Long before the masses turned toward the convenience of likes and share, only a few held the power to information and its distribution to public. A small example, during the World War II, radio was a very important tool to spread the news of the ongoing battle of the Allies against Axis. Such importance it held, the news of the Nagasaki bombing received by the movement in our country was a momentum needed for the proclamation of freedom. A proof that media had been, and probably will always be, a driving power behind people’s movement. Not to include the writings of intellectuals who spread their progressive ideas through media.
A social critic once argued that democracy gave birth to propaganda-based media, owned by giant corporates. Which means media is not necessarily innocent. Mainstream media such as television, radio, and newspaper are agents of dominant ideology, yet audiences are no longer passive. Audiences push, negotiate, even blatantly refuse the domination of mainstream media through small narrations, campaigns, and their own independent media. Media is never neutral: framing, stereotyping, how the West illustrate the East in its bias perspective. The change of landscape of the media was predicted by Marshall McLuhan in his popular jargon “medium is the message”. It’s no longer just about the contents, but also medium, how technology change the way people consume media.
McLuhan’s prediction brought shift to the media from belonging to a powerful few, to a public’s property. Democracy appear to transfer the power to the people. In a world with seemingly omnipotent technology and dominant social media, spaces are born for people to created their versions of truth. Quite a problematic phenomenon, since there is no determining of which truth is the truth. One loud indication was the polarization of views in the regional head election campaigns. People carrying their personal comprehended truths were free to spread information they believed to be true, even when there is no validation of facts. This type of information gains its billboard with the help of a smart revolution called algorithm. The more a certain information is spread, buzzing with tags in virtual circle, the more it is believed to be the truth, as shady as it is. This truth, with its believers, has the power to polarize view, attitude, even movement.
Information, it seems, has transgressed truth. Truth has lost the values that made it a truth, becoming nothing more than a concentration of likes. The truth is now a sharing-based truth. With algorithm, individuals get their own polarizing views crystalized in posts of their shared taste by virtual friends, eliminating news that is not to their liking—as well as friends that are not to their liking, blinded to the lurking horror of hoaxes. This phenomenon marks the era of post-truth, where truth is but an endless relativism. Politic of fear, racial sentiment, and opportunistic behavior, corrupt the essence of truth. Objective facts lost its power on public opinions. Truth becomes feelings and personal believe. New claims are made in the base of personal truth.
Instead democracy of knowledge, post-truth brings public to a new form of activism. This monopoly of information based on what the masses prefer is gathering groups who believe in news that transcends truth in legitimating the notions they fight for, stand for, sacrifice for, even when said news has little to no credibility. In retrospect from the definition, appear a question whether or not post-truth is even the by-product of millennials. Long ago, traditional puppet masters created their legacy through puppet acts that served as foundation of truth followed by their audiences. Now, at nights at street markets, medicine sellers sell promises of miracle healing in extravagant demonstrations. Is post-truth even a new thing? The New Order posed a good example on the concept of post-truth in their act of condoning the label of communists without clear objectivity.
Post-truth is a long existed concept. Maybe it used to be understood in different name, maybe it became popular recently as a result of the mass coverages of certain phenomena that reflects the concept. Incidentally, the theme “Post-Truth” was picked in its moment of celebration after being chosen as Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year 2016. This theme is implemented in Festival’s choices of documentary films that are ‘post-truth’ in its definition as a documentary, films said to be forms of documentary in all its ambiguity—an arbitrary claim on the new forms of documentary. Moreover, the euphoria of the phenomena is a curious thing to be looked upon in its ongoing practices. Not in celebration, but in reflection on what exactly is ‘truth’—not in hindsight and passing view while common senses are buried. A place for skepticism for different medium of information is needed, so that a positive relation with criticism can thrive, and vice versa.
Sazkia Noor Anggraini
English translation by Ukky Satya Nugrahani