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This article appeared in January 2017, in Romanian, in VICE magazine

Post-truth is not persuasion by falsehood, as it may seem at first glance. It’s persuasion through emotion. The lie is just a pretext, a trigger. I don’t believe, for example, that the Romanians whose vote was influenced by the lie with “Soros – Ciolos’ father” went through a logical approach.

There are two consequences. The first one is that post-truth can’t be countered by an appeal to reason (counter-example, counter-argument). It produces its effect even after it’s clear that it’s a lie. Absurdly, do you think that a DNA proof would have made any RomaniaTV fan change their mind and vote for USR?

The second consequence of the fact that the weapon is emotional and not rational is that vulnerable targets are not gullible, but passionate. Whoever thinks he is immune because he’s smart, is actually deceived. Immunity is based on moderation and common sense, and vulnerability is given by passion.

And passionate people are not only on Ghita’s side or Trump’s side, but also on Clotilde or Hillary’s side. For example, all the stupid things about anti-vaccination are consumed without judgement by some educated, but too passionate people.

Critical thinking tools such as fact-checking sites are not a cure for post-truth, but rather a palliative treatment.

One accessible cure is to push relevant and debatable topics on the public agenda. Unfortunately, what’s important is not discussed, but what is discussed becomes important (that’s why, in the election campaign, instead of discussing proposals from ministers, we talk about Liviu who steals your sandwich).

Another necessary cure is to attenuate the polarization in society by getting everyone out of their own bubble (online or offline), to shake hands and to talk with those who don’t think like us. Post-truths are nothing but false rumors about the others and it doesn’t work if you make an acquaintance of them.

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