Next year, Chatham House in St James’s Square turns 100 years old, the Royal Institute setup after the Great War to encourage collaboration on economics and politics to create a better world.
Staffed by the thinking elite seeking great truths, it (and its American cousin) influenced world leaders and moulded global policy for one hundred years. It was so secret that “Chatham House Rules” came to mean super-top secret.
Until recently, that is, when the whole thinkocracy got caught napping at the wheel as Trump, Brexit, and right-wing populist movements seemingly appeared from nowhere. No one in power saw it coming or played a significant role in it’s rise.
Was it the “will of the people”, or are we seeing something far darker?
No one really disagrees that we’re watching the death of state-managed objective truth. Together with the rising distrust of experts and professionals, it swamped old-school politicians and economists. Today we see Trump / Farage / Johnson (delete as appropriate) positively ignoring facts and trusting gut-feel over brain – and expecting the electorate to do the same.
Do not underestimate how mighty this challenge is. Policies based on populist ideas and gut feel does not sound like the basis for a strong societal foundation. But, many folks blame these growth-obsessed, anti-social geeks for getting us into this mess.
Maybe the people are right. If the experts keep getting it wrong then maybe its easier to gut-trust a bumbling fat clown. (Even if they are accused of seditious behaviour and seem to make stuff up as they go along.)
But that is how it is. The geek technocrats populating the “Think-tank” world need to join the party in disguise, or seek out a less lucrative truth.
Do where is the truth now?
Ignore Facebook and Insta (sic). Objective truth lives on in the public domain, far away from the old elite thinkocracy. Wikipedia, Wikileaks, FullFact.org, WikiTribune, and Bellingcat are great examples of this. Out in the open, all without any elitist “Chatham House rules”.
In 1920, truth was sought out in secret behind closed doors and turned into policy dished out to society. Few checks/balances, little accountability, much control of the narrative. A century later and the truth is everywhere, as are lies. It falls upon you and me to distinguish the difference.
You should prefer this world, because of the challenges it creatives in terms of investigation, evaluation and critical thinking.