Are we living in a post-truth world, where “alternative facts” replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? In Post-Truth (MIT Press 2018), I trace the development of this phenomenon from its roots in science denial, cognitive bias, and postmodernism through the rise of “fake news,” “information silos,” and alternative media. What exactly is post-truth? Is it wishful thinking, political spin, mass delusion, or bold-faced lying? By analyzing recent examples—inflated claims about inauguration crowd size, bogus crime statistics, and unfounded allegations about the 2016 popular vote—I’ve concluded that post-truth is not merely an attempt to fool us into believing falsehoods, it is an assertion of ideological supremacy. Yet post-truth didn’t begin with the 2016 election; the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change offers a road map for more widespread fact denial. Add to this the wired-in cognitive biases that make us feel that our conclusions are based on good reasoning even when they are not, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media, and the emergence of fake news as a political tool, and we have the ideal conditions for post-truth. In Post-Truth I also argue that we can fight back, but that the first step in combatting post-truth is to understand where it came from.
Praise for Post-Truth
“McIntyre’s book is perhaps the most thoughtful of the post-truth set….[He] argues persuasively that our methods of ascertaining truth—not just the facts themselves—are under attack, and that this assault is especially dangerous.”
—Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post
“This is a gem of a short treatise. Lee McIntyre’s Post-Truth is a perfect counter to a problem that has erupted in our national consciousness—alternative facts. McIntyre’s enumerated suggestions on how we must all be our own fact checkers in this post-truth age should be taped to the computer keyboard of every journalist, politician, and reader in America, before the next election.”
—Michael Shermer, Skeptic Magazine
“My book of the week is Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre. This is a slender volume from MIT’s Essential Knowledge Series that looks at one of the most disturbing trends of our time: the increasing dismissal of science, evidence, facts, and truth itself. The author gives us an intelligent account of why it’s happened and a compelling reminder that we should all fight back against this dangerous nihilistic idea.”
—Fareed Zakaria, CNN