The power of groupthink, The Economist, 1 julio 2017
The first thing to note is that most voters pay little attention. Those who follow politics tend to assume that everyone else does, too, but they are mistaken. According to the American National Election Study (ANES), a large survey run by Stanford and the University of Michigan and published in March, 94% of Trump voters did not attend a single political rally, speech or meeting last year. The figure for Clinton voters is 90%.
Only about a fifth of Americans pay close attention to politics, and they tend to be the most committed conservatives or liberals. For the rest, political issues are little more than “a sideshow in the great circus of life”, wrote Robert Dahl, a political scientist, in 1961. That remains true. Americans do not trust government much and expect politicians to lie; 31% of Trump voters and 36% of Clinton voters think that the American government “probably” or “definitely” knew about 9/11 in advance.
How Facebook Makes Us Dumber, Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg View, 8 enero 2016
A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information. Confirmation bias turns out to play a pivotal role in the creation of online echo chambers. This finding bears on a wide range of issues, including the current presidential campaign, the acceptance of conspiracy theories and competing positions in international disputes.
Can anything be done? The best solution is to promote a culture of humility and openness. Some people, and some communities, hold their own views tentatively; they are interested in refutation, not just confirmation. Moroever, those who manage social media (such as Google) can take steps to allow people to assess the trustworthiness of what they are seeing, though these efforts might be controversial and remain in a preliminary state.
Alternative facts in a post-truth world?, Jay Ogilvy, Stratfor Worldview, 1 febrero 2017
Yes, there are facts. We can know some things for sure and we better use our best science to discover as many objective truths as we can. But if that’s the truth, then how in the world did we get to this point of radical skepticism and cynicism bordering on nihilism? And what can we do about it? The point of dipping into the dark depths of philosophy is no less than to salvage some grasp on reality.
Cultural psychology, behavioral science, cultural anthropology, geopolitics — we have ways to understand and appreciate our differences. So the next time you hear some cynic spouting rhetoric about truthiness in a post-truth environment, gird up your loins, grant our historicity, grant our diversity, grant our proclivity to wishful thinking and our unconscious biases, but insist that in the end we’ve got ways to deal with all of these distortions: namely, careful science and a free press.
How storytelling explains world politics, from Spain to the US, Orlando D’Adamo, The Conversation, 6 febrero 2017
How is Donald Trump like the leader of Spain’s Podemos movement, a long-haired, left-wing university professor named Pablo Iglesias? It’s tempting to say he’s not. It’s quite another thing to compare Trump and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Aside from language and birthplace, Trump is basically the American Berlusconi, both political outsiders and businessmen who rose to the heights of power. The paradox is that although Trump and Iglesias are ideological opposites – and, of course, Trump says and does things that Iglesias would never even think – both leaders have employed the same narrative tactic to get where they are: political storytelling.
Here’s how it works: the more desperate and fed-up people are with hearing the same unfulfilled promises, and the more they think about how their kids will probably end up worse off than they are now, the more predisposed they are to listen, believe and vote for candidates who propose doing something different within the confines of the political system.
Lie to Me: Fiction in the Post-Truth Era, Adam Kirsch, New York Times, 15 enero 2017
The problem is that, more and more, people seem to want to be lied to. This is the flip side of “reality hunger,” since a lie, like a fake memoir, is a fiction that does not admit its fictionality. That is why the lie is so seductive: It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical. “Magical thinking” is used as an insult, but it is perhaps the most primal kind of thinking there is. The problem for modern people is that we can no longer perform this magic naively, with an undoubting faith in the reality of our inventions. We lie to ourselves now with a bad conscience. When the memoir is exposed as not having “really” happened, we want our money back.
The problem with our “post-truth” politics is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment. To call novelists liars is naïve, because it mistakes their intention; they never wanted to be believed in the first place. The same is true of demagogues.
Manuel Arias Maldonado (@goncharev) es Profesor Titular de Ciencia Política en la Universidad de Málaga. Su último libro es “La democracia sentimental. Política y emociones en el siglo XXI” (Página Indómita, 2016).