Numbers > Number 18 > Post-truth, media and power. A problem for the humanities1
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ISSN: 1885-365X

Post-truth, media and power. A problem for the humanities1

16 de noviembre de 2021
30 de noviembre de 2021

Abstract

The article explores the concept of post-truth, its definition and relationship with the media and social networks as a discursive and cognitive category, as well as the impact and its translation in the epistemological, communicational and ethical-political spheres; and, the consequences it has for democracy and citizenship. The relationship of post-truth with emotions, postmodernity and relativism is analysed, in opposition to critical and logical-rational thought, facilitated by the neoliberal economy that dismantles citizenship and the ethical-political need to recover the truth for the healthy functioning of the social fabric and democracy.

1. Introduction
1.1 Post-truth: What are we talking about?

To begin talking about this concept, it is important to try to establish a minimum theoretical framework that allows us to delimit the path along which we are going to proceed. The prefix “pos” or “post” of “pos(t)truth” does not so much refer us to a question of chronology or dialectical overcoming, but to the irrelevance into which the truth (and the truth) of facts have fallen in the post-truth era. Is it a lie or a fallacy? Of what kind and to what degree would it be, and what would be the purpose of ethics, journalism and communicators through traditional and digital media? What role will facts, evidence, theoretical frameworks and critical thinking play in this post-truth era? The Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE) defines post-truth as “the deliberate distortion of a reality that manipulates beliefs and emotions in order to influence public opinion and social attitudes” (Post-Truth, n.d.). The Cambridge Dictionary (Post-Truth, n.d. a. ) considers post-truth to be related to a situation in which people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts. For the English Oxford Living Dictionary (n.d.b.), post-truth relates to or denotes circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than those appealing to emotion or personal belief. The two Anglo-Saxon dictionary definitions are not only very similar to each other, but basically aim to separate facts on the one hand, and emotions and beliefs on the other hand, to underline that the latter have a greater impact on the shaping of public opinion or audience. The Spanish source, on the other hand, refers to a deliberate distortion of reality by the enunciator with the preponderant intention of manipulating, and thus lying or misrepresenting. In this sense, post-truth would be close to the idea of Fake News, the latter being part of the universe of the former, and not synonyms, as we shall see (Brisman, 2018; Caridad-Sebastían, Morales-García, Martínez-Cardama & García López, 2018; Carrera, 2018; Carlson, 2018; Carson & Farhall, 2018; Hannan, 2018; Himma-Kadakas, 2017; McIntyre, 2018; Müller Spinelli & de Almeida Santos, 2018; Palomo & Sedano, 2018; Slavtcheca-Petko- va, 2018; Waisbord, 2018).

Post-truth, by including fake news, alludes to a much broader problematic spectrum (for example: epistemological, ontological-political, ethical-political, among others) than fake news (communicative, journalistic, among others). Hence, when operating together, fake news feeds post-truth. “Fake or fabricated news is disseminated expressly to earn money through “clicks” and “views”, and it is also used to mislead and misinform” (Cooke, 2018:VII). From this follows the conjecture that objective facts in the post-truth regime are less decisive than personal opinions or emotions in the formation of personal judgement and public opinion (Villena, 2017). Says Hannan, “the problem with focusing on fake news as the culprit of a post-truth world is that it does not explain what is promo- ting fake news” (2018:224). For McIntyre, “post-truth amounts to a form of ideological supremacy, through which its practitioners attempt to force someone to believe some- thing, whether there is evidence in favour of that belief or not” (2018:42).

Although post-truth as a socio-cultural-historical-historical-political-economic phenomenon has always been linked to the exercise of power, nowadays its emergence acquires new and dangerous nuances due to the impact of social networks in the hyper-connected world we live in, where power is decentralised to make it ubiquitous, diffuse, confused, without limits, as are some of the characteristics of the digital. In other words, post-truth acquires other complex functions, because with digital culture, which encompasses cyberspace, cyber-time, cyber-anthrope, it produces and reproduces the hyperreality in which we live (Haidar, 2018:2).

