The year is 2017, and despite many predictions to the contrary, humanity is still going – just about. One side effect of our continued existence is the decline of facts. It has become blatantly obvious that as humanity advances, our ability to tell the truth declines considerably, to the point I would now add facts to the critically endangered list. For a politician to be heard talking factually has become as socially unacceptable as being seen yo-yoing in public. But how have we got into such a sorry state of affairs? Let’s have a chat about it. (WARNING: the following may contain content of a factual nature.)
Lies have always existed, that’s a fact, but why is it that they’re not quashed before they are accepted in mainstream discourse? Well, I’d argue that the structure of our news world holds a lot of the responsibility. Once upon a time, journalists were allowed to perform their job. Taking time and money to investigate a story was the norm and as a result of this they were able to discover the truth. This money and time is now a rarity and that is seriously affecting journalists’ ability to expose the truth and making it easier for lies or ‘alternative-facts’ to take centre stage. The decline in investigative pieces of journalism has created a vacuum which has been filled with money-generating clickbait websites. News outlets have resorted to publishing sensationalised headlines which entice people to click on them: clicks equal money.
Another major player in the mainstreaming of questionable stories is the political & business agenda, specifically the agenda of the media moguls. In this instance I’ll pick on Mr Rupert Murdoch – I’m sure he’ll get over it. Murdoch’s headlines run in conjunction with business interests. Across the pond Fox News has had remarkable success, so much so that it is available on over 94,000,000 American televisions. Its constant bombardment of right wing news, despite Fox purporting to take a “fair” and “balanced” stance, is distorting the truth. Fox News certainly helped put Donald Trump in the White House.
But the problem isn’t exclusive to the USA. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union was heavily influenced by bizarre stories published in our media which lacked any sort of factual foundation, but this went unchallenged time and time again. Straight bananas come to mind, after an audience member on The BBC’s show Question Time rather bizarrely declared her vote to leave the EU was based upon being fed up of seeing straight bananas. This was a result of one of the most well-documented ‘Euro-myths’ plaguing our newspapers. Calling them Euro-myths is somewhat flattering as, to put bluntly, they are blatant lies.
You can’t write a piece about lies without mentioning the famous bus, the bus which stated we would give £350 million per week to our NHS upon leaving the EU, something which we know is never going to happen. But, how do we know? We never sent £350 million per week to the EU in the first place. This isn’t even the most alarming part of the whole incident: that honour lays at the feet of Dominic Cummings, who directed the Leave campaign, and who recently admitted in an interview with Spectator that the claim was a lie, a lie that helped their campaign to win. This confirms something rather embarrassing for us in the United Kingdom: we are now the only nation to have ever been tricked by a bus.
It seems that one characteristic of the “special relationship” between the UK and the USA are our shared welcoming values towards lies. Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have comfortably overtaken the Black Eyed Peas as the worst group ever known to humanity, but instead of releasing infuriatingly repetitive pop tunes they release infuriatingly repetitive lies. It’s easy to joke about because it has become so ridiculous, in the past couple weeks this group of powerful people have fabricated two massacres just to justify their blatantly racist immigration policy.
The reproduction of lies is happening at an alarming rate and is something which needs addressing. It can be addressed with education that focuses on teaching people to engage in critical thinking and not to simply accept anything they’re told. This call for education is echoed in a report by webrootsdemocracy.org called Democracy 2.0. Without addressing the situation now, we as a race are going to dive into world built on lies and uncertainty, and then what happens when we realise we’re living a monumental lie? Maybe then we’ll see the apocalypse that Steve Bannon is predicting, but then again he’s probably lying about that as well.
Image: threefishsleeping, Flickr