Three ways to tackle post-truth politics

17th Feb 2017 | Charlotte Browning

Last year Oxford Dictionaries named post-truth as the 2016 word of the year. Despite this definition from the word wizards, people are still debating what post-truth is and what we can do about it.

The Royal Statistical Society bravely set out to answer these questions with a panel discussion last week.

Hetan Shah, Chief Executive and chair of the discussion, said the organisations represented on the panel are “purveyors of truth.” Full Fact Director Will Moy was joined by Buzzfeed’s James Ball, Tracey Brown from Sense about Science, and Professor Helen Margetts, a specialist in the impact of the internet on news.

Watch the video below (Will’s speech starts at 34:49). 

The apathy triangle

Someone might not act because they believe what you’re asking for is too difficult, won’t matter, or it won’t work.  So if we want to counter post-truth politics, we need to break down the apathy triangle: the perception that it doesn't matter if we live in a post-truth world, it's too hard to fix, or that our solutions won't work.

So, how do we put a dent in this apathy triangle?

  1. We need to make good information easier to find and use (check out the Need to Know Project for what we're doing here).

  2. We all need to hold those in power to account for the way they use information. When statistics are used in a speech or given coverage in the news those numbers should be in the public domain. People should provide sources for their claims. Mistakes should be corrected. And we all need to challenge people who aren’t living up to those standards.

  3. We need to recognise when people who do use information well. Tackling post-truth politics requires a carrot as well as a stick.

As Will said, “We can make sure people treat us with respect because it is ultimately the ‘us’ who are at the centre of all of this.”

But, as always at Full Fact, we want you to be able to look at the source and make up your own mind. Check out Will’s talk in the video above and let us know what you think!

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