It should be noted that ethics and politics cannot remain immune to these types of communicative and informational practices due to the connotations that derive from them for decision-making in their daily lives as human beings, professionals, public-audience, consumers, voters, producers of knowledge, dispensers of justice, designers of public policies, citizens who make decisions regarding activities aimed at the common good, democratic coexistence and sustainable development, among other social roles. Closely related to the RAE’s definition of post-truth, Gelfert considers “that any definition of fake news is related to different forms of public disinformation and distortions in the communicative process” (2018:95). For Caridad-Sebastían et al. (2018:893–894), on the other hand, post-truth is due to a complex phenomenon in which three key elements coincide: 1) citizen habits shaped by access to and use of information; 2) the social and economic polarisation that spectacular capitalism has produced; and 3) the technological context and circumstances that affect practically all areas of citizens’ lives, thus producing a new culture. This complexity shows that the definitions, similarities and differences between fake news and post-truth are not so easy to establish and delimit. What cannot be denied, as Waisbord points out, is that “neither fake news nor post-truth is strictly about journalism. They are, however, indicative of fluid conditions in public communication globally that have destabilised modern assumptions about news and truth” (2018:1868). We can also agree that the post-truth society moves mainly in social networks (Cebrián, 2018). But since it does not exist only there in a neutral way, without causing effects and consequences in the lives of human beings, its control and surveillance is not only the responsibility of the people who work in the media where it circulates, but of all citizens (Marcos et al., 2017:22). This, together with the fact that the major political (states and governments) and economic (transnationals and mass media) powers are the main propagators (not without the conscious and unconscious help of citizens) and beneficiaries of fake news in this post-truth era. Thus, political truths have a high emotional component that is based on factors beyond a historical, economic and sociological analysis, or on an analytical reflection on global geopolitics, the capitalist economic system with its conditions and cycles of behaviour, the concrete conditions of education, the sociological-economic explanation of poverty or the conditions of competition resulting from globalisation. Political truths focus on the attack and defamation of an alleged perpetrator or enemy, which is constructed with manipulated data and, above all, images and audio that, thanks to their verisimilitude, seem irrefutable (Lomelí, 2019:359).

It is therefore no coincidence that fake news is born and its distribution begins in the highest spheres of power, leaving the function of reproduction and massive or global redistribution to the users of social networks through the internet.

2. Disinformation and misuse of information. Social media

Is contemporary post-truth a new regime of lies? Let us start from the premise that neither lies, nor fallacies, nor fake news are new, but our consumption and use of in- formation in this digital era at the beginning of the 21st century has a relevance and characteristics never seen before. For González de Requena, “this transition to a post-truth situation can be attributed to the erosion of community ties and obligations, without which selfish interests have no qualms about resorting to lies. Also contributing to post-truth is the rise of imposture in some professional practices…” (2019:99). When Donald Trump said: “I have the most loyal people, have you ever seen anything like that? I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters” (US Elections, 2016). These are cognitive biases related to post-truth (McIntyre, 2018:63-84), which social networks have helped to massify and reproduce as success stories – without any ethical consideration – of both post-truth and fake news. This is why it is important for González de Requena to differentiate between telling a lie or the lie of the statement and lying or the lie of the enunciation (2019:100). “Social media has played an important role in facilitating the emergence of post-truth, but again, this is more of a tool than an outcome” (McIntyre, 2018:135). For Villena, “the internet offered the promise of being an agora and contributing to the art of debate characteristic of democracy” (2017:20). There is compelling evidence that after the election of Trump as president of the United States and the British Brexit referendum in 2016, post-truth and the emergence of fake news on social networks have served to refer to the former from the swarming and frequency with which the latter makes its presence felt (Brum- mette, DiStaso & Gelfert, 2018; Hannan, 2018; McIntyre, 2018; Mihailidis & Viotty, 2017; Sphor, 2017; Vafeidais & Messner, 2018; Waisbord, 2018). We start from the fact that neurobiology and neuroeconomics (Glimcher & Fehr, 2013; Glimcher, 2013; Gazzinga et al., 2013) in particular, as well as neuroscience in general, have shown that neither emotions are per se negative nor does the supposed dichotomy between emotion and reason prevail (Damasio, 2005:2001). However, emotions in the post-truth terrain take centre stage in the decisions that shape the world, over and above facts, the verdict of reason and self-criticism. We have neither become more critical nor is the information we share more free of ideology, prejudices and stereotypes; on the contrary, it has led to an exacerbation of narcissism, superficiality and a rampant impoverishment of communication (Stein, 2016), which works against democracy and citizenship in many different ways, for as we will see below, “emotions play an important role in the outcome of our political processes” (Lupia & Menning, 2007:355). Post-truth assumes the inexistence of useful criteria to corroborate what is true and what is not, hence it can approach propaganda, of which, by the way, populism has always found a great ally. For Arditi, populism is something we must conceive of as a turbulent part of democratic politics itself (2010:145–146).

