In defence of post-truth politics

Why should people who vote with their hearts be dismissed as delusional writes Claire Fox in the Spectator

Donald Trump’s shock US election victory has provoked a transatlantic howl of disbelief from a cosmopolitan elite aghast that American voters have had the temerity to reject its one true liberal world-view. Hillary Clinton’s loss is seen less as the rightful humiliation of a discredited machine politician and more as proof that the masses have, once again, rejected ‘the facts’ of the situation. To this elite, installing the Donald in the White House represents the apocalyptic dawn of a ‘post-factual era’.

After all, Hillary Clinton’s chief weapon against Trump was an army of fact-checkers. Instead of attempting to defeat his arguments by the power of her own, she encouraged voters watching the debate to look up ‘the facts’ on ‘I hope the fact-checkers are turning up the volume,’ she insisted at one point. ‘Please, fact-checkers, get to work.’

The retort by Jeffrey Lord, one of Trump’s most prominent media supporters, was to describe fact-checking as ‘an out-of-touch, elitist media-type thing’ and that has resonated. For while his infamous 3 a.m. tweets might have contained wild fabrications — Politifact calculated that more than 70 per cent of Trump’s statements were ‘mostly false’, ‘false’, or ‘pants on fire false’ — still Clinton was not able to martial her ‘facts’ to trounce him. Commentators over here have rushed to the airwaves to denounce American voters who embraced him as presenting a serious problem for democracy: a populist demos not interested in the truth, too easily swept away by conspiracy theories and the emotive hyperbole spouted by a demagogue.

I’m no fan of Trump but we might take a step back before drawing dangerous anti-democratic lessons from the result. Let’s consider the debate closer to home. Michael Gove’s now-notorious claim that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’ continues to provoke outrage months after he made it, interpreted, as it was, as a rebuke to empirical research. As someone who finds the prevailing relativism ‘there’s no such thing as truth’ galling, perhaps I should be signing up to fight post-truth politics — but the present obsession with condemning post-truthers makes me queasy.

Read the full article here.