Post truth – defined as facts being distorted by prejudice and perception – is shaping a Global Order based on an imagined reality. In Cyber Space, platforms functioning under the benign euphemism of ‘Social Media’, can minimise the role of Russia-led forces in liberating Europe in World War II, create mythical “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, or even induce global mass hysteria over a viral epidemic.
In the process, the red lines separating villain and victim is blurred by the psychological onslaught over new social media creations. The weapons are on the Internet platform, and they range from Facebook to Twitter, and the effect is felt from Tunisia to China.
While empires have in the past sought to propagate and enforce their values, rewrite history and influence opinion, the reach and potency of the new mediums of communication have only in recent times taken a quantum leap, with the advent of the Internet and innovative tools and methods.
Marshal McLuhan would have been gratified to know just how prescient he was when he spoke of the ‘Medium being the Message’.
The narratives flowing through the new medium – ‘the Social Media’ – are all part of the emerging World Order that is perpetuating the injustices of the past and nurturing new inequities, while enforcing the rights of stronger nations over the weaker.
The objective is to influence public opinion, create an environment for a revolt against an established order and revive colonialism in new and sophisticated forms; not seeking, as in the past, physical control of territory, but instead, to dominate domestic markets of weaker nations for goods and services.
The medium and the message have never been as effective, or as vicious.
The message comes couched in universal, traditional values of democracy and freedom, but tweaked in both subtle and blatant ways to thwart national interest of the newly re-colonised.
The instruments to enforce the new dominion remain the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and its ilk, to which have been added the dictates of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on the fragile economies of the developing world, international judicial systems that try only the weak nations and never the powerful, as well as environmental alliances protecting the interests of the industrialised over those aspiring to catch up.
These values are being mirrored across a swathe of nations, from the US in the New World, to the UK in the Old World, where their leaderships echo a common, illiberal agenda.
The hitherto universally accepted and largely respected standards of societal functioning, founded on Judeo Christian civilisational values of justice, equity and diversity – that laid the grounds for Pax America following the two World Wars – are now under threat from the neo right’s social agenda.
The Judeo Christian civilisation is in fact crumbling, and not in the way Samuel Huntington imagined it, in a “Clash of Civilisations”.
Its demise is from within the confines of Western Civilisation, whose leaders now seem to redraw the contours of existing universal moral code of conduct that have more often than not provided a virtuous template to adjudicate relations between nations and indeed the behaviour of individuals.
Its chosen global platforms – such as the United Nations and its agencies, as well as the financial and legal institutions did enforce a discipline that kept chaos and anarchy in check.
Time and again – these institutions have dealt with grave human rights violations from Srebrenica to Rwanda, controlled global economic crises, overcome epidemics and now confront looming environmental threats.
But the new media is creating a virtual or parallel reality that threatens to reverse this global stability or status quo.
From the United States to the United Kingdom, this reality is becoming rooted in the illusion of a neo morality underscored by the concept of an alternate truth.
The idea of post truth, is the defining theme of the new universal order.
The latest manifestation of this world view is Brexit, the formal disassociation of Britain from the European Union. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party colleagues have fashioned a vision largely untroubled by economic logic.
Its potential to create social divisions in the UK is already evident, mirroring the discontents engulfing the US, with its President, Donald Trump embodying Post Truth even within his country through the embrace of illusion and exaggeration in the last presidential election, and in the next.
In the outside world, enhancing the reach and influence of Hollywood and the TV channels, Facebook and its ilk have successfully restricted the demonising of the Middle East’s myriad actors to a select few, with Iran and Syria in the forefront of the perceived main villains.
Russia ranks with them in being a prime target of Post Truth, from new narratives on World War II to recurring versions of sports doping.
One emerging approach in the West is the fixing blame for World War II on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which allowed Hitler to move forward without fearing a second front. But in fact, the Germans had planned the war much before this pact was signed, in a hostile environment created by the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Pact.
In the Middle East, truth has often been a casualty of conflict.
Professor Edward Said wrote in his book Culture and Imperialism: “The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism.”
This is part of the new reality being shaped through the various media forms, driven by Post Truth.
It embraces all aspects of life, including economic and environmental and sporting concerns.
In the economic sphere, the case of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, a leader in development of 5 G technology, is a narrative driven by accusations that it is a means to carry out espionage for the Chinese government.
Social and other media have been at the forefront of this narrative, now firmly planted in the public’s mind even as many countries consider implementing Huawei’s 5 G system.
In sport, Russia has been sternly punished for filling afield of the powers that be in WADA, the World Anti Doping Agency, while others in myriad sporting disciplines from athletics to cycling have been barely punished, and their host nations left untouched.
Environment and specifically Climate Change has also become part of Post Truth.
In fact, a polarised and partisan social media has become deeply involved in the manipulation of environmental data to suit narrow propaganda aims.
Truth is indeed has become the endangered species in the discourse over critical issues such as global warming.
A global architecture is being built before our eyes, based on misinformation and disinformation, dressed up to confuse data with truth. This has become the foundation of an emerging World Order, untroubled by transparency and fair play.
The challenge of the false digital narratives is central in determining the future of civilisation.
It raises the important question: What is truth?
In the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible., Pontius Pilate questions Jesus’ claim that he is ‘witness to the truth’, asking him “What is truth?”, or in Latin, ’Quid est veritas’?
But India’s Vedic scriptures may describe the present realities better.
Its concept of ‘maya’ – where things appear to be present but are not what they seem”.
The media – radio, tv, Internet have all been pressed into service to create this world of illusion for the people who inhabit the planet.
The power of the media on our psyche often results eventually in what the great English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Biographia Literaria described as a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’.
In today’s world, this concept has come to dominate discourse way beyond literature.