Editorials Christmas 2016

Evidence, expertise, and facts in a “post-truth” society

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6467 (Published 09 December 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6467
  1. Tracey Brown, director
  1. Sense about Science, London EC1R 0DP, UK
  1. Tbrown{at}senseaboutscience.org

The Oxford English Dictionary may have made post-truth its word of the year, but the events of 2016 were not a rejection of knowledge

Are we now living in a post-truth, post-factual society? Is 2016 set to become known as the year when experts, and the evidence they wield, were sent packing?

Admittedly it looks that way. The UK’s former justice secretary Michael Gove attempted to play the crowd in the last days of June’s EU referendum campaigning, with the retort that “people in this country have had enough of experts.” His contention was widely challenged, as were the misleading claims about an extra £350m (€410m; $440m) a week for the NHS that would be saved by exiting the EU, and the wave of immigration that would be prompted by Turkey’s fictitious EU membership plan. Then the proponents of these statements triumphed in the referendum. And in December 2015, Donald Trump won the US fact-checking organisation Politifact’s Lie of the Year, cited among other things for claiming “whites killed by blacks–81%” …

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