Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medicine and the Media

A brief history of post-truth in medicine

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 11 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4193
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

From antivaccine conspiracy theories to climate change denial to obfuscation of the truth about the harms of smoking, post-truth is nothing new, finds Nigel Hawkes

This is the age of lies, as truth is trampled and falsity flourishes, its reach grotesquely amplified by social media and the internet. Or so believe many commentators dismayed by Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, climate change deniers, antivaccine campaigners, and the power of Hollywood stars whose unlikely nostrums on diet and health are taken seriously by millions.

Three such pundits, all authors of books on the phenomenon with strikingly similar titles, met for a debate at London’s Science Museum last week chaired by Fiona Fox, the chief executive of the media relations organisation the Science Media Centre.

Evan Davis of the BBC has written Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit; the political writer Matthew D’Ancona Post-Truth: The New War On Truth And How To Fight Back; and Buzzfeed’s special correspondent James Ball Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered The World.

D’Ancona traced the deliberate …

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