Nichts als die Wahrheit: Eine postfaktische Linksammlung

Gepostet vor 27 Tagen in Kultur Politics Science Share: Twitter Facebook Mail

Seit Monaten redet man von „Post-Truth“, ein Begriff, der meines Erachtens nicht wirklich den Kern des Phänomens auch hinsichtlich von DasGeileNeueInternet trifft. Ich hatte dazu eine umfangreiche Linksammlung am Start, die ich nur lose in einem offenen TextWrangler-TXT offen hatte und aus der ich eigentlich mal einen Cut-Up-Remix basteln wollte, der in sich selbst das Konzept der „Post-Truth“ getragen hätte und schaise wars: die Linksammlung habe ich letzte Woche bei einem Update verloren. Ich habe die jetzt so halbwegs rekonstruiert und will die hier mit ein paar Sätzen dazu festhalten.

quantumcat

Die Geschichte des „Post-Truth“-Begriffs geht zurück auf den Angriff der USA auf den Irak, dem eine Präsentation von Colin Powell vor dem Sicherheitsrat der UN vorangegangen war, in dem er falsche Beweise für die Existenz von Massenvernichtungswaffen präsentierte. Der Einmarsch der Amerikaner wurde später als Folge von „Post-Truth-Politics“ gewertet. Für meine kontemporäre Einordnung des Begriffs ist Powells Entschuldigung für seine Präsentation und speziell dieser Satz von Bedeutung: „We thought it was correct at the time“.

Auch die synonyme Verwendung von „Fakt“ und „Wahrheit“ ist zu ungenau. Es genügt allerdings an dieser Stelle, folgende klassische Unterscheidung vorzunehmen: Ein „Fakt“ wird hergestellt durch Handlung und Dokumentation. Beispiel: „Drumpf gibt damit an, die Damen bei den Genitalien zu packen. Mehrere Zeuginnen treten auf und bestätigen das.“ Der Fakt wäre also: Drumpf is'n Grapscher. Dieser Fakt führt nun aber zu mehreren Wahrheiten, zum Beispiel: 1.) „Drumpf ist ein misogynes und übergriffiges Arschloch und nicht zuletzt deshalb nicht für das Amt des Präsidenten geeignet.“ 2.) „No big deal, Macht und Geld hat schon immer übergriffiges Verhalten entschuldigt, Drumpf sagt nur die Wahrheit und deshalb ist er ein guter Typ. MAGA!“

Auch ein Satz, dessen Quelle ich nicht kenne und den ich seit Wochen immer wieder auf den Tweeties lese, beinhaltet diese Unterscheidung: „Journalists read Trump literally, but not seriously. Trumpists read Trump seriously, but not literally.“ Dieser Satz illustriert die Konstruktion verschiedener, auf denselben Fakten basierenden Wahrheiten. Wenn man sein Gehirn nun vollständig verknoten wolle, könnte man auch von einem Quantenzustand der konstruierten Welt sprechen, in dem Katzen gleichzeitig tot und lebendig sind (2 Wahrheiten. Mindestens!)

Deshalb denke ich, wir haben es 2016 nicht wirklich mit „Post-Truth“ zu tun, sondern mit „Hyper-Truth“: Dreitausendmillionen Wahrheiten, geäußert in dreihunderttausendmillionen Meinungen, die alle auf denselben Fakten basieren und zusammen eine chaotische Meta-Wahrheit formen, die aus tausenden Widersprüchen besteht und die durch die geile internet'sche Gleichzeitigkeit in alle Timelines gepusht und für alle auf einen Schlag sichtbar wird.

„Post-Fact“ hingegen scheint mir als Begriff übrigens stimmig und an dieser Stelle kommen die auf nahezu-0 gefallenen Produktionskosten von Digitalen Medien ins Spiel, die sich in mit wenig Aufwand generierbaren Fälschungen und Hoaxes äußern, die eine Menge Clicks und Aufmerksamkeit und damit Geld generieren. Jüngstes Beispiel: BuzzFeed News identified more than 100 pro-Trump websites being run from a single town in the former Yugoslav Republic („'Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that 'if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it,’ said a university student in Veles who started a US politics site, and who agreed to speak on the condition that BuzzFeed News not use his name.“)

Trolle tragen an dieser Stelle ihren Teil zu alldem bei (wobei ich ihren Anteil am Chaos [noch] nicht recht einschätzen kann und auch [noch] nicht beurteilen will, ob sie das Chaos vergrößern und mit-verursachen, oder aber letztlich einfach nur als die einzigen dazu in der Lage sind, in dieser Welle der Tausendmillionen Wahrheiten den Kopf über Wasser zu halten, indem sie „Truth“ ganz postfaktisch schlichtweg ablehnen. I'll keep you updated).

