The Oxford Dictionary has chosen "post-truth" as word of the year.
That's just great. After an election that saw facts being smashed down like badminton birds and fact checkers (like me) having our teeth bashed in for daring to believe — well, that facts can and should be checked — this feels like surrender. I imagine a bunch of old English guys in tweed jackets with meerschaum pipes throwing up their hands and saying, "Whatever. We don't really care about words anyway. Anyone up for a pint at the pub?"
By the dictionary definition, "post-truth" describes a state of discourse in which facts don't really matter much.
(Previously we used the term "Congressional debate" but I digress.)
Granted, I can see uses for the term. Great ugly swaths of our recent presidential election were quick sands of "post-truths" just waiting to suck down hapless voters. Partisans wallowed in it. They willy-nilly substituted opinions and sentiments for facts. They screamed "false equivalency" as soon as anyone pointed out both sides were misleading voters, as if to suggest the discovery of a big lie from one candidate means a smaller lie from the other should be ignored. And they savaged objective reporting whenever the results did not suit their interests.
For someone who has made a living out of trying to uncover truths — admittedly sometimes failing, but always trying — the "post-truthiness" of it all was depressing.
The problem with a "post-truth" approach to politics is it makes people supremely confident about uninformed, bigoted, myopic opinions. It validates the idea that a "feeling" about a candidate is good enough. And on all sides, this election was rife with such behavior; people who were convinced they'd made the right choice — not based on evidence but just because they felt that way.
And that gave us what we deserved; a divisive, bitter election which left the facts sinking in the bog. How do we fix it? Simple. Next time you entertain any sort of political thought consider the facts first and then form an opinion. Not the other way around. That works. It's a fact.
(CNN's Tom Foreman is the author of "My Year of Running Dangerously")