By propaganda we understand “the deliberate and systematic dissemination of messages aimed at a specific audience and aimed at creating a positive or negative image of certain phenomena (people, movements, institutions, etc.) and at stimulating certain behaviours” (Bobbio, Matteucci and Pasquino, 2011:1298). What propaganda seeks to disseminate by exercising power anti-democratically in this post-truth era are cognitive responses, preferably coming from the affective and emotional side, that is, from the most fickle or volatile part of hyper-connected citizens/consumers. For Lomelí, “the digitalisation of the media has altered the processes of construction of political truth and, therefore, of its rationality” (2019:347), to such a degree that he considers post-truth and psychopolitics practically synonymous, the latter being understood as the combination of the audiovisual spectacularisation of political forms, communication through discourses and representations having social networks (especially Facebook and Twitter) as a medium mainly based on neuromarketing and affectivity (Lee, Broderick and Chamberlain, 2007), as seen in the cases of Trump’s election and Brexit. Han refers to this as microtargeting, i.e.

The praxis of the data-driven microphysics of power; intelligent algorithms that make it possible to predict voter behaviour and optimise speeches. Individualised speeches are barely distinguishable from personalised advertisements. Voting and buying, the state and the market, the citizen and the consumer are becoming increasingly similar (Han, 2014a:95).

In this sense, we could say that post-truth is constructed by psychopolitics and they feed back on each other, a scenario conducive to demagogy and populism. Not surpri- singly, Depaula and Dincelli consider that “social networks are used for the adoption and distribution of visual symbols to communicate specific social values” (2018, para.9), which are manipulable, sharable and with which citizens easily identify without much science. Han states that “with the help of forecasts (based on algorithms and micro- targeting), it anticipates actions and even acts before them instead of hindering them. Thus, neoliberal psychopathology is a technological and intelligent politics that seeks to please rather than to subdue (2014b:57).

