A FEW weekends ago, Michael Gove MP, a notable friend of this mighty organ, took the chance to clarify his famous “the people have had enough of experts” statement from the Brexit campaign.

“The point I make is that not all experts are wrong, that’s manifestly nonsense. [There’s] expert engineers, expert doctors, expert physicists,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “But there are a sub-class of experts, particularly economists, pollsters, social scientists, who really do have to reflect on some of the mistakes that they’ve made.”

Whenever Gove comes to my mind, he always appears inside a famous 2012 cartoon strip by Stephen Collins, easily findable on the web (the Vine loop where he slips and lands on his bahookie isn’t far behind).

David Cameron is gloomily contemplating a giant alien flying saucer hovering over London. Gove sidles up to him: “David … I haven’t told you this … but I used to be a journalist. For the Times.”

Gove offers to fly a fighter plane to take it down. “I wrote two articles about planes, David. I’ve got strong opinions about aliens. I know I can do this job.” And so Cameron watches eagerly, as Gove’s aircraft weaves erratically towards the alien menace. Then puts his head in his hands, as the plane squiggles off course to certain oblivion.

Of course, the last laugh is on Gove.

His talk of “self-rule” and “popular sovereignty” and “taking back control” was the tightest sinew running through the victorious Brexit campaign (and twitched more than a few nerves of recognition among Yes campaigners too).

But having thoroughly botched his leadership campaign, Gove has returned as a back-bench columnist, now free to chuck memes anywhere he likes.

And I am fascinated by his distinction between “experts” and an inept “sub-class of experts”. Not for its own validity: I know plenty of physicists baffled by the quantum mysteries of their own science, and also social scientists who anticipated Brexit and Trumpland years before anyone.

More as an example of the brutal, sides-taking clarity – regardless of factual accuracy – that has typified the successful campaigns in both the European referendum and the American election.

So Gove’s distinction between “real” experts and “sub” experts launches forth into the infosphere, triggering explosions of outrage and complaint, which trigger their own responses. And all the while, this invidious distinction settles deeper into our common sense the more it is fired and traded around our media and social networks.

“Don’t think of an elephant,” as the cognitive linguist George Lakoff once quipped – and now, of course, an elephant is all you’re thinking about. For a modern political campaigner, that’s a result.

The general title this kind of behaviour has come under, where successful politics aims directly at the emotional and metaphorical level and is either opportunist or heedless about any factual back-up, is “post-truth” politics. Indeed, the Oxford Dictionary announced “post-truth” as its Word of 2016 last month.

Brexit went post-truth when its claims about millions of Turkish migrants coming to a UK remaining in Europe, or about £350 million per week being redirected from the EU to the NHS, were almost universally debunked by experts and establishments. Yet this didn’t disrupt their core emotional message: that “taking back control” of your life, as a Briton, was paramount.

The Trump campaign cranked post-truth up to a grotesque level. Trump stated as “fact” that Obama wasn’t born in the US, that climate change was “a hoax invented by the Chinese”, that Mexicans bring violence and rape to the US, that crime is always rising, that 81 per cent of white people are killed by black people. There are literally hundreds more of these.

All of these claims are false – and fact-checking journalists and websites fired many salvos to “correct the record”. But to no avail. These falsehoods merely served a wider, deeper rhetoric about an America beset by decay within, and by dependants and unfair dealers abroad.

The most brilliant single comment on this process came from The Atlantic’s Selana Zito, grappling with Trump’s exaggerations and outright lies. In a September interview, she suggested to him that “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally”. Reportedly, Trump paused, and said: “Now that’s interesting.”

It is. And it’s a huge challenge to both journalism and citizenship. By only applying the measure of accuracy and rationality, what the press doesn’t take seriously about Trump, Farage, Johnson and all these charismatic populists is what the philosophers call their “affect” – the way they resonate and chime with the voters they want to mobilise. A relaxed or joyful confidence; the ability to sense what an audience wants to feel and bring that out of them: this is what works for a reality (or comedy) TV politician.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s initial campaign manager, confirmed this approach a few days ago. “[The American people] understood that sometimes – when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar – you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

So what does this “post-truth” politics mean for political newsrooms? That as well as recruiting experts in policy, statistics and investigation, they have to also bring in the psychologists, novelists and anthropologists? People who can read these affective signs being given off by politicians, either intentionally or intuitively, and can estimate their impact on the public?

Maybe. It probably also means a return to wearing down the shoe-leather. Stepping away from sifting through leaked databases (or worse, press releases) on laptops, and going out to talk to citizens. Meeting them face to face, in the places that they live. Listening at length, carefully.

For old net idealists like me, it’s painful at the moment. The consensus is that social network sites, and their sorting algorithms, may have trapped us in “filter bubbles”. Inside these bubbles we very rarely hear opposing views, and are thus susceptible to “fake news” that just further confirms the value-base of our own little info-worlds.

What this new political zone means for citizenship, and for those who want to mobilise the citizens one way or the other, is complex. I know directly that the “positive” approach of the official Yes campaign was partly rooted in theories taken from marketing and neuroscience. Triggering certain emotions (like hope and anger) sets up an appetite for facts and information that serve and confirm those drives.

We might have lost the indyref, but that positive approach, amplified by thousands of other spontaneous cultural and social initiatives, built us a vibrant independence culture (a decent chunk of which you’re holding in your hand).

Yet there’s an obvious tension here. On one side, the diversity, democratic intellect and sparkiness of the indy movement. On the other, the kind of affective, charisma-and-conviction politics, putting passions above policy, which are easily summed up by the quip: In Nicola We Trust.

“So what’s the post-truth political strategy for indyref2 then?” No, that doesn’t sound right, does it? I feel somewhat relieved that Scotland is a wee bit boring and backward in this regard.

Ministers who behave inconsistently with their roles still seem to feel the sting of persistent investigation. Our blogosphere, and even our native social networks like Kiltr, CommonSocial and Bella Caledonia, are all still reasonably interested in having rammies over substantive policy matters. Ex-government advisers thunder from newspaper columns in the time-honoured fashion.

Our public sphere – in the old Enlightenment sense, as the nation in thoughtful conversation – still seems to be clunkily working.

No doubt, given five minutes to himself and a working smartphone, Michael Gove could find a typology for all the preceding. Commentary and sub-commentary? Who cares? I’m setting down to watch someone fall on his bahookie, over and over again. The filter bubble has its uses.