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In the Critical Thinking Project, the discussion asked the question of sincerity and post-truth. Often, especially diverse experts and politicians argue that Russians and Estonians live in parallel infoworlds. During the discussion, the term post-truth emerged. According to the Oxford Dictionary, post-truth means “circumstances in which objective facts influence public opinion less than emotions or personal beliefs.” Because of the prefix, one might think that the term is talking about a situation where we already know the truth, but this is not the case. The Oxford Dictionary has recognized the term as the word of the year 2016, but it often turns out that we are not at all living in an era of post-truth – we live in a world of lies, and have always lived in it.

Post-truth is not a new phenomenon. The entire 20th century is an era of post-truth, an era of ideological and propaganda regimes that seek to manipulate public opinion and the consciousness of people. For all the differences, post-truth regimes had one thing in common: they appealed not to reason and common sense, but to strong feelings and emotions.

The post-truth era of the 21st century is different from the previous ones. Her element was traditional mass media – newspaper, radio, and finally television. In many countries, the media are completely under control. But thanks to new media, information policy has become democratized, any blog, public or Facebook profile can perform the function of a media outlet, and many more subjects have been involved in the production of information than before. As a result, the situation became more complicated and extremely confused: simple recipes for dividing sources into true and false no longer work.

Discussions about post-truth have been going on for more than a century, some see the only way to cope with post-truth – to establish a regime of a single “truth”, of course, the most truthful. The other sees a way out in another: a person must learn to use his own brains, and also be guided by obvious common sense, and not by big ideologies. Half-truth, to paraphrase the words of Kant, will triumph until a person gets out of his minor age and begins to use his reason without guidance from someone else. Until then, the word “post-truth” will have constant relevance.

There are some general rules for checking any information, especially in the media, and even more so on the Internet: make sure that the source is reliable, study alternative opinions on the issue, always read beyond the heading, which can often be clickbait (from the English words click – “click” and bait – “bait”). Its task is not to convey the content of an article or news as fully as possible, but simply to make it use it. Flexibility of thinking is an equally important component of effective critical thinking, which allows a person to live in harmony with the world around him. And the virtue of moderation (not only in matters of rationality, but also in various aspects of life) will only help him in this.

The Oxford Dictionary compilers chose the word of the year. It was the term post-truth, little known in Estonia, that is, “post-truth”. This concept has as many definitions as “postmodernism” – that is, an infinite number. But the sensation of both terms is roughly the same: the power of the simulacrum. Postmodernism is a cultural concept, post-truth is a vulgar concept. The intelligentsia (let’s call it that) defines post-truth as the victory of emotions over facts. Fakes are spreading on Facebook, and users believe them more than the truth spread by reputable TV channels. Well, how two thousand years ago the same users of the apocrypha believed the fakes about the resurrection of Lazarus more than the truth spread by the services of the procurator.

Post-truth is not a definition of a new entity, no. This is just an excuse, a kind of “new sincerity.” Replacing cynicism with frankness. As if cynicism and frankness in some way contradict each other. For young people, they do not contradict, from their point of view, cynicism – this is frankness and honesty. Many Facebook users actually want to read nonsense, because nonsense is more fun than the dull “truth.” And they are honest in this desire to read nonsense.

It would be a good sign for everyone if this word of the year became a symbol of the end of lies. First of all – to oneself, since this is the worst case of lying. And it would be good that in the coming year the truth of one person (or social group) would not become the post-truth of another person (or social group). After all, respect for the opinions of others is quite simple and does not require any terminological formalization or even fixation in the Oxford Dictionary.

Critical thinking and post-truth

Analysis of information – a person must be able to work with information: for example, to distinguish the main from the secondary and facts from opinions, data from conclusions, arguments from the thesis. This also includes the ability to determine the degree of reliability of a particular message: how much he can be trusted at all.
Reasoning skills – we are talking about using known available information in order to logically deduce new information from it. See logical errors in reasoning and avoid them.
Argumentation is the ability to present one’s position and prove it convincingly, avoiding gimmicks. Select or create weighty arguments, arguments that can convince the interlocutor, reader or listener, depending on the situation, especially how a person looks at the world: curiosity, attention to detail, faith in reason and that most problems can be solved rationally. An attitude of openness to new things, readiness to admit one’s possible and real mistakes is very important. Such inner qualities help to think really critically, they determine what a person is guided by when making decisions or forming an opinion on something.

What is true and what is post-truth?