3. The world and post-truth

For a non-true news story to succeed and be believed, it generally needs to appear to be true, otherwise the chances of mass success and of being considered relevant, reliable and timely information would lose followers, audience and news consumers willing to validate and redistribute the message it contains. That is, that what is false, even though it is false, can be interpreted as credible because it makes sense within the mental framework of referentiality and significance (semantics). True facts and false news stories compete in the same framework with their respective biases in the communicative arena, where citizen readers, radio listeners or internet users navigate between formats and content, with their senses and discernment alert to everything that can arouse emotions, first, and perhaps arouse their interest in discovering and reflecting on facts, later. The information that the subject stops to review is usually that which allows them to match their pre-existing beliefs with their feelings, i.e. what McIntyre calls “cognitive bias” (2018:63–84). This cognitive bias, in which the receiver dismisses information that does not match his or her beliefs in order to assume and take as true that which does, is known as the “backfire effect” (Nyhan & Reifler, 2010). Often, “this reader does not even seek verification of what is narrated or of the media’s interpretation; it is enough that it could be true” (Rodrigo-Alsina & Cerqueira, 2019:228). This bias not only undermines the reader’s or user’s possibility of accessing true information content, but also, as the truth is manipulated, both the communicative and cognitive functions are negatively altered, which sooner or later affects the credibility and trust that could be established with the media and information sources. Likewise, as we have mentioned, “social networks are an alternative to the communication that is gestated in the different centres of economic, political or communicational power, and allow us to contrast the information that is disseminated from these centres” (Rodrigo-Alsina & Cerqueira, 2019:231), but the citizens themselves, once they have received this information, make it known by distributing it, thus giving it validity on many occasions. Although not always. “Facts make sense in terms of their frame system, or they will be ignored” (Lakoff, 2010:73). This makes it clear that such a frame system serves as an organiser of reality. This is referred to as framing theory by Sádaba Garranza (2001). McIntyre is convinced that “when we are emotionally engaged with a subject, all the experimental evidence shows that our ability to reason well is likely to be impaired” (2018:77). This vital emotionality may be allowing consumers of fake news to imagine themselves living in magical worlds, made possible in large part by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. David Villena translates the following as stating: “let us think that reality is the way we want it to be, no matter what the specialists say about how the facts are. Beliefs have to conform to emotions and desires, not to empirical evidence, not to the outside world” (2017:19). Might populist political leaders be tempted to make this a government agenda? This form of communication “is based on media targeting and the search for one or more people responsible for misfortunes, not necessarily in a factual-analytical sense, but simply as a form of distraction based on the construction or interpretation of a problem with its consequent solution” (Lomelí, 2019:359). We infer that in the post-truth world, what is important is not the facts but that the information fits my emotions and beliefs in such a way that it results in a satisfactory experience, but is this how the vast majority of citizens think, is it the majority or just the minority who have access to and frequently use social networks? For Villena, “truth is an issue to which we are indifferent today. What matters is what it feels like. What matters is to be liked” (2017:21). This is an epistemic shift in terms of the relationship we establish with facts and the importance we as citizens attach to the truth, manipulated or not (Frankfurt, 2006; González de Re- quena, 2019; Keyes, 2004). But the lie is only consolidated as long as there is a receiver-consumer, let’s call it public(s) or audience(s), willing to reinforce their own beliefs and the common misinformation of web hoaxes (Cooke, 2017), that is, ‘entangled’ in self-referential and self-congratulatory discourses, however false and misleading (Cruz, 2017; Harsin, 2015). To this Lomelí adds.

And the belief in a solution is also embodied in a person or group, who are presented as the only political force capable of reversing threatening situations and protecting the abstraction that constitutes “the people”. As a result, the defamatory manipulation of information, disqualifications and are a series of contents that rather than appealing to analysis and reflection, provoke visceral and poorly thought-out reactions due to immediacy (2019:359).

For Daniel Dennett, postmodern thought is largely responsible for this because it disdains the importance of discourse on facts and truth, extolling relativism to an excessive degree from philosophy itself, establishing parallels between truth, on the one hand, and dogmatism and authoritarianism, on the other. Political philosophy which, at least in the West, for Manrique “has been crossed by an anxiety in the face of the threatening force of an orphan and wandering discourse that circulates without conscience and without referent […] And the withdrawal of reason and truthfulness from politics” (2019:151). For Haidar, “post-truth is a category that relates in a complex way to other similar categories such as post-modernism, post-structuralism, post-functionalism, post-colonial, among other epistemological constructions permeated by the cognitive crisis of the late twentieth century” (2018:2), which implies that citizens relate to language in very different ways. This has contributed to the fact that between cynicism and openness of thought (anti-dogmatism), the borders are systematically diluted, as well as critical thinking and intelligence (Cadwalladr, 2017). Added to this is the fact that it is accepted and the fact that it is accepted (Haidar, 2018). This can be very dangerous as the post-truth discourses that move in social networks and other more traditional media, despite being based on sophistry, fraud and deception, do not cease to occur as part of the content of arguments (ethos) through logos (verbalising, rhetoricising and making use of language and speech) and pathos (provoking a reaction in the recipient of the message), resulting in a mere performance of verisimilitude or the possible in hyper-connected hyper-reality, which ultimately betrays trust (Carson, 2010). Han considers that

Digital communication is distinguished by the fact that information is produced, sent and received without the mediation of intermediaries. It is not directed and filtered by mediators. The intermediate instance is eliminated forever […]. Media such as blogs, Twitter or Facebook liquidate the mediation of communication, they demediatise it (2014b:33-34).

