The Revolt of the Public and the “Age of Post-Truth”

“In a healthy society, the supreme task of the elites is to elucidate the master narratives binding together the regions, classes, and ideologies that make up a modern nation…The digital age has proved to be an extinction event for long-standing narratives. As the public has gained access to information and communication platforms, elites have progressively lost the ability to mediate between events and the old shared stories. Elite omissions and evasions, falsehoods and failures, are now out in the open for all to see.  The mirror in which we found ourselves reflected in the world has shattered…the interpretation of reality is up for grabs…

…What comes next?

Maybe chaos.  Complex systems can fall into turbulence and remain in that condition permanently.  The collapse of elite authority could ignite a rolling conflagration, in which every aspect of social and political life is turned into a battleground.  That would be the nihilist’s hour.  If it ever arrives, even the broken shards of narratives will appear too big, too inclusive for an atomized culture, and our supposed “age of post-truth” will be considered, in hindsight, as a time of supreme self-confidence and certainty.”

Gurri, Martin. “The Revolt of the Public and the “Age of Post-Truth” May 31, 2017.

Martin’s thesis is that human society demands heirarchy and that the mandate of legitimacy comes from  recognition of superior qualities of individual elite members by those ruled by them. The rather large problem with his idea is two fold. One, historically, this state of affairs rarely, if ever, exists. Two,  where it exists, it is in small bands where everyone in the society knows everyone else, not in the modern state that requires extensive hierarchy to function.

Elites form to protect their interests, and their support comes from the degree the population shares those interests. For example, British  colonialism benefited their elites, and some of those benefits also helped the general British population. Colonialism may have also helped some of the local elites in the colonies consolidate their power. Still, somebody is being exploited, and those doing the exploitation are rarely exceptional men and women of superior qualities.