In everyday life, we are forced to take on faith a lot of different things, otherwise, we would have to scrupulously study and check any little things. Therefore, we ourselves have the right to decide when and how much information we may need, whether it is worth subjecting it to doubt and verification, and to what extent. The extent of verification and the amount of information required will vary from case to case. The magnitude of these changes depends on what exactly we need to do: turn on the water in the tap, come up with a new water supply scheme, or study the flora and fauna of the Caribbean Sea. Simply put, critical thinking is both the ability to determine when, where and what information we need and the ability to choose the optimal type and level of data complexity for each specific case. Note that the importance of the ability to think critically is undeniable. Everyone can learn to do this! Critical thinking is a system of judgments that are used to analyze phenomena, things, and events and then formulate well-founded conclusions. This is how people get reliable assessments and interpretations, as well as the ability to use the results obtained to address issues and issues that are relevant to them. Critical thinking contributes to an objective view of ideas, decisions and actions, allows you to identify weaknesses, and establish the truth of facts and assumptions, relying on logic and cause-and-effect relationships. However, critical and logical thinking should in no way be confused, since the former implies the application of the latter. Criticism is based on logic in the construction of logical chains and patterns, often serving as the basis for critical conclusions and conclusions.

Why be able to think critically?

Critical thinking, coupled with logical thinking, gives a person the opportunity to find patterns, predict options for the development of events, determine the relationship of objects, objects and phenomena, competently substantiate their point of view through language tools. We need a critical approach everywhere. In order not to be unfounded, we will give just a few examples of its practical benefits: · In professional and everyday life, critical thinking helps to think and work more accurately and accurately, quickly identify the important and secondary, solve problems more effectively, more attentively and more effectively cope with various tasks. In training, along with the development of critical thinking, you will develop skills to quickly recognize arguments, quickly identify key ideas in texts, use evidence and testimonies of experts and specialists. In the personal sphere, critical thinking teaches you to quickly analyze the judgments, views, evidence and opinions of others, competently justify your words and reasonably challenge what you disagree with, and better understand other people’s and your own beliefs, thoughts and actions.

In times of post-truth, it is necessary to develop critical thinking skills.

  • Observe and be attentive to detail.
  • Study the information carefully and with concentration.
  • Quickly identify the important, without scattering attention to the secondary.
  • Respond to key points in messages.
  • Effortlessly justify your point of view.
  • Apply analytical skills in a wide variety of situations.
  • Ability to communicate correctly.
  • Ability to be convincing.
  • Ability to interpret effectively.
  • Ability to make your own judgments.
  • Ability to analyze and criticize.
  • Ability to make effective decisions.
  • Ability to be judicious.
  • The ability to reason logically.

It often happens that a person overestimates his ability to critically comprehend what he sees, hears, reads; what he encounters at school or at work. In addition, many believe that they know “more than anyone else” and can tell everyone “how much.” But when others disagree, self-doubt appears and an inability to substantiate one’s position appears. This causes unnecessary problems both in school and work and in communication. The technology for developing critical thinking is such that you need to train regularly, and you can start such training at absolutely any age. Systematic classes allow you to reach a new level of development and new goals.

About 1440 minutes of being critical

Learning critical thinking takes time. Almost always, a person has free time, simply spends it on unnecessary activities, for example, “hangs” on social networks or plays computer games. And the first step to critical thinking should be done right here – critically assess where your free minutes and hours go.
Another way to start mastering the skill of critical thinking is to analyze your day every day: what you did, what successes you achieved, what failures were, where you made mistakes. When the analysis is done, you can begin to draw up a plan to eliminate errors, eliminate chronophages (“time eaters”), time management. Even these simple steps will begin to develop your ability to approach everything critically. If suddenly you are faced with a new task, try to search for the maximum amount of information to solve it, consider a variety of options for action and choose the most effective one. Here are the techniques for developing critical thinking. It may be strange to use them at first, but this is just a matter of practice. Try to constantly evaluate how you think, what you think about, is your brain busy with useful things?
To make your critical learning more effective, form the right approach to everything you do and what you face. Assess reality appropriately. Everything that happens to you does not always depend on your desires and aspirations. Take it for granted. Assess reality: what you can influence and what is beyond your control. Get ready for new information anytime, anywhere. If you are closed to new things, you will cut yourself off from real life. Make confident and clear decisions. But before you do this, arm yourself with knowledge. Always try to think with your own head, make up your own opinion on this or that account. Maintain your sense of humor.