Fragmentary messages are based on preconceived ideas by the issuers, with very poor content as well as false or fallacious, usually unconnected and ambiguous, intentionally disseminated in this way to be associated and followed emotionally and without rational analysis (occasionally interpreted and critically reflected upon) by users/citizens, often reproduced virally until they become popular imaginaries that shape identities as volatile as the message itself, and as mouldable and manipulable as propaganda and post-truth, always adjusted to the rationality of the neoliberal economy and the logic of the market with its times of repetition and immediacy. “It is not through ideology, but through affects that the public is mobilised to act politically” (Grusin, 2010, p.77). But this type of information consumption rarely manages to configure a collective use that politically mobilises the citizens of a nation or of several nations in the face of a national, regional or global problem; on the contrary, it perhaps gives rise to chains of “likes”, “tweets”, or individual and atomised efforts in physical space with minimal or no impact, which is not what should be expected in a democracy. Perhaps we need to add the suffix “pos(t)” to the word “populism” to reflect on this “form” of government, for it is another populism, one that has also been reached by audiovisual technology, the media and the cyber-nautical world of the internet, where psychopolitics and post-truth are paradigmatically interwoven, shaping the social magma in accordance with neoliberal-transnational economic logic and its correlates: the spectacular language-neuromarketing and the quantitative population structuring of big data and qualitative microtargeting, which has as a corollary “non-analytical and non-rational cultural imaginaries, which are useful for the mobilisation of the masses” (Lomelí, 2019, pp.360–361). But would technocracy and technocrats operate very differently from populists in this regime of post-truth, social networks and audiovisual management of information with their constituents (citizens) and in terms of political rationality? Wouldn’t both the populist (left- or right-wing demagogue?) and the technocrat (liberal or conservative and republican or parliamentarian?) actually govern in a very similar way in this post-truth regime?

4. Post-truth: Ethics, citizenship and democracy

For Rodrigo-Alsina and Cerqueira, “journalism without ethics ceases to be journalism; it can be propaganda, a fictional account or news that should not have been published” (2019:229). For the reasons and examples we have seen, distributing fake news and justifying a post-truth regime as legitimate, violates the basic rights of citizens, as much or more than if rights such as freedom of expression, association and thought were affected, especially if it is assumed that we live in a democratic regime where human and citizens’ rights, including “freedom of information” (the right to be well informed) are not fully respected. There must be a commitment and an ethical responsibility (Karam, 2014) between the production, distribution and redistribution (consumption) of (news) information because it is knowledge (Vizeu, 2014) that will most likely flow into the social fabric (Genro Filho, 1987), i.e. where the possibility of social justice is at stake every day (Guareschi, 2000). For Karam, the deontological role of ethics consists in “the pro- visional crystallisation of the moral world, validated by ethical reflection, into concrete social norms, formal principles and, in some cases, legal norms” (2014:34). While on the side of responsibility and under the influence of Max Weber, Charaudeau states:

What interests us is to be able to define an ethics of responsibility for media discourse within a pragmatic framework of action and influence. This requires lucidity, i.e., an awareness of the contract of action, of the room for manoeuvre available and of the effects produced by the very components of this framework of conditioning. It seems to us that this type of ethics can form part of this specificity of media information discourse (…) (2003:302).

If this ethic of responsibility is not assumed in the post-truth era, we may have to settle for the ethic of conviction as the dominant moral force, due to the connection that could exist between emotions and the loyalty of the audience in question (Rodrigo-Alsina & Cerqueira, 2019:233-234). Consequently, we would enter – or continue to enter – an abyss in which the dissemination and practice of critical thinking, and the citizen debate proper to communication governed by ethical criteria as part of the democratic order, could be replaced by an emotive negotiation to be counted by “likes” on Facebook.

