2016 has been an anomaly. Political turmoil has punctuated the year, most recently culminating in an unprecedented US election race. With Brexit in June and Trump becoming President-Elect in November, how on earth do you pick one word to encapsulate it all?
Such a thankless job falls into the hands of the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. This year’s contenders included: alt-right; Brexiteer and the refreshingly non-political coulrophobia (the fear of clowns).
It was decided post-truth is the word that best captures the events of this tumultuous year, but what exactly does it mean? The Oxford dictionary defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
It was a sharp departure from the previously humorous choices of 2015 and 2014 which were the ‘crying with laughter’ emoji and vape respectively. Maybe 2016 has been a reality check of sorts for us. People are fiercely unpredictable and this year’s choice is a demonstration of that. Who’s going to listen to the facts of the intellectual elite when a growing number are living from pay-cheque to pay-cheque; post-truth perfectly captures the change in attitude towards politics in 2016.
The dictionary publishers said it reflected a “highly charged” past twelve months. Both Trump and the Brexit campaign’s success came as a surprise to many, and in this post-truth world of politics, appeals to emotion and feeling appear to be gaining more weight than hard facts.
Disaffection with the establishment has not just been limited to individual countries. Anti-intellectualism has entered the global stage this year and with an imminent controversial referendum in Italy on December 4th wishing to bring about constitutional change, maybe we’re about to get another cold serving of post-truth before the year is out.