Scientists on modern problems of post-truth

If you do not cope with the negativity from truth and post-righteousness, develop the ability to laugh at yourself and the events that life presents to you. This will always keep your mind clear and your opinions more objective. The savagery of the environment of half-truths divides the Estonian and Russian diasporas, causes fear and rejection, during the period of the global coronavirus, attitudes towards life and death, vaccines, and news. Everyday life relies heavily on digital technology and the online space. Social media serves as a news aggregator, and groceries are purchased through online stores or subscription food delivery services. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, ready to fulfill almost any user request.

Benjamin Bratton. Director of the New Norm educational program at Strelka Institute, professor of visual arts at the University of California, believes: “To understand what post-truth is, you need to take some purely personal feeling – resentment – and create a story out of it that is most likely users will hear. Then you need to equip it with villains and heroes, give the story a certain colored position, in which there is a “hidden” truth, for example, scandals and revelations. Done! Actually, this very “hidden truth” according to the idea should be revealed “just for you”, post-truth is the creation of heroes by telling secrets. ” one of the most important components of post-truth is subjectivity: personal truth based on personal experience of personal history, no matter what is happening around. Post-truth is also associated with the construction of the public identity of users and is based on the representation of the personal subjective experience of cognition of the world.

Professor Graham Harman offered an interesting idea at the time, saying that the word “post-truth” is not very suitable to describe this phenomenon. In his works, he uses the word “post-reality”, and it seems to me that this is a suitable formulation. He says that the real “real” has been discredited and therefore does not fit the process of creating “truth” at all, it is something like separating the “real” from the “truth”. It is not so much the absence of “truth” as such, as its excess. Let’s take augmented reality as an example of how post-truth becomes a consequence of an excess of truth, rather than its absence. Post-truth is a mixture of almost religious prejudice with the expression of a subjective position. However, when this is added to the discussion of issues of race or refugees, post-truth becomes a veritable idiosyncratic fundamentalist populism.

Recently, it has been said that Facebook is the most powerful catalyst for spreading post-truth. The news feed and other algorithms in his digital factory distribute users into groups (filter bubbles), where each user sees his own version of “truth.” This provokes information isolation. In fact, we’re talking about 1.6 billion nanodiscourses — “realities” constructed by algorithms — that assess which set of news, ad units, and events best suits your vision of the world. Therefore, the “truthfulness” of the facts does not play a fundamental role, the main parameter for the formation of your personal agenda is a bait that will prevent you from clicking on an advertisement.

The border of information isolation is determined by the event horizon: we see what we want to see, ideas that correspond to our own opinion and appeal to each user on an emotional level. This phenomenon can also be called an “echo chamber” – a figurative description of a situation in which ideas, opinions and information are more and more actualized due to their constant circulation in a closed space, while competitive positions are crossed out. Each of these closed systems continually reproduces acceptable opinions and values, forming a unique version of “truth.” Therefore, this model is fully consistent with the definition of “post-truth”.
However, it’s unfair to blame Facebook and its algorithms for everything. Through a targeting system, policymakers and other stakeholders can emotionally stimulate user groups and nano-groups. The informational personal utopia they offer often also forms the image of an “enemy” – an object for hatred. At one time, Manuel Castells noted that the fabrication of constructed and misleading messages in order to promote someone’s interests is the main tactic of propaganda and control of public opinion, which is also the most ancient and direct form of media policy. Facebook can be blamed and called a driving force, catalyst and propaganda tool, but the owners, managers and employees of this post-truth factory remain the same: politicians, information warfare experts, political consultants, marketers, armies of low-paid activists and unpaid political trolls. If we really want to understand what it is like to live in the post-truth era, we should turn to the journalist who has to write loyal articles in support of the country’s top leadership every day, to marketing experts or professional online trolls who write hundreds of fake comments every day. Maybe we should read Orwell’s 1984 again. Probably, this will help to understand how to exist in a distorted post-truth society.
You could also reformulate the novelist William Gibson’s dictum “the future is here – it’s just unevenly distributed” to “the truth is still here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” In the heyday of big data, global surveillance, and the prospect of smart cities, one must wonder who will own all this information. Then we will understand who has access to the statistically verified and algorithm-generated version of the “truth.” Access to the truth is and will remain the privilege of the political, economic and technological elite, while the rest will be sources of data, constantly terrorized by emotional stress.

Technology influences our day-to-day and decision-making strategies much more strongly. Critical thinking helps to distinguish post-truth!? …

Author: Irina Golikova, historian