In discussing President Trump’s recent immigration ban with friends and coworkers many have mentioned the notion that we’ve entered a “post fact” or “post truth” era. There is even a new Wikipedia page (created just last summer) to explain the concept.
Personally, I’ve been really struggling with the concept of a post truth era. Rezwan Khan (my coworker and commenter on last week’s post) helped me think about this topic in new light.
Rezwan’s point is that we aren’t really living in a post-fact world, but rather “not-facts” are much more available than they’ve ever been before. Here, I think he makes an important point.
If we rewind 20 years ago, the way that most Americans got their news was through the newspaper. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve picked up an actual print newspaper, but as I recall there is a pretty clear divide between the section for “news” and section for “opinion.” Typically, the first 15-20 pages of the paper are news, and then way in the back are a few pages of opinion. I think it’s safe to say that the balance of fact-based-news to opinion is about 10/1 in favor of news.
Fast forward to today. Two things have happened:
- The barrier to entry for publishing an opinion piece has been eliminated
- The “news” vs. “opinion” labels have been mostly lost
Today, everyone (even me) can enter the publishing world at practically zero cost. And, most of the people that enter the new internet-enabled-zero-cost publishing world are presenting some degree of opinion.
Due to this trend, the balance between fact and opinion has changed – it’s no longer 10/1, now it’s more like 10/10,000,000 with facts drowned out by a vast sea of loud opinions.