To say that we now live in a post-truth culture would mean that at one time we lived in a “truth culture,” which has never really been the case.

Post-truth politics is a political culture in which debate is framed by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, where facts in rebuttals are ignored and are secondary.

It is hard to sympathise with the democratic west when their writers harp on about this horrible “post-truth culture” they have been subjected to after 2016. In truth, when have politicians ever fought elections from the platform of rationality and truth? One goes to the scientist, the economist and the philosopher for truth. (I would say one even goes to religion for truth, but religion in Pakistan, and elsewhere is profoundly political and politicised and muddles statecraft further.)

There is no such thing as a truth culture in politics, and no such thing as a post-truth culture. It is touted as a contemporary phenomenon, especially with the rise of Donald Trump as the leader of the “free world,” but it has been around forever. Barak Obama running his campaign on the promise of “hope” and with the slogan “Yes, we can” are appeals to emotion as much as Trump’s slogan “Make America great again” is. We may not like the latter, but let’s not give Trump so much credit to suggest that he is the real turning point in Western political culture. Obama was a Nobel Peace prize winner, and still, the US dropped bombs and drove drones into our homes.

“Truthiness” and post-truth politics are two sides of the same coin in deeply divided societies where social consensus and conventions have been rejected. It’s easy to call politicians liars, rather than recognise that they have always been liars, and political systems don’t hold them to account. Politicians play nice or appear to play the game honestly from their personal choice. When they don’t, its because the game is rigged and they recognise that and use it to their advantage. Trump and the Brexiters and the alternative-right have this agency, and it’s driving liberals crazy.

We have always lived in the grand epoch of modern lying. Social media and the Internet has helped people become more in touch with politics and more aware. Where once a lie was hard to catch, today it can be fact-checked on Google. To every sane person, just because they have woken up to see the lies on their social media feed, doesn’t mean they have the power to change the system through their complaints. We have seen it all before, the French Revolution going after revolutionaries, the rise of Nazis right after a period of postwar peace, the return of racial tensions again and again in the US despite the abolition of slavery and despite the Civil Rights Movements a hundred years apart. If there is any grand pattern to political movements, it is that a radical or liberal shifting of political values is always met by a conservative, protective reaction and recoil, which is then countered with another left/liberal/radical push back. The west is in recoil. Wars, lies, and deceit are constant realities on either side.

The idea that there was a truth culture before Trump is paradoxically itself a post-truth idea.

The past is catching up with many states like the US, the UK, and France. The industrial revolution and low population densities helped create relatively egalitarian societies. Yes, this economic boom and its egalitarian prospects were to the benefit of the white masses. The success of the post-1820 industrial economies was based on slavery, imperial exploitation as well as an exploitation of workers. The lack of laws protecting the poor in the 19th century was a way forward of mass industrialisation. By the time political franchise reached the lowest rungs of society, enough money was made to share some of the spoils. This success for the economy and legal rights led to these countries to believe that their might was built on legality, rationality, humanity, and merit. Those who have woken up to the abuse of immigrants, to the inane rejection of global warming, and to inbuilt racism in these western systems were fed a romantic tale weaved in the enlightenment about western values of democratic, fair play. This was the first “post-truth” lie. The truth is not as pleasant as Rousseau’s beautiful treatise on an equal honest social contract the people can have with the state. In truth, his free citizens could only be male. Enlightenment philosopher John Stuart Mill is celebrated for his “Harm Principle” that argues that people have the right to do or say whatever they please as long as it doesn’t cause anyone physical harm. This freedom, by his admission, was never meant to be given to “backward races.” Are these the self-created truths that the Trumptastic post-truth culture of politics is wiping out? The truth was never objective, rational, or above emotion.

Many in the global south are right to roll their eyes at the American’s and their constant disasters in global governance and arguments of being defenders of peace and the downtrodden… the brave and free people who elected a misogynistic, angry orange for a president. We never got the industrial revolution, we never had underpopulated countries, and we never had the independence to make our paths after a century and more worthy of being seen as slaves and savages. But we also never fooled ourselves into thinking we had it all figured out. Our politicians try to manipulate us every day, but we can see the system for the game or power that it is. It is silly to see that western populations are surprised that politics is all about power and not about truth.