Monday 8 January 2018

It's all true!

One week in and 2018 shows no sign of newly turned leaves in terms of the endless social media spats around Trump, Brexit and any issue which divides opinion on roughly left/right lines. Those happy few who cleave to neither creed tend not to use social media in the same way, posting up recipes, family anecdote and pictures of kittens; heaven knows what they must think of the raucous cacophony that rages all around them sitting as they do in the calm eye of the Twitter storm.

Why do we do it we should ask ourselves? Why do we put ourselves up for ridicule, as we all do when we try and use spurious facts and ill-reported slander to bolster our claims? And what are facts anyway? Government statistics; can they be trusted? And opinion polls, what of them? What, apart from trying to prove a partisan point drives people to poll in the first place?

I used to naively believe in facts as indisputable truths, science as unpervertable veritas and the evidence of my own eyes as crystal clear. But no, because one person’s indisputable evidence of increased NHS spending is another’s cast-iron proof of cuts. One person’s free speech is received as hate in another’s ear. And like illusionists performing their tricks even unedited video footage can be used to portray ten different truths to ten different minds.

Add to this the Photoshopped versions, the misleading ‘memes’ and the plethora of fake accounts set up especially to promulgate untruths and propaganda and it is little wonder that – and here comes the ‘L’ word – literally nobody can claim ownership of the unvarnished truth. Even just retweeting something that strikes a chord with you, right or wrong, makes you part of the problem. It drags you into the morass of lies and deceit and simple misinformation that seems to be the only constant across mass communications media today.

What’s the alternative though? Stay silent with all the frustration that not having a voice brings? I have noticed that even only slightly controversial tweets will get a dozen ‘likes’ to each retweet, as if people wish to register approval without drawing attention to themselves. I can’t blame them for it, but it does seem a mite timid when you have the power to nail your colours to the mast and broadcast to the world.

How about applying the reasonableness test? What is more likely do you think – that the Tory government colludes with rich offshore individuals to directly increase their wealth by systematically robbing the poor of what should be theirs by right – or that in creating a business friendly culture which employs millions it incidentally enriches some to an extent that can be seen by some as morally wrong? Or that socialism, in seeking to create a fairer world, inadvertently deters people from becoming wealth creators thus, as a by-product of good intentions, produces bad outcomes?

Comparing political conspiracy theory to simple coincidence is like comparing divine design to evolution. One requires an omnipotence and omniscience so powerful that it cannot be fathomed by humankind, the other a simple theory involving imperfect copies, mutations and millions of years of trial and error. Our understanding of the human condition itself is still evolving and you’d think we might learn from our mistakes but it turns out we don’t. At least not from one generation to the next.

So until we reach that nirvana of enlightenment we will just have to stumble along and make the best of it. Perhaps not being so quick to condemn those who use ‘the wrong facts’ or draw the ‘wrong conclusions’. If a piece of news seems too good to be true, the chances are it’s not. Do you want the difficult truth that life is hard and there are winners and losers, or do you want the miraculous truth that Saint Jeremy Corbyn will cleanse us of all our sins? Do you believe the other side’s delusions are lies and your delusions are true? It’s a tricky old game.

1 comment:

  1. The human race was not and is still not ready for the technological age. It complicates our lives to such an extent that we cannot hope to cope. Straight forward beliefs we had in such things as politics, the media, religion have been shattered (our safe spaces have been shot to hell). The internet and social media was of course the final straw it accelerated the process of undermining that which we believed to be a given. We now know everyone and their uncle is lying and deceiving us for their own political and financial ends or are just plain ignorant of that they purport to be knowledgeable about but it does not stop them from stating that it is fact.