What is the post fact world and how to survive in it.
It’s commonly accepted that we live in a post fact world. This is a world where people make decisions based on emotion and popular feeling rather than logic and fact.
Most dispassionate commentators agree that in the UK European Union referendum campaign, the remain side left a lot of money on the table, in marketing speak by solidly campaigning on fact – fact – fact.
In the multimedia and always on news environment, this came over as boring and static.
The leave side, on the other hand, campaigned on emotion and used emotional language and stories.
The various leave factions knew that the quickest way to get a message out was to drop and hand grenade in a news conference or an interview knowing it would generate emotions to keep the twitterati busy for hours if not days.
Facts make no impact on people’s opinions anymore. It’s still news over here in the UK that Mr Trump can virtually say and do anything which large portions of the population find offensive. But to his supporters, they just shrug their shoulders and Meh!
Of course, I assume in writing all this that you understand and accept that much of the news now is really just comment on the news and what people think of what is happening.
(Edit – Just to prove my point – The very day after I pushed this blog post live – the above graphic was on the front page of the whole BBC site. What is the headline? It is an appeal to people’s emotions. What are people often most emotional about? What are people most likely to comment or have a strong opinion on? How they perceive other people are bringing up their children and the right and wrongs thereof).
The freedom of the press is something that is essential in a healthy democracy. In recent years, the private lives of celebrities, footballers and politicians have been in the cross hairs of the newspapers.
Now, more recently, it is the newspapers themselves who are the story via inflammatory headlines and stories.
All this misses one essential fact that nobody can deny.
People are buying less newspapers and buying them less frequently than they used to.
The thick black line is the total newspapers sold (heading generally downwards – much steeper since 2000 – the approximate time the internet started to go mainstream).
In the post fact world – It is in the newspapers interest to get people talking about newspapers.
By the way, talking about newspapers, depending on who you believe, Mr Trump gets up at 5am every morning and reads several newspapers cover to cover before breakfast. Other people report that he lacks the patience to even read a simple child’s comic.
The whole economy of news is now click and revenue based. Next time you are driven to a news site, via a tweet or whatever, have a look around at all the ads that engulf and surround the story. THEY are the reason the authors of the page want you there. The story is just the vehicle.
If you have ever used the classified ads section of a local newspaper, you will know that long gone are the days when it went in for one week on a Friday. Because local newspapers are now bulk owned, your car advert will be syndicated far and wide. Meaning it creates an extra page to put a whole heap of adverts on.
There are several cases where people have died multiple times online.
Here is one explanation of the phenomenon.
Towards the bottom right hand corner of the BBC news homepage is a top ten of the most watched and most read news stories. Note – these are not necessarily the most recent.
If enough people start sharing these around, that somebody has died, it will reach a tipping point and get shared repeatedly by people without them checking it is true or not.
This tells us that people are unable or unwilling to verify the accuracy of a story before they feel the need to comment and share.
Remember, the ability and skill to be able to remain silent is very scarce these days.
People would rather pass it on to friends and followers commenting what a good old sport the person was and how it affected their childhood rather than taking 2 minutes to verify the accuracy.
How does all this come about?
People exposed to mass media and related sources live their lives governed by a few facts which they generally like and may or may not be true. Have a look at this video. (You can watch it all – I just skipped straight to the relevant section).
(The answer if you are wondering – as to why Barack Obama wasn’t in the office at 911 (which was in 2001) was because he didn’t become President until 2008).
Quite often in the post fact world, these “facts” will consist of over simplifications, generalisations and how the world was the last time they had the time or the energy to keep up.
(If you are taking business advice from these people – this is obviously a problem).
So, how does all this stuff affect your ability to operate sensibly and rationally?
Firstly, you need to accept that not everyone is telling the truth.
(Obviously, this is the truth as they see it).
The skill of knowing when to say something and when to stay silent in the post fact world is not one which affects TV presenters, news editors and political bloggers.
In the post fact world, They have 24 hours a day to fill and 50-100s sheets of newspaper to fill.
If you are running a business, this is likely to be a bit of a problem.
When the news broke that the Electoral Commission was considering investigating the leave side in the UK referendum for “factual inaccuracies” the comments below the stories were generally along the lines of
“Who expects politicians to tell the truth anyway?”
In a post fact world – It’s almost as if the population at large has given up on truth and the facts.The BBC has no adverts on it’s website (it does if you access it from outside the UK – presumably because you don’t have a TV licence and thus make no contribution to its upkeep) and it is interesting to watch activists on all sides scouring around news bulletins, phone ins and tweets for evidence, real or imagined or political bias.
Here are some suggestions on managing in a post fact world.
If you are online, and it is rare for anyone of working age that doesn’t work online, look at a website or read emails – be aware that as discussed previously, the agenda of most news or advice sites (and I include things like LinkedIn in this) are driven by the need to make you click. That’s how they make money…
The secret to managing in a post fact world is that you need to develop a filter to all this.
First reason – As I wrote earlier, we all have our facts that we prefer to live by and prefer.
Exposure to other people’s facts in the post fact world can, at best cause burn out and at worst anger, frustration, and annoyance.
Secondly, you could be heading totally in the wrong direction given by someone who is only seeing you as a number on a sales target. It’s not just business advice – I am also thinking here of advice given by sales agents of broadband companies, mobile and other utilities).
Economists talk of perfect competition. That’s tricky in a post fact world when all vendors make loud aggressive claims to be the best.
You shouldn’t really be following many people. See my “How to run your twitter like a porn star” post from a while back.
Remember, in the post fact world, the more people you expose yourself to, the more versions of “the truth” you must deal with and filter. This can become exhausting.
Avoid who you hang around with in real life as well as online.
There are few people alive today who do not revel in the idea of being able to pass on news or gossip. True or otherwise.
Avoid talking business, sales, or marketing to non-business people. With the security of a monthly wage, they are unlikely to see the world as you see it. Their advice will be clouded by watching celebrity entrepreneurs on TV and made for TV drama like Undercover Boss.
Avoid at all costs talking in loud aggressive terms about politics.
What’s so bad about loudly sounding off about politics when you are in business?
Politics has become divisive. By making loud noises about which candidate, party or system you love or loath is a good way to alienate a sizeable portion of your audience.
It creates what I call the “Don’t know – Don’t like” feeling in other people.
The answer to all these things is a filter. To both filter out the noise, and to reality check what you accept as fact obviously lies in your mastermind group.
We are the only place where you can get an oasis in a desert of rational thought.
One of the things we do, is filter and sift for each other.
If one of the members is thinking of buying something or investing in something, we put our collective knowledge on a heap and sift through it, slowly but surely.
Unfortunately, I have no such thing to offer you.
What I can offer you is the following goodies.
Goodie number ONE.
You should get my free video – 3 things no business advisor will ever tell you. You can do this by clicking on this link.
You should subscribe to me on YouTube to get more rants and right angles.
Goodie number THREE.
Tell me what you want to hear about next.
What keeps you awake and staring at the ceiling at night?
(You can also find sharing buttons cunningly hidden in the blog post – re – read it if you need to…)
Once again thanks!