Two words to define 2016
This year has been full of unexpected political events like the Brexit win and Trump’s election. Also, we’ve seen the far-right regain force in the European political agenda with important wins in the European Parliament and regional elections as the refugee crisis continues to grow.
This panorama shaped the year and even dictionaries show so. Dictionary.com has named ‘xenophobia’ as their word of the year, whereas Oxford Dictionaries say theirs is ‘post-truth.’
1. fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.
2. fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself.
It was chosen because they believe it “embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months.” According to their statement this year’s news stories have focused around fear of the “other,” especially in the cultural discourse.
There were two times in the year when searchers for ‘xenophobia’ spiked. After the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 24 Dictionary.com reported a 938% increase in lookups. Then in June 30, when US President Barack Obama described the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric as ‘xenophobia’.
“This year in the United States we saw the rise of the alt-right, white nationalism, and other ideologies that promote hate, especially directed toward Muslims, Latinos, Jews, trans and queer communities, black America, and other non-dominant groups,” reads their statement.
In other world events in recent years, the dictionary argues the Syrian refugee crisis has been front and center in the news and as Syria is a majority Muslim country, anti-immigration policies are criticized as they’re Islamophobic, another type of xenophobia.
For Oxford Dictionaries instead, ‘post-truth’ is the word to be. Earlier in November they chose it as it “is a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language” and “is the one that captures the ethos, mood or preoccupations of that particular year.”
1.relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
According to their research the use of the word has increased 200% over its usage in 2015. ‘Post-truth’ lookups also spiked this year in the context of the EU referendum and the US elections and became associated with a noun referring to “post-truth politics.”
In the media it has been commonly used to describe political campaigns that appeal to voter’s emotions and are often disconnected from facts.
In the Latin American panorama this was what happened in the Peace Deal Referendum in Colombia. After their win the ‘No’ campaign manager, Juan Carlos Vélez revealed their strategy focused on distorting the messages and not explaining the peace deal points. Instead they wanted people to go to the voting booth being outraged and used the “we’ll end up like Venezuela” phrase to scare people.
“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse,” said Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries. “Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”
During the process, post-truth left behind contenders like:
Alt-right: An ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.
Brexiteer: a Brexit proponent; and adulting: the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
As Dictionary.com statement said “xenophobia [and post-truth were] a recurring subject of discourse in 2016.” Rather than celebrating they being chosen as ‘The word of the year,’ they’re words to reflect upon deeply on the events that happened in 2016 as they mirror a divided and politicized world.