Evidence, expertise, and facts in a “post-truth” society

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The Oxford English Dictionary may have made post-truth its word of the year, but the events of 2016 were not a rejection of knowledge.

Are we now living in a post-truth, post-factual society? Is 2016 set to become known as the year when experts, and the evidence they wield, were sent packing?

Admittedly it looks that way. The UK’s former justice secretary Michael Gove attempted to play the crowd in the last days of June’s EU referendum campaigning, with the retort that “people in this country have had enough of experts.” His contention was widely challenged, as were the misleading claims about an extra £350m (€410m; $440m) a week for the NHS that would be saved by exiting the EU, and the wave of immigration that would be prompted by Turkey’s fictitious EU membership plan. Then the proponents of these statements triumphed in the referendum. And in December 2015, Donald Trump won the US fact-checking organisation Politifact’s Lie of the Year, cited among other things for claiming “whites killed by blacks–81%” (it’s 16%); less than a year later he won the presidential election.

Read the rest of Tracey’s editorial piece in the BMJ: Evidence, expertise, and facts in a “post-truth” society (9 Dec 2016)

Published: 12 December 2016