., users view and share information with ideas and interests similar to themselves, and even news from sources biased towards their view. People see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe. That is how strong convictions are formed, even without the basis of facts.
Photo Credit: 香港01