Are you familiar with this concept? Popularised by the satirist Stephen Colbert, truthiness is:
-thinking with your heart not your head
-being convinced by perception not facts
-what you want to be true vs what is true.
Originally truthiness was used to used to satirise President Bush who said in defence of his nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court: “I know her heart”.
(He also said of President Putin: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul” – something many Russians found hilarious with regard this soulless ex-KGB man.)
Of course this president is not the first politician to be truthy. Nor the best – his predecessor was famous for resorting to empathy is order to convince/be convincing.
Truthiness is about claiming to simply know something.
Colbert’s own definition leads me to connect truthiness to paramoralisms:
Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.
So, if I assert that I am convinced of X then that should be enough to convince you. (If not, you’re questioning not my facts but me.It’s not that I am all for ‘just the facts’. Rather, what I’m against is the undermining rhetorical force of this emotionalism. There are at least three corrosive effects of encouncountering another’s truthiness:
1. Truthiness cannot be combatted with truth – “I don’t care what you say, I know X to be the case.”
2. Thus disarmed, one is prey to the emotional weight of the truthy statement and weakens – “He really seems to believe X, maybe there’s something to it.”
3. Hemingway recommended having a built-in bullshit detector. Truthiness disables it.
The psychopath, of course, has far more tools at his disposal than just truthiness. He is more than willing to resort to the facts but in a ‘facty’ way. They sound like truths, but they don’t add up like truths.
Truthiness, like the psychopath’s lying, is extra-moral
When ‘truthiness was used in the Canadian parliament the official French translation made was: fausse vérité (“a false truth”). This is nice, but it misses something which I’ve been arguing in the last little while.
There is a way of using the language of truth and falseness which has nothing to do with either. The psychopath’s pathological lying and truth-telling are a case in point.
Here’s Colbert on truthiness: “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like the truth – the truth we want to exist.”
What’s your take on this?