An Honest Conversation About Post-Truth

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BY NEIL GRASSO

Assistant News Editor

Students, faculty members, and local community members gathered in the Martire Theatre on April 2 to participate in An Honest Conversation About Post-Truth.

The event was a part of the Human Journey Colloquia Series and was sponsored by the School of Communication, Media & the Arts (SCMA).

The discussion was moderated by SCMA professor Bill Yousman, and featured guest speaker Lee McIntyre.

McIntyre is a research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University, as well as an Instructor of Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He also is the author of several books; most recently, he published a book in 2018 titled “Post-Truth.”

McIntyre defined the concept of post-truth as the political subordination of reality. He referenced multiple examples in which the concept is prevalent in modern day American politics, including Donald Trump’s comments on the size of his Jan. 2017 presidential inauguration, as well as his reasoning for not cancelling campaign rallies after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that occurred in Oct. of 2018.

In these two instances, McIntyre cited the specific statements that Trump made that were later proven to be false by multiple media outlets.

In the case of the inauguration, Trump stated that it had the highest attendance in history. Trump’s statement was proven to be a lie after photo and video evidence comparing the crowd sizes between the 2017 inauguration and President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 emerged.

According to McIntyre, Trump also altered the truth in the aftermath of the massacre in Pittsburgh when he stated that the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) remained open the day after 9/11. This is also not true – the NYSE reopened six days after the events of 9/11.

In both instances, media outlets and individual reporters made efforts to inform both the public and Trump himself that these statements he made were inaccurate.

McIntyre went on to express his belief that Trump did not care about his inaccuracies being blasted by the media, for the lies he told had already served their intended purpose.

“That’s post-truth. It’s lying with the expectation that you’re going to get away with it because the person you’re lying to can’t do anything about it,” said McIntyre. “I think it’s dangerous.”

McIntyre also discussed the issues of science denial and corrupt PR tactics employed by major corporations with specific political agendas.

Sacred Heart students enrolled in business and communications programs expressed their gratitude for McIntyre’s presence and the lessons he provided.

“The one thing I took away from this lecture is that the reality we face is socially constructed by the media around us,” said Sydney Santos, a junior communications major. “My mind was blown with the speaker said that ‘your truth’ will not be the same as ‘my truth’ due to our different backgrounds and experiences. It is scary knowing that the media and political figures have the power to dominate our reality.”

Communications professor Jane Paley felt as though the colloquium provoked multiple emotions at the same time.

“The Post-Truth discussion was simultaneously depressing and enlightening,” said Paley. “The message is urgent: choose facts over feelings.”

McIntyre concluded his discussion with Professor Yousman with advice regarding how to fight the disinformation produced by post-truth tactics.

“I think we should be worried enough to take action. For one thing – support the truth tellers,” said McIntyre.

“Don’t just hide behind the paywall and get the ten free articles from the New York Times. Buy the subscription. If you want to support good investigative journalism, pay for it. That’s one important thing you can do. Support people who are supporting the truth telling.”

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