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2017: A year of (dressed-up) lies

Brexit-lies

Looking back over the last year or so, you'd be forgiven for thinking facts are no longer facts, and the truth is no longer the truth.

Staggeringly, we're now living in a world where the lines are being alarmingly blurred, and the effects are even more alarmingly real.

Last year we watched politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and many more tell lie after lie, yet many people believed them because it felt right to many that immigrants were flooding countries, stealing jobs and committing crimes. Likewise, it felt right to many that scheming bureaucrats in Brussels were stealing from the UK and dictating crackpot policies for the fun of it.

Even a cursive perusal of the news would confirm that all of those things, and more, had little more than a tenuous relationship with the truth. But it was enough for people to feel that they were true to