Counternarratives

Ángel Marroquín

One of the things that one ends up missing these days is something that can be called truth. The abundance of maliciously manipulated information is so large and widespread that it has created an atmosphere in which we all suffocate, and no one can open a window to let in the fresh air. The media and social networks increasingly resemble more a gas chamber than the eco-technological paradise promised by the gurus of Silicon Valley.

It is no mystery that society began to lose the ability to believe in its institutions during the sixties and seventies, driven by protest movements, postmodernism, and the postwar lifestyle’s weaknesses. It was the time to overthrow idols. The youth of yesterday were ready to let go; so, throwing oneself into the European streets to protest was a form of hopeful rebellion (far from the hopeless ambition of our militants who congregate in Trafalgar Square). Today we know that it was but the beginning of a cycle of cruel, non-reciprocal and nihilistic love for the market. The entire world began its path towards scepticism and global distrust.

As any son or grandson of a 60-year-old knows, the main legacy of those years was that the market was enthroned in the place left by the ideologies, the party and the intellectual. Then, everything became relative and customizable. From there to Trump, there is only one step.  One step that was taken.

Neoliberalism and the Thatcher-Reagan decade led politics to become a high-end manipulative tool, fueled by the mass media, the rise of the internet, and obedience to the powerful. As usual, TV and the Internet appeared first as channels to improve culture and quality of life; however, they subjected people to market domination and accumulation imperatives. This is what is called a relationship of cruel optimism.

The world has not stopped because of any of this, and this is how today we have been bequeathed with a world in which the media and the powerful are capable of creating their own alternative reality and making us believe that it is the truth. Fake news, fact check, alternative facts, counter-narratives, and post-truth are all concepts that tell us about a runaway world that walks in the darkness with its eyes closed. If you think this is just a habit of the powerful, you are wrong. People have embraced these counter-narratives, which have morphed into a kind of new common sense. Today, as we listen to everyday conversations and comments on public issues, we often witness the creation of a post-truth, live and firsthand.

We are not yet aware of all the implications that this new era of post-truth will bring. However, one thing we have been witnessing amidst the rise of populism and climate change sceptics is that for many people feeling strongly about certain facts is enough to claim that they have the only truth about it. We live challenging times, indeed.

(c) Photography by Sebastián Silva. https://la-periferia-interior.tumblr.com/

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