When three books, all with “Post-Truth” in their titles, reach the market simultaneously, we may well wonder why three publishers in this competitive market place should court the obvious dangers of reader fatigue and subject over-kill.
We should add that two of the three books also boast the words “bull-shit” in their titles; and that all three authors are journalists (Evan Davis – Newsnight; James Ball – Buzzfeed; Matthew d’Ancona – The Guardian; and therefore maybe share an insider’s knowledge of what “bull-shit” is); as well as an awareness of what they term “Post-Truth” – and its familiar synonym “Fake News” – two very ‘in vogue’ buzz-words. Certainly the genre has been much inflated by the arrival of the Trump dynasty in the US and the truth-deniers of the hard Brexit tendency in the UK.
Since wishes, as the young are taught,
Are truly fathers to the thought;
And thinking, for the business-man,
For sparing usage when he can;
We blamed our dismal market rating
On too much ratiocinating.
Henceforth we would value higher
The calls of Corporate Desire,
And decimate the competition
By force of Positive Volition.
‘The Power of Positive Blinking’
from The Bottom Line 1985
I‘ve no wish to dampen the fervour of the jostling journalists, however, and a story is a story, even though “Post Truth“ and “Fake News“ are really as old as the hills; and precede their current arch-practitioners, such as President Trump, Rupert Murdoch and countless other neo-liberal social fraudsters, by many generations. It’s just that the short-termism of historic connection and awareness has, for too long, been going the way of economic policy–making, so that the deliberate falsification of language, which is the hall-mark of neo-liberal social control, continually updates its deceits and wrong-foots the commentators. Post-Truths and False-News remain lies, however euphemised. The more communicative term for the wider creative process by which ideas are manipulated through language distortion was bequeathed us years ago by Francis Wheen, in his brilliant 2004 “How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World” (Harper Perennial).
It skewered the longer, American-originated, tradition of Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends and Influence People” – a philosophy so scandalously ‘faux’ it came out in the totally inappropriate depths of the 1936 Depression; a genre later to be elevated (from 1982) to the more sustained ‘business school’ sycophantic milieu, still with us, with its pseudo-messianic titles such as “In Search of Excellence” (co-authored by an aspiring young McKinsey consultant, Tom Peters, and selling over 5 million copies at a time of surging unemployment in the USA, to its author’s considerable enrichment).
Rushed to validate the status
Of Management by Wish- Kinetics
As superseding cybernetics;
While every Business School was billing
Programmes in Collective Willing,
Claiming Shinto and Islamic
Sources for the Wish-Dynamic.
From that time to now, as Wheen mischievously explains, “the market for platitudes (and embroidered ‘post-truths’) has become so crowded that ever more exotic approaches have been required to feed the eyes and minds of airport browsers…” He cites the success of Wess Roberts PhD, whose 1991 “The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” graced the bookshelves of US middle managers nation-wide. The myriad subsequent rehearsals for today’s more pervasive Trumpisms or liberties-with-truth have included, along the way, “Gandhi: The Heart of an Executive“; “Confucius in the Boardroom“; “If Aristotle Ran General Motors“; “Elisabeth 1 CEO“; and the sickening moralising of that supreme guru of mysticism and money-making Deepak Chopra.
Too many generations of business school students and (aware and unaware) disciples of the neo-liberal faith, have been nurtured on this socially–regressive twiddle-twaddle. Unlearning it will be a major task for our more genuine, main-stream school and university traditions. Given the new hope born of our recent election, is this the time to call our spade a spade again?
And scarcely had we made a mention
Of our corporate intention,
Than press and television news
Pestered us for interviews;
And the brokers ran amock
Marking up the company stock.
Government made haste to hire
The Head of Corporate Desire
From the McWhimsey Corporation,
To brief the Wish-Tank on Inflation.
There is a move afoot we hear
To vote us Business of the Year.
Bertie Ramsbottom 1985 (aka Ralph Windle)
‘The Power of Positive Blinking’