Jedenfalls: Ein paar postfaktische Links. Einige der hier versammelten Autoren argumentieren für die Begriffe, andere dagegen. Hier zunächst die (interessanteren) Gegenstimmen:

Tracey Brown im Guardian argumentiert gegen die Begriffe: The idea of a 'post-truth society' is elitist and obnoxious. Ihr Argument scheint mir allerdings auf einer zu engen Definition der Begriffe zu basieren: „Yes, people respond to slogans and emotion. Most of us do, but politicians and communicators who insist this means the public doesn’t want to be informed risk driving us to a two-tier society – one in which evidence is discussed in corridors of power, senior common rooms and private members clubs, while publicly leaders just play to the gallery or hide.“

Alexios Mantzarlis lehnt im Poynter-Mag den Begriff „Post-Fact“ ab. Wenn man seine Formulierung eines Clashs der Weltbilder hier übrigens zu Ende denkt, landet man bei meiner Lesart der „Hyper-Truth“, seine Einschätzung unterschlägt allerdings meiner Meinung nach die Wahrheitskonstruktionsmöglichkeiten durch dazu Netz: „'post-fact' is a coping mechanism for commentators reacting to attacks on not just any facts, but on those central to their belief system. When the political realities are as alien to a liberal-cosmopolitan worldview as Donald Trump's candidacy or Brexit, it can be easier to explain them away by painting 2016 as an apocalyptic 'post-truth' era where people are just not getting the importance of facts.“

Toby Young schreibt in seinem Artikel im Spectator, The truth about ‘post-truth politics’ – Of course conservatives aren’t making purely rational decisions. Neither are leftish intellectuals, gleich davon, dass es „Post-Fact“ schon immer gegeben habe und das alles doch nun wirklich nichts neues wäre und wir Lefties davon schon immer genauso betroffen waren, wie Konservative. Auch er lässt hierbei die neuen Sichtbarkeiten des Netzes und ihre Folgen dabei außen vor: „Not the claim that conservatives are more influenced by emotional appeals than they are by rational argument, which is obviously true, but the educated elite’s conviction that they are only ever swayed by reason. It is a sign of their vanity and self-righteousness that they regard themselves as the embodiment of J.S. Mill’s democratic ideal, selflessly engaged in a search for the truth, when all the evidence — yes, evidence — suggests they’re even more tribal than those of us on the right.“

Joshua Foust argumentiert auf seinem Blog ebenfalls, dass das Internet nicht zu einem Anstieg von Verschwörungstheorien geführt habe und die Debatte um „Post-Truth“ damit Nonsense sei: Truth Was Dead Long Before the Internet. Er schließt daraus (wie ich letztlich auch), dass der Begriff nicht stimmig sei und zieht daraus die gleichen Schlüsse in anderen Worten: Wie bei (fast) allen Phänomenen von DasGeileNeueInternet geht es nicht um die Neuartigkeit dieser, sondern um ihre neue Sichtbarkeit.

The confirmation and in-group biases did not emerge out of the internet, they predated it, and the internet probably can’t undo that fundamentally human aspect of ourselves: cognitive biases are baked into our biology, and manipulating them is a skill that has existed for just as long.

I would propose another factor at play: the observational selection bias. One thing the internet has done is make our biases and assumptions much more obvious to our peers: by making communication easier, there are fewer filters online, and fewer barriers to sharing those unfiltered thoughts. People writing a comment on their smartphone think, subconsciously, like they are talking to themselves and not to another person. Moreover, when you are not directly in front of a person, you are more likely to be rude, offensive, or outright hostile (because seeing a person in front of you activates that filter).

Because of how the internet works, we see all of this, and it’s upsetting.

Mehr postfaktische Links:

The New Yorker: AFTER THE FACT – In the history of truth, a new chapter begins.

“You lied,” Marco Rubio said to Trump during the truth-for-tat February debate. Cruz tried to break in, noting that Rubio had called him a liar, too. Honestly, there was so much loudmouthed soothsaying that it was hard to tell who was saying what. A line from the transcript released by CNN reads: „Unidentified Male: I tell the truth, I tell the truth.“ Eat your heart out, Samuel Beckett. […]

he era of the fact is coming to an end: the place once held by “facts” is being taken over by “data.” This is making for more epistemological mayhem, not least because the collection and weighing of facts require investigation, discernment, and judgment, while the collection and analysis of data are outsourced to machines. “Most knowing now is Google-knowing—knowledge acquired online,” Lynch writes in “The Internet of Us” (his title is a riff on the ballyhooed and bewildering “Internet of Things”). We now only rarely discover facts, Lynch observes; instead, we download them. Of course, we also upload them: with each click and keystroke, we hack off tiny bits of ourselves and glom them on to a data Leviathan.

“The Internet didn’t create this problem, but it is exaggerating it,” Lynch writes, and it’s an important and understated point. Blaming the Internet is shooting fish in a barrel—a barrel that is floating in the sea of history. It’s not that you don’t hit a fish; it’s that the issue is the ocean. No matter the bigness of the data, the vastness of the Web, the freeness of speech, nothing could be less well settled in the twenty-first century than whether people know what they know from faith or from facts, or whether anything, in the end, can really be said to be fully proved.