5. Post-truth, humanities and education in the post-truth era

What would happen if lying were to be assumed as a universal principle and the ability to tell the truth neutralised? With what authority could it be taught in school and what moral duty to educate would be feasible without undermining human dignity and freedom? (Kant & Constant, 2012:5-8, 37–41) For what political regime will young students be educated where language and culture are replaced by images and sounds artificially crea- ted and reproduced by machines, and decisions are made on the basis of feelings rather than reasons? Freedom and unrestricted access to and dissemination of information should not be confused. At least criteria – if not of an epistemological nature decided autonomously – of an ethical nature should prevail. Lying is to be condemned not so much for its lack of truth- fulness, but for violating the dignity of both the one who lies and the one who falls prey to the lie, for it is the stability of public life, common knowledge and social habitus that are at stake (Montaigne, 1998:418–419). We citizens make decisions that affect our lives, the lives of others and other forms of life, as well as those of other living beings and generations to come, so democracy and “anything goes” relativism (Vattimo, 2017) as postmodern realpolitik should not be legitimised as if they were synonyms. Greater access to information in less time does not necessarily mean being better informed; in fact, as we have seen, it often means living uninformed or misinformed. Falsehood and truthfulness mean something in the public space, not only because this is where the communicative conditions of society derive from, but also because this is where the trust and moral actions of citizens take place (Baron, 2018:9–12). Lying, however rational it may seem, affects humanity. Grotius claimed that ‘there is lying only when the right of the one with whom we communicate is infringed; in particular, if we affect the freedom to judge which is presupposed in our interlocutors and which binds us mutually’ (1925:289–290). It is not possible to pursue the good – even if it is desired – if the rationality of our civic actions, that is, tho- se that affect others, are based on lies, deceit, simulation, disinformation or post-truth as we have been explaining it, because only by accident would we be hitting the common good. The liar appeals to the listener’s trust. It is imperative that citizens trust in the “moral goals” that are rationally justified in the social and cultural imaginary, as this is the only way to ensure solidarity and social cooperation, the unavoidable contents of any democracy (Shiffrin, 2014). Hannah Arendt said that: “the ideal object of totalitarian domination is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom there is no longer any distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. empirical reality) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. norms of thought)” (2004:574). Deception damages any subjective practice related to truthfulness, as all socially shared content will be infected with lies, falsehood and inaccuracy in the false expectation of truth, impacting on all exchange of information and transmission of communication in the space of the speakers and the representations that the latter make of the world, especially of their most surrounding and immediate world, that in which their own decisions and those of the local representatives or public authorities (politicians) have the greatest impact on the environment. For Cooke.

In an era where ‘tweets’ and Facebook ‘statuses’ are reported as news, internet users need to be competent and intelligent information users; information consumers should be able to be prepared to critique the ‘news’ that is being conveyed, as well as being able to search for and find information that is not being conveyed, or otherwise prioritise (2018:2).

This of course requires specific skills and knowledge that so far do not form part of an established educational tradition, and even less in line with a critical approach. With regard to students who spend significant time on the internet and social networks, from the curricula and appealing to a certain level of “competences” and cross-cutting skills, that is, regardless of the degree they are studying at university level, they should be taught literacy skills as internet users (Cooke, 2018; Elmborg, 2006; Eisenberg et al. 2004; Bawden, 2008; Bawden & Robinson, 2002; Buckingham, 2013; Hobbs, 2011; De Abreu, 2010; Jacobson & Mackey, 2016, 2013; Mackey & Jacobson, 2014, 2011; Witek & Grettano, 2014). Education and the dis- courses that circulate therein are no strangers to all of the above; on the contrary, post-truth calls into question their epistemic reliability (González de Requena, 2019:114), and the values and knowledge that are to be generated, transmitted and (re)produced in the academic and school space regardless of the grade level.

Education also responds to this user-client logic and has been reduced to training for work; there is no promotion of critical thinking, ethical discernment or any effort to forge a civic conscience. It is merely the development of skills and techniques to insert this hedonistic user into the labour market (Villena, 2017:24).

When we talk about the importance of critical thinking in the humanities and education, a fundamental practice or knowledge to acquire and develop as a cognitive skill is the ability to be indignant in the face of injustice caused by decisions or actions of powerful actors whose consequences result or may result in damage and harm to citizens directly or indirectly. This “competence” is one that needs to be developed in educational institutions in order to deal with the effects of post-truth. Han says.

