How did We Lose The Gatekeepers
Today we live in a very different political world. The traditional media has lost its powers and their dominance over news coverage. One reason for this is that the time today is “faster” than it used to be. I’m not talking about the physical (if it is physical) time we monitor with clocks, but the social times we live in. Today information moves faster and faster, and old news outlets have problems to keep up with it. People with a camera in their phones can film and upload things to social media, as they happen in their proximity.
The media was the “gatekeepers” of information and news. They went out, and sorted out the truth from false, as they gave us their detailed examination of the events. Thus, on theory, as it wasn’t in all cases, they delivered us a detailed and examined chain of events, a story. Today, in this current ever-increasing speed of social time, they are no longer able to take their time and investigate what happened. Good things need time, and truth also. Now they cannot sort out the true or false anymore; they don’t have this luxury. If their competition will publish things before them, or information is already spreading in social media, they cannot afford to stay behind and not to publish. Thus, the time window they have to examine and sort out things is becoming shorter and shorter
Another thing is that traditional news outlets are not the only players in “reporting” anymore. Social media gives the ability to report what is going on to everyone, as long as they have a camera. Anyone can speak to the masses if his post\tweet becomes viral. This raises a problem for the average person, who to trust? Who is right? Who should I believe?
Who to trust? The numbers battle.
In Israel every time there is a demonstration against something the government does, a battle for the numbers is starting. It appears that the number of demonstrators is important to everyone as it represents its social power and support. So, after every demonstration, everybody needs to address THE number of demonstrators. And then the problem begins. More right winged newspapers, either ignore the demonstration or report a small amount of participants. Left winged newspapers report a more significant number of people and push the event to the front page. Other papers, either give a different number or try to be vague about it, using vague terms like “tens of thousands.” People who participated in the demonstration claim that “they were there” so they know, and the “REAL” number was much higher than the newspapers reported, because “they are biased.” Other people who are in the opposite side of the political map, and had a demonstration against the demonstration claim that the numbers were minimal, and that all the left wing people lie because they are biased.
You as a viewer at home, cannot tell who is right or wrong. As if, the real event took place, and it is detached from the social world. “Real events” are there, but we only see interpretations of them as the real incident is forever lost in the haystack. All we can do is believe someone.
Hyperreality and Post-truth politics
This phenomenon is called “hyperreality,” and it was first coined by Jean Baudrillard. He argues that hyperreality is a situation when the real and its representations/simulations are in such a state of a blur, that we cannot distinguish between the real and not anymore. Meaning the real no longer exists, as the simulation of the real had become reality.
For example, people who watch the “Big Brother” knows it is a simulation or a situation which is not entirely real. As the viewers grow older, they might start mimicking the people who participate in these “reality” TV shows. Thus, this simulation of reality becomes a reality, as reality becomes a simulation of the simulation of reality, so nobody knows what is real or not anymore.
A good lecture of Rick Roderick about this matter gives another good example. He talks about Jurassic Park. We saw the movie, saw how the dinosaurs run around and act. If we were to see real dinosaurs, we might be disappointed. Maybe they don’t roar at all? Perhaps they don’t try to eat anything most of the time and want to sit in the sun and do nothing all day long? By that time, if we were to meet these dinosaurs, we would get upset. “Hi! These are not real dinosaurs!” but the problem is precisely that. These are the real dinosaurs, and the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park are not. But in hyperreality, we would confuse the real and the unreal. The real become unreal, as the simulation of it, becomes reality.
You choose what you belive in
This leads to a post-truth world. There is no truth, as conflicting information is apparent for almost anything that is going on. In this hyperreality-post truth decade, we are lost. We cannot know what has happened as the representations (both of signs and images) are detached and became interpretations, distorted through various mechanisms. Not only that, when a lot of different representations appear, and they contradict each other, and we cannot verify them for ourselves, all we have left is to choose blindly. The false and the real had become one. We have to decide what we think the truth is. Thus, everybody can pick something that he or she feels comfortable with. If you are from the left side of the political map, you will go with X, and if you are from the opposite camp, you will go with Y. Neither is correct nor wrong, they both chose mistakes, as the real event might have been different in the real world.
This can explain how people believe that the world is flat. How people object to vaccination and deny the evolution theory. All of these are FACTS, as they are repeatedly proven in science. But, today, facts become just another interpretation. Through the boom of information which also might be false information, people can find things on the net that fall in line with their beliefs. These beliefs are beliefs, as almost all of them are not doctors, they are not researches and have no idea what they talk about. But in this hyperreality situation, a post-truth world, they can find enough information (though it might be a lie or false) that makes them believe the un-true is true. They can also be lead to believe in false information, as we saw bots can manipulate debates.
It feels like that the truth, and reality had gone extinct. The internet is like a vast store that people can just go in and shop for different realities that suit their needs. No one cares anymore for the truth, for real information, that was carefully distilled from false information. This is because the real, becomes just another interpretation, another simulation in the vast ocean of information and possibilities. “don’t confuse them with facts,” they like to say. The problem that there are facts for everything, even if they are not true. So people are just lost unable to distinguish the true from the false.
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