• Truth-Telling in a Post-Truth World

    Wednesday, June 2, 2021
    News Type

On June 17, our Great Issues, New Perspectives event, “What is Fact? What is Fiction?” features two insightful thinkers from the Dartmouth community in a discussion about the search for truth in today’s fast-paced, online world. To register for this free, virtual discussion visit the Dartmouth NEXT June event page to sign up today.

Five years ago, the selection for Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year was “post-truth.” Oxford defined the term post-truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” 

The post-truth concept has only become more powerful since 2016. In the past five years, there’s been an undeniable political tendency to deemphasize facts while promoting biased rhetoric and emotional appeals. One reason that false or misleading information has become so prolific is the ever-increasing view of social media as a trusted news source while mistrust of traditional media increases. 

Mistrust of traditional media

A 2020 Gallup poll found that the percentage of American’s with “no trust at all” in the media was at a record high. Thirty-three percent of respondents said they had no trust in mass media—a figure that was up five points from 2019. Here are a few quick stats from Gallup’s findings:

  • 9% of people polled trust mass media “a great deal”
  • 31% have “a fair amount” of trust
  • 27% of respondents had “not very much” trust
  • 33% of U.S. respondents labeled their trust of mass media as “none at all”
  • The percentage of respondents with no trust at all is at a record high, up five points since 2019

During the January 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol, rioters carved the chilling message “murder the media” into the building’s door. Some of the violent protestors also directly aimed at the media, destroying news cameras and punching a news photographer. 

Hot takes and instant information

While traditional media struggles to maintain the public’s trust, social media platforms provide an open forum for “hot takes.” The term hot take is often pejorative--it refers to a hastily produced, emphatic, and sensational reaction to a current news event. Just looking at the trending topics on a platform like Twitter will no doubt lead readers to an endless amount of hot takes from journalists, influencers, and ordinary folks alike. 

The public expectation for instant news leads content creators to churn out material as quickly as possible--often at the expense of fact-checking, proper vetting, or peer review. When combining these things with the viral nature of social media, the potential for misinformation to spread at wildfire speed is significant. 

Do you have thoughts on hot takes and instant news? Sign up for the Dartmouth NEXT event to hear what our speakers have to say. You can also Tweet your questions to @dartmouthalumni before the event--remember to use the hashtag #DartmouthNEXT. 

Rembert Browne ’09 lives at the intersection of journalism and social media

Since graduating from Dartmouth in 2009, writer Rembert Browne’s words have been seen around the internet and beyond. With impressive bylines with prominent outlets like Grantland, Vulture, and New York Magazine, Rembert is known for publishing razor-smart commentaries on topics ranging from politics to pop culture. 

Rembert now acts as the creative mind behind one of the social media platforms that made him famous. Twitter brought him on as the Creative Lead of Brand and Voice in 2019--although Browne’s LinkedIn profile irreverently states that he is the “Head of Things” at Twitter. 

Award-winning poet Dr. Joshua Bennett tells truth through art

“One of the brightest intellectual and political thinkers of a new generation.” -Jesse McCarthy    

Mellon Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Joshua Bennett examines the black experience through poetry. His acclaimed debut collection of poems, The Sobbing School, considers both Black history and contemporary Black American life. His most recent publication, Owed, is an eclectic collection that Bennett created as “poems of celebration for places and people that were denigrated.” Dartmouth grad and poet Hannah Matheson ’18 once told The Dartmouth that Bennett’s work is “political and beautiful and so necessary.” 

Join us on June 17 for the NEXT Great Issues, New Perspectives Conversation

You won’t want to miss these two dynamic Dartmouth voices getting together to take on the timely topic of fact and fiction in the age of digital storytelling. Register today to see their conversation streamed live as a part of the Great Issues, New Perspectives series.  

Dartmouth NEXT is a virtual forum of big ideas—developed to bring the best of Dartmouth straight to you. Each month we explore contemporary issues, engage in conversations around the world’s most significant challenges during virtual events streamed straight from campus and ’round the girdled earth.