Indignation is not capable of action or narration (it is immediate and constant, without memory). Rather, it is an affective state that does not develop any powerful force of action. The general distraction, which characterises today’s society, does not allow the epic energy of anger to emerge. […] The current indignant crowd is very fleeting and dispersed (2014a:22–23).

Philosophical reflection on the relations and exchanges between politics, truth and rationality must be reincorporated as theoretical-practical knowledge in particular in humanities and social science programmes, and in general in the branches of scientific and pedagogical-educational studies, from which more particular specialised programmes emerge. Perhaps it is even more so in those where the above has been blatantly discarded because it does not ideologically suit the theoretical, conceptual and methodological (epistemological and casuistic) frameworks of teaching (which also align themselves with the lowest postmodern relativism); and in turn, those of the economic-administrative and financial sciences, taken up again in a critical and emphatic manner. This is because a voluntarist relativism is not enough to bring about the necessary change to abandon – or at least weaken – this hegemonic and fallacious sphere of post-truth in which we live. In support of humanities education, citizenship and democracy, Nussbaum considers that.

Education is not just for citizenship. It prepares people for employment and, more importantly, for meaningful lives […] All modern democracies […] are societies in which the meaning and ultimate goals of human life are matters of disagreement among citizens who hold many religious and secular views, and these citizens will naturally differ about the extent to which various kinds of humanistic education serve their own particular goals. What we cannot disagree on is that young people everywhere, in any fortunate nation that is sufficiently democratic, must grow up to be participants in a form of government in which people are informed about crucial issues that they will address as voters, and at times, as elected or appointed officials […] Without the support of properly educated citizens, no democracy can remain stable (2010:9).

6. Conclusions

Post-truth is to live almost permanently in a world without foundations or axiological foundations on which to base one’s own behaviour, in uncertainty as the only certainty, where every human being exercises the use of words beyond the intention of truthful- ness and falsehood at the same time, simply as a result of an instinct or spontaneous feeling to say something about anything, without any real dialogue, speaking or conversation taking place. In this way, the possibility of understanding each other and, there- fore, of exercising our citizenship in the public space – let alone in the “private” space of social networks – does not and will not come close to a minimum of democratic responsibility for those who live in the city and would like to be able to act in favour of the realisation of the common good and social justice. It is not possible to set this as a goal, to act accordingly and not to be truthful. Post-truth is in fact nothing more than a chain of post-lies and meta-fallacies. If post-truth has been successfully installed, it is due to its global acceptance and the crisis of credibility and values, to the ease with which it is digitally manipulated, and to the lack of critical thinking and willingness to discern that information required from readers and cybernauts, that is, from the citizens who inhabit this planet at the beginning of the 21st century. Getting excited will always be easier than making an effort to think critically, to investigate the sources and authors from which the message originates and the information is generated. Haidar states, “what has been produced by globalisation, which spreads crises of all kinds, is that subjects are trapped, chained, but embedded in a tranquillity and happiness of the simulacrum, of hyperreality” (2018:14). It is true that the last thing a Latin American country needs at this time is a populist government/political leader to improve the quality of democracy and representation before the citizens who live in that society, but, returning to the question posed in the development of this work, about whether the performance – let alone that of a “technocrat” – of a ruler whose political orientation follows the liberal logic would be different or very different, can we continue to be “liberal” and simultaneously assume ourselves as democratic citizens living in a democracy? We have plenty of evidence and indices that indicate that Latin America’s incipient democracies are showing signs of systematic and growing deterioration (Corporación Latinobarómetro, 2017, 2018). In addition to these data on the contemporary panorama of Latin America, perhaps beyond populists and technocrats, what should concern us about this post-truth regime is the rise and return of authoritarianisms that, among other things, blatantly reject the rules of the democratic game, deny the legitimacy of their political opponents, do not hesitate to promote violence and restrict the freedoms of their opponents and those who favour them (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 2018; Todorov, 2012). How do we build or think of another world beyond post-truth, if both the revolution to take power and the necessary transformation of the state into the hands of the people do not seem feasible at the moment? It is urgent to restructure teaching based on critical thinking and considering the literacy media so that citizens can recover and rebuild their social and political life with dignity.

 

 

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