THE CHRONICLE REVIEW: Truth After Trump – Lies, memes, and the alt-right:

Trump has been helped by the power of online trolls, a force we have been complaining about for years but whose ability to influence political reality has been greatly underestimated. Academic bourgeois liberals are busy signaling their virtue and affirming one another’s truisms on Facebook. Meanwhile, potent new right-wing memes are being grown in digital petri dishes. Trump’s campaign serves as a vector for whatever is going around, without any real knowledge or understanding of where it comes from. And the Clinton campaign is wasting its time denouncing outrageous tweets that it for the most part does not understand, rather than presenting anything like a coherent political platform of its own.

We are living through a strange political moment, in which the extreme right seems to have a monopoly on irony, while those on the left are straight-facedly trading dogmas among themselves. Alt-right activists, though they would hate to admit it, share more of the spirit of Abbie Hoffman than they do of the Young Republicans I first encountered in the Reagan era. They go about their work with a smirk and evidently get intense pleasure from it. As Auernheimer tells Ludlow, when asked about the sincerity of his commitment to the global white supremacy, "I’m just trolling."

Yet if their meme magic does, in fact, help to put an ethnonationalist into America’s highest office, we cannot expect that his will be an ironic presidency. The alt-right is vastly more clever than your typical brute skinhead of a generation ago, but in the end it does not matter whether the ideas it is inserting into political discourse are put forth in the spirit of irony or with utter seriousness. The effect is the same: harm to marginalized communities.

The Awl: When Truth Falls Apart – How do we restore consensus in an age so divorced from fact?

the problem with my Republican relatives isn’t what they think of Fox News; everybody knows it’s propagandistic. The real problem is what Fox News et al., over time, have made them think of NPR, or MSNBC, or the New York Times. The Swift Boat style of twisting the facts has poisoned the well of public discourse for a whole generation of American adults — for all of us — by persuading so many that the confected “news” peddled on Fox is more or less equivalent to that on any other channel.

Dismediation isn’t discourse. It doesn’t disinform, and it’s not quite propaganda, as that term has long been understood. Instead, dismediation seeks to break the systems of trust without which civilized society hasn’t got a chance. Disinformation, once it’s done telling its lie, is finished with you. Dismediation is looking to make you never really trust or believe a news story, ever again.

New York Times: How the Internet Is Loosening Our Grip on the Truth:

One of the apparent advantages of online news is persistent fact-checking. Now when someone says something false, journalists can show they’re lying. And if the fact-checking sites do their jobs well, they’re likely to show up in online searches and social networks, providing a ready reference for people who want to correct the record.

But that hasn’t quite happened. Today dozens of news outlets routinely fact-check the candidates and much else online, but the endeavor has proved largely ineffective against a tide of fakery.

That’s because the lies have also become institutionalized.

Guardian: How technology disrupted the truth.

In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true – as we often see in emergency situations, when news is breaking in real time. To pick one example among many, during the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, rumours quickly spread on social media that the Louvre and Pompidou Centre had been hit, and that François Hollande had suffered a stroke. Trusted news organisations are needed to debunk such tall tales.

Sometimes rumours like these spread out of panic, sometimes out of malice, and sometimes deliberate manipulation, in which a corporation or regime pays people to convey their message. Whatever the motive, falsehoods and facts now spread the same way, through what academics call an “information cascade”. As the legal scholar and online-harassment expert Danielle Citron describes it, “people forward on what others think, even if the information is false, misleading or incomplete, because they think they have learned something valuable.” This cycle repeats itself, and before you know it, the cascade has unstoppable momentum.

The Economist: The post-truth world – Yes, I’d lie to you:

In a study in 2014 for the Institute of Modern Russia, a think-tank, he quotes a political consultant for the president saying that in Soviet times, “if they were lying they took care to prove what they were doing was ‘the truth’. Now no one even tries proving ‘the truth’. You can just say anything. Create realities.”

In such creation it helps to keep in mind—as Mr Putin surely does—that humans do not naturally seek truth. In fact, as plenty of research shows, they tend to avoid it. People instinctively accept information to which they are exposed and must work actively to resist believing falsehoods; they tend to think that familiar information is true; and they cherry-pick data to support their existing views. At the root of all these biases seems to be what Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-prizewinning psychologist and author of a bestselling book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, calls “cognitive ease”: humans have a tendency to steer clear of facts that would force their brains to work harder.

Political Economy Research Center: Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit:

In place of facts, we now live in a world of data. Instead of trusted measures and methodologies being used to produce numbers, a dizzying array of numbers is produced by default, to be mined, visualised, analysed and interpreted however we wish. If risk modelling (using notions of statistical normality) was the defining research technique of the 19th and 20th centuries, sentiment analysis is the defining one of the emerging digital era. We no longer have stable, ‘factual’ representations of the world, but unprecedented new capacities to sense and monitor what is bubbling up where, who’s feeling what, what’s the general vibe.

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