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Challenging Lies In A Post-Truth World

17/11/2016 11:50
NIKLAS HALLE'N via Getty Images

What a time to be alive. When I was little if you lied - even a tiny white lie - it was a really big thing. You sat in the corner, got grounded, were denied any chance of pocket money, and not even allowed to watch any television.

Now, lying is intensely fashionable. All the leaders do it. Nigel Farage did it, Boris Johnson did it, Donald Trump did it, Mike Pence did it, and nobody seems to care. In fact their popularity seems to rise with every lie, every denial of fact, and every fantastic fantasy.

In fact, in our Donald Trump and Brexit era, Oxford Dictionaries has just declared 'post-truth' to be its international word of the year - indeed, it looks set to be one of the defining words of our time. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/15/post-truth-named-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries)

Working in advertising, I guess I'm used to hyperbole, but we have pretty stringent regulation around 'fact' and failing to follow these regulations can lead to serious consequences, fines and more.

In business, lying is a bad thing. A CEO lies to his shareholders or misrepresents the truth about his business, they are held liable. They can be taken to court and they can ultimately be imprisoned.

So if a politician says: "If we leave the EU, we will put an extra £350million a week into the National Health Service", which everyone can see needs all the help in the world, wins votes and popularity, and then says "not really" the day after, nothing happens.

There is no comeback. We may feel less positive about the individuals but they're not in trouble like I would've been as a child - they are not lurching towards the courts like management at RBS or VW for similar lies/cover ups.

When Trump says "I will build a wall" and doesn't, when he intones "I will register all Muslims" and doesn't, when he in all seriousness claims that climate change is a "hoax invented by the Chinese" then says it was only a joke. or says "I've never met Putin" (the photos don't lie), nobody cares. In fact, it seems like it's just accepted as okay behaviour.

When Pence says "gays are not good employees", or that global warming is a "myth", where do we, the people draw the line?

When Trump appoints Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist - the former Brietbart, a news site that peddles lies, disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate - we're in dangerous territory.

Breitbart headlines under his leadership have included the likes of "The confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage" and "Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy. Do we just happily shrug and allow this?

When do we stop sharing stories from fake news sites, memes that are totally made up, quotes that were never uttered?

Do we really want to ignore experts and instead only believe the 'truths' that pander to our emotions?

Where do the double standards stop? It's not okay for our children to lie, it's not okay for the pillars of industry to make things up, but it's absolutely fine for the new Leader of the Free World?

We need to challenge the truths being thrown us, stop sharing fake news stories, stop allowing ourselves to be drip-fed news from the Facebook filter bubble, maybe read a different newspaper now and then that challenges your views.

We need to start valuing facts over emotions again and bring truth back to the world and challenge those who peddle untruths and hold them to account.

The post-truth backlash has to start soon. Now that would be something to believe in...

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