A Different Interpretation of “Post-Truth Society”
Most analyses I’ve read about the current epidemic of “fake news”, or matters like “alternative facts” or “post-truth,” take the view that it’s about ideology overpowering and overwhelming reality.
I’m going to suggest that we look at this somewhat differently — not as ideology run amok so much as indicative of the bankruptcy of ideology itself and, in those terms, of the intellect also (or at least that form of the intellect Gebser calls “mental-rational”). It seems to me that, in the absence of any real “facts” or truth to buttress the received and conventional ideologies, their partisans and adherents now resort to simply making them up in a brazen attempt to disguise the fact that they are bankrupt.
Gebser anticipated that bankruptcy of ideology as also symptomatic of the deficient mode of the mental-rational consciousness. In that, he was seconded by Daniel Bell in The End of Ideology. The proof of that is pretty evident, inasmuch as those things we call “liberalism”, “socialism”, “conservatism”,–or their mutated forms as neo-liberalism, neo-socialism, and neo-conservatism — describe absolutely nothing coherent or intelligible. And yet, there is no question but that many people have invested their entire identities in affiliation with one of these ideologies by which their allegiance, they presume, distinguishes them or even “individuates” them.
The bankruptcy of ideology — or what is referred to as “post-ideological age” — is, I would submit, intimately connected with identity politics and the crisis of identity itself. In those terms, the bankruptcy of ideology — of a particular system of beliefs and convictions — becomes well-nigh felt as an existential threat, or at least a threat to the self-image.
Many social and political observers have concluded from the “end of ideology” (and its counterpart in Thatcher’s TINA principle and Fukuyama’s “end of history” both) that with the end of ideology, society would settle nicely into a technocratic governance model, sometimes called “managerialism” (Lewis Mumford refers to that as “the Megamachine” or Marty Glass as “The Mutation into Machinery”). That is certainly one possibility of the bankruptcy of ideology. My research, last year, into “marketing 3.0” or “spiritual branding” is certainly connected with technocratic managerialism — in fact, with what Algis Mikunas also called “technocratic shamanism”.
There is, on the other hand, another possible interpretation of the bankruptcy of ideology and of “the end of ideology”, and that is the bankruptcy of the modern intellect — the intellect having reached the limits, and even over-stepped the limits, of its possibilities and is now incapable of generating new ideas.
That is, of course, Gebser’s view in The Ever-Present Origin — that the modern “perspectival” intellect has become deficient, and the bankruptcy of ideology — and the crisis of identity involved in that bankruptcy of ideology — is only symptomatic of that deficiency. In which case, we may conclude, that the phenomena of “alternative facts” or “fake news” and such matters is a desperate attempt to restore the linkage (or con-fusion) between ideology and identity.
We may assume from that, if such is the case, that neither the technocratic option nor the reactionary attempt to salvage identity from the wreckage and bankruptcy of ideology can prevail in the long term, and that both are the offspring of an intellect that has become ineffective in responding to the challenges of the present, for both seem to resort to grasping onto one horn of the dilemma. Both are, in those terms, deficient responses to the bankruptcy of ideology and the failure of intellect.
It’s in those terms that the responses of technocratic managerialism (the cult of “expertise”) or authoritarianism are hardly distinguishable from one another, for both are but the two prongs, or facets, of one dilemma or predicament.