I made this pitch to a major publisher on July 26, 2016.
I wish they’d bought it:
Sweet Little Lies: Are we living in a post-fact world?
Has the death of mainstream media opened the door to every political quack and snake-oil dealer with the gall to dream up the most compelling lies?
In the spring of 2916, supporters of Brexit flat-out lied to the British people. They lied about the cost of Britain in the EU, about immigration. Almost as soon as the polls closed, they began to back-peddle on their lies and flee. Cameron and Farage resigned.
A month later, Donald Trump, a textbook sociopath and top-tier huckster, was nominated for president of the Unites States. The rest of his party, desperate to win back the White House, stopped calling Trump on his lies and began adopting Trump’s belief that voters find lies more believable than the truth. When confronted by a reporter at the Republican convention with FBI statistics showing the national crime rate dropping steadily for the past 25 years, Newt Gingrich said: “The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics that theoretically may be right, but it’s not where human beings are. People feel more threatened. As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel and I’ll let you go with the theoreticians.”
Politicians all over the world got the message. What most of us would call lies, politicians call marketing, and it works. The middle class crumbling and the political centre falling away as it did in the 1930s, we’re seeing the same kind of political and media hucksters emerge as we had during the Great Depression. We’re also seeing a widening gulf between the educated and the semi-literate.
Arron Banks, largest donor to the United Kingdom Independence Party and the money-man for the Leave.EU campaign, said after the Brexit vote that his side knew all along that facts would not win the day. “It was taking an American-style media approach. What they said early on was ‘Facts don’t work’, and that’s it. The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”
In Canada, the Harper government waged a war on facts, attacking Statistics Canada and other government agencies that gathered solid data and muzzling scientists. Kevin O’Leary is touted as Conservative leadership material.
The same kinds of things have been happening in Australia and New Zealand and throughout Europe, where new-fascism is taking a firm hold in the old Soviet bloc.
As mainstream media collapsed, science writers and people who could write about complex issues were the first to be fired, and a new generation of pop-culture-enthralled low-wage millennials began to dominate both the mainstream media and social media. Success in media is now measured in clicks, and it doesn’t matter what’s used as bait.
At the same time, legality has replaced morality.
So where does that leave us politically? Politicians, pundits and social media stars lie all the time. Social media loves lies much more than it likes the truth. The media reports the most outlandish statements without fact-checking. A lie can be peddled as news simply because a famous person or someone in authority said it. Clickbait – outright lies about celebrities, political spin, or distorted history – has become a big new Internet industry. At the same time, newspapers are selling “sponsored content,” advertising disguised as news, to businesses and governments.
Do we have to rely on comedians like John Oliver to bring us back to reality, or can we do it ourselves? Or do we want to be buried in the most appealing lies because dealing with reality just isn’t all that much fun anymore?
This book will look at how lies have come to dominate our political conversation. It will examine the ways this new culture of unchecked, unfiltered “truthiness” have generated a new breed of utterly unscrupulous sociopathic politicians and warn of what will happen if people don’t start demanding facts and truth.
MS delivery: Labour Day, 2017
Mark Bourrie holds a PhD in media history and, by April, 2017, a law degree specializing in media and political law. He has written two successful books for HarperCollins: Kill The Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know (2015), and The Killing Game: Martyrdom, Murder and the Lure of ISIS (2016). He has lectured Canadian military officers on propaganda and psychological warfare and teaches courses in the history of propaganda at Carleton University.