The Menace Of Post-Truth Politics

The Menace Of Post-Truth Politics
In an era dominated by the relentless spread of misinformation and the erosion of objective truth, post-truth politics has emerged as a dangerous phenomenon threatening political systems around the world.  Since the ouster of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s political landscape has yet to stabilize. Following the days of his controversial arrest and release, the country stands at peril with an economic time bomb ticking, bringing the country nearer to sovereign default.

Pakistan finds itself entangled in the web of a perilous post-truth politics, as career politicians and other stakeholders exploit emotions and manipulate narratives to shape public opinion in their favor. The consequences of such a political landscape are dire, threatening democratic values, social cohesion, and the overall progress of the nation. But this rise of post-truth politics in Pakistan, where social media sites have become a new contesting ground for the government, PTI, and the establishment. From drawing comparisons with East Pakistan to fascism and open resentment towards Pakistan’s military, the post-truth era politics puts Pakistan’s already fragile democratic state in a more questionable position.

The trend is furthered by the rapid dissemination of information through social media platforms, where fake news spreads like wildfire. The government, in order to curtail the situation post-Khan’s arrest, restricted access to the internet and cellular services, aggravating public sentiments, but also inflicting loss on the telecommunications sector.

Characterized by the deliberate distortion of facts and the rejection of evidence-based reasoning, post-truth politics has permeated political discourse in Pakistan. Manipulative narratives and polarizing rhetoric dominate political discussions, undermining citizens' ability to make informed decisions. The country’s media too faces the consequences of this trend – where it can neither side with the public or the marginalized, nor support a particular political figure, and the country’s military despite its best efforts is unable to protect its reputation. As a consequence, public opinion is swayed by manipulation, reinforcing divisions within society and leaving little room for political negotiations between all parties.

While it is natural for politicians to be driven by the pursuit of power, the misuse of their power is not. Be it instilling fear in the citizenry with arrests of political supporters or failing to present factual arguments, the public’s sentiments have become polarized. The result is a politically charged environment full of propaganda, frustration, and distorted information, where truth and security have become a casualty in the quest for power. This exacerbated form of post-truth politics poses a great challenge to Pakistan's democracy and governance in the long run.

In a democracy, citizens rely on accurate information and objective facts to make informed choices, hold leaders accountable, and shape policies. An objective and mature media aids democracy. However, when falsehoods and half-truths become the norm, the foundation of democracy crumbles. The erosion of truth weakens public trust in institutions, undermines the credibility of elected representatives, and compromises the democratic process itself. The bulge of technology and social media-savvy youth has so far outmatched both the government and media, but has intensified the push onto the path of peril that also challenges the democratic doings of the institutions.

The culture of post-truth politics fosters impunity, where politicians can make false promises, exercise greater force, and evade accountability without facing consequences. This not only erodes the moral fabric of politics, but also perpetuates a cycle of corruption and poor governance; weakening institutions even more. The violence sparked by Khan’s supporters may be political anguish, but the government’s inability to stabilize the economy and address the very reasons they had sought the vote of no confidence against the former Prime Minister fuels the present environment.

Pakistan's current political situation reflects the ramifications of post-truth politics. The dissemination of false narratives has deepened societal divisions along ethnic, sectarian, and ideological lines, hindering national unity and social cohesion that could lead to political negotiations. Political parties, rather than engaging in substantive policy matters now, resort to character assassination and mudslinging, further deteriorating the quality of political discourse. Consequently, critical and sensitive issues like rape and economic development take a hit as political leaders prioritize maintaining power over addressing these issues.

But for Pakistan to sustain itself, it is imperative to prioritize truth, transparency, and evidence-based decision-making. Building a robust fact-checking infrastructure and promoting media literacy can help empower citizens to discern between truth and falsehood. Additionally, political leaders must think of the consequences of spreading misinformation and employing manipulative tactics, ensuring that some integrity and ethical conduct become central to political discourse.

Here educational institutions and media organizations must play an active role in promoting critical thinking, fact-based analysis, and objective reporting. By empowering citizens with the tools to distinguish fact from fiction, a more informed and engaged electorate can emerge, demanding accountability and rewarding politicians who prioritize truth and transparency. The youth constitutes a large junk of the population, and younger people stand a better chance at changing the political dynamics of the country – provided they deconstruct the trend of post-truth politics themselves to write the country’s future.

The current dilemma of post-truth politics in Pakistan has had a profound impact on the country's political landscape, democratic values, and social cohesion. The spread of misinformation and the manipulation of public sentiment jeopardize the nation's progress and well-being. To secure a brighter future, Pakistan must confront this menacing phenomenon head-on by nurturing a culture of truth, accountability, and informed decision-making. Only then can the nation aspire to a political environment that serves the best interests of its citizens, fostering unity, progress, and stability.

Aisha Saeed is an independent media and foreign policy analyst.