Ok, you don’t have to agree with a word I say, nor believe what I write as fact. Please do your own research and make sure you do everything you can to verify anything that is presented to you as fact. Why? Because we live in what has been topically coined as the ‘post truth’ era. Over the last few weeks, as my country of birth has been dragged through an unnecessary and ill-conceived referendum (opinion), I have witnessed ‘facts’ from official sources that would have caused serious problems of balance for Pinocchio. Not consigned only to one side of the argument, it seems that the Leave campaign wins first prize for the speed with which its claims were revised. The very campaign bus that toured the country and touted a 350 million pound windfall for the NHS on leaving the EU was rapidly re-painted, and leading Brexiteers were quick to point out that these funds would not be available after all. Amongst other major statements, the Leave team also promised a reduction in immigration numbers. This was, once again, hastily denied after the vote was in.
I do not wish to dwell on the rather dubious methods used to persuade an Exit vote in the referendum, as this is simply a symptom of the culture we now inhabit in our increasingly information-rich connected world. Fast on the heels of the EU referendum the Chilcot report was published after 7 years of research into Britain’s participation in the second Iraq war. Yet again, we are now, only years later, learning the truth about WMDs in Iraq!
However, this has become the norm and it is seriously exacerbated by media outlets determined to sell their particular agendas. Only recently has the Sun newspaper reluctantly apologized for its appalling accusations against fans of Liverpool football club for the disaster at Hillsborough 27 years ago. The other day, I was trawling through cat videos and family barbecues on Facebook interspersed with serious articles on current events that could have passed for sketches from the Monty Python archives.
I read that vast areas of London are living under Sharia law, that crime has escalated following stricter gun laws in Australia. A few years ago, I had to provide an answer to many who questioned me on Britain’s health service ‘Death Camps’ as portrayed by a certain vice presidential candidate from Alaska. Now we are told that immigrants are responsible for the high levels of crime in the UK, and yet independent statistics point to the opposite being true. What makes matters worse, is the fashionable revision of history that seeks to paper over the cracks of untruth and present a pristine new version of events. We now hear that the EU referendum is a resounding mandate from the people. We are told over and over by the gun lobby that more guns would prevent mass shootings in the US. So, how, I wonder, does this claim stack up against reality when over 100 armed policemen were unable to stop one lone gunman in Dallas from his bloody rampage?
Our problem has only been magnified by the sheer weight of information available and the somewhat sinister way in which it is now presented, particularly on social media. A vast majority of our population now use Facebook as a source of streaming information. Some of it is harmless and boring. But when it comes to current affairs and news items, Facebook uses an algorithm to place items it believes are of interest to you, or support your point of view in order to garner more attention from you and thus more exposure to its revenue source; advertising. And so, the news stream is delivered in a censored format and then from sources that vary hugely in reliability. Unfortunately, with such a weight of information at our disposal, we have little time to verify the truth of it all. The edifice of truth we build is often created on a false foundation, the walls are constructed from sources that say what we want to hear and back up our stance or position, cemented together by ‘facts’ and ‘figures’ that often bear no relation to the truth. I admit, this has been a problem for much longer than this generation. Most faiths have cherry picked writings from holy books to support their doctrinal position for centuries. However, these days, we seem beset by partisan issues at every turn and the voice of reason and honest truth has been lost to ever more strident factions, whose positions are further and further removed from honest assessment and a humble willingness to hear the truth. I urge myself and all who care about this ‘post truth’ world to value that which is proven and be ever questioning of the source of our information.