The truth isn't what it used to be. A demonized, cheesy, loser virtue. It's a time of lies. Not the little lie you tell when you're blushing. Not the big lie, the big untruth, the hennaurme farce. We've entered the era of salads, the ones that make Trumps elect Trumps of all stripes, commit Brexit or contemplate the worst-case election scenarios. The Oxford dictionary has made it the word of the year: post-truth. A fashionable word, a symptom of a trend surfed on by professionals who were mistakenly thought to be out of fashion. This is how it will become established in France with a view to the next presidential elections, Breitbart Newsthe ultra-right media founded by the American avatar of Goebbels, who got Trump elected and pushed the UK out of Europe.
PThe bigger it is, the better it goes. Lying, untruth, falsehood have become commonplace in the conduct of public affairs. Lying, considered a simple and acceptable figure of speech, is even accepted as a skillful and effective way of communicating. Telling a good lie would be like using a nice metaphor to get your message across. The truth doesn't matter.
In recent months, we have witnessed a spectacular rise in this phenomenon, with major consequences for the balance of the world. Donald Trump's campaign was studded with lies, approximations and untruths that scared the counters of the fast-checkers, the bodies responsible for restoring the truth of the figures and facts in political speeches. In vain, the weight of the lie seemed to be heavier, the pressure uniformly intense. And Trump was elected.
Brexit's campaign was of the same order, with its share of "post-truths" that swung British opinion against all expectations in the polls.
These two events alone prompted the authors of the Oxford University Dictionary to distinguish the word "post-truth" as the international word of the year. One of them, Casper Grathwohl said " The frequency of use of the word really increased in June 2016 with the Brexit and then again in July, when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination. Since the use of the term has shown no sign of slowing down since those events, I would not be surprised if post-truth became one of the words that best defines our times. ». According to the definition in the dictionary, it's called "post-truth" when " objective facts have less influence than appeals to emotion and personal opinions in shaping public opinion ".
In a brilliant post published by The Conversation, academic Charles Hadji points out that political discourse that delights in post-truth plays on emotions and passions. But, he says, these are indeed the primary driving force of political life.. "Reasonable discourse has little power of its own to mobilize citizens. To keep democracy alive, passions must be mobilized. For the "people" need to dream in order for them to take ownership of a project and bring it to life. Of course, the dream puts us in fiction. But Raffaele Simone has shown, in his book 'Si la démocratie fait faillite', that citizens living in democracy need to take certain fictions as true, within the framework of a mythology, which is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy. "
Thus, fables would be more appreciated than facts. Lies would be more effective than the hard and austere truth. Therefore, why should we hold the authors of lies or outrageous statements to ransom? Not only do we consider their excesses as part of the "normal" political debate, but we also believe their lies. And not only do we believe them, but we propagate them. Social networks have become a sounding board for post-truth. Those who relay false information, lies or slander do not necessarily do so out of pure conviction but to signal their position. The untruth spread on social networks does not matter, what matters is the social signal, the implied opinions that are conveyed. This is how dark rumours, conspiracy theories and the most vile slander are spread.
Is the phenomenon that new? Is it only linked to the rise of populism around the world? Not so much for British academic Andrew Calcutt who... supports that it was the liberal left that invented "post-truth": " The reversal of values that has led to the castigation of objectivity is the work of academics, aided by a host of middle-class professionals. Confessed liberals, with their hearts on the left, they sought to free themselves from the truth professed by the state. Instead, they have constructed a new form of closed-mindedness - "post-truth".
He said that more than 30 years ago, academics set out to discredit "truth" as one of the "great stories" that intelligent people could no longer believe. Instead of "truth", which was therefore to be considered naïve and/or repressive, the new intellectual orthodoxy only allowed the use of "truths" - always plural, often personalized, inevitably relativized. Thus, in the 1990s, cohorts of journalists began to reject the principle of objectivity as nothing more than a professional mania. Old-timers in journalism who stubbornly upheld the value of objectivity were accused of deceiving their readers and themselves.
At the same time, towards the end of the 1990s, the phenomenon of "creative industries" was gaining momentum. The "brand" was brought to the pinnacle and all means to build and defend it were deemed valid. Story-telling, branding, communication ... became the paragons of a society in which truth did not matter when faced with the construction of a fiction that could make people dream and sell. With the development of digital technologies, the phenomenon only became more pronounced and began to spread to all areas of the "new economy", including the obscure areas of finance. It did not matter how real the facts were, what mattered was "valuation", which was most often based on criteria far removed from reality; on potential, i.e. dreams.
The political field was not left out. The spin doctors The first of these came to the fore and deployed their talent to help politicians of all stripes to put facts on the back burner in order to fabricate truths, generate images and emotions. The episode of the war in Iraq is a good example, present in all memories.
This is how modern politics has been shaped: the battle of arguments is privileged over the establishment of greater truth on a given issue. It is not surprising then that we are witnessing confrontations without a factual basis, with misleading, truncated, distorted messages. It does not matter. What matters now, since truth is relative, is to assert one's own. There is nothing wrong with that, no offence to "honesty" or righteousness. All methods become acceptable to win a fight and especially an election. Questioning the reality of global warming against the advice of thousands of scientists around the world is not a problem. This in no way prevents Donald Trump from winning the election. The truth is superfluous to beat his rivals.
In this game, lying professionals stand out singularly. Few in France know Steve Bannon. He is the guru of post-truth; he has made it a weapon of war, if not an art. A former banker at Goldman Sachs, Bannon will take over the management of a fearsome news website in 2012: Breitbart News. This media has become the champion of the most extreme populism. A real weapon of war against the "establishment", using all the strings, even the biggest ones of the post-truth. A site that moreover ostensibly displays sexist, racist or homophobic positions. The site 20 minutes. reports some pearls of this media which today weighs 240 million page views and 37 million unique visitors per month: "Would you rather your child catch feminism or cancer? "There is no discrimination against women in hiring, they just suck at interviews", "Contraception makes women ugly and crazy".
From an extreme right-wing curiosity, the site has become a thunderous voice. So much so that the magazine Bloomberg calls Bannon a " America's most dangerous machine ». The conservative Fox reporter Glenn Beck went so far as to call him " Goebbels ".
Yet it was this man that Donald Trump called to his side as campaign manager, with the result we know. Once elected, Trump appointed him senior advisor and chief of strategy. Bannon is set to take up office in the West Wing of the White House on January 20.
But Bannon's influence is not confined to the United States. In 2013, Breitbart News moves to London. Le Point reports that it is led by Raheem Kassam, a 30-year-old British activist who has made Margaret Thatcher an idol, and Michael Gove, who leads the pro-Brexit group with Boris Johnson. Breitbart London is obviously campaigning for Brexit. So is Raheem Kassam, who becomes senior adviser to Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, the British populist and Europhobic party. As the pro-Brexit movement gained momentum in the debate, Breitbart London's ratings skyrocketed.
With unscrupulous methods, an unbounded taste for scandal and provocation, Breitbart News knows how to win elections. Its interest is now focused on France in view of the 2017 presidential campaign. Steve Bannon said so on the Radio-London site: " We think that France is the place to be, with its young entrepreneurs, the women of the Le Pen family. Marion Maréchal Le Pen is the new rising star. We are looking to open a Breitbart Paris, or even a Breitbart France. ». Alex Marlow, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News in the United States, told Reuters at the time of Trump's election: Breitbart started interviews with European journalists " to join the planned sites of Breitbart France and Breitbart Germany. ", the agency reports. The aim is to help the election of right-wing politicians in these two European countries, where anti-immigrant opinion is on the rise. This is an important aid in view of the effectiveness of the methods of post-truth, a modest neologism, not to say manipulation of truth and lies, of which Breitbart has made himself, with all shame drunk, the master. The time for salads has come.