The truthiness era

Andrew Potter considers the nature of truth in politics.

Political leadership is a form of storytelling, and no amount of mere fact-checking will ever serve to counteract a narrative that a significant mass of the public feels in its bones to be true. That is why the most effective antidote to the poison politics of truthiness is ridicule.

It is no coincidence that the term truthiness was coined in 2006 by the comedian Stephen Colbert, host of the wildly popular talk show The Colbert Report. Along with Jon Stewart (host of the sister program The Daily Show) Colbert has become one of the most influential political analysts in America. Truth should always remain a regulative ideal of political life. Facts matter, and fact-checking is still an important function of the independent press. But in the age of post-truth politics, it is important to remember that the guiding light of reason is the satirist. The literary devices of irony, sarcasm, and parody are the mechanisms through which grand political narratives are exposed not as false, but as laughable, preposterous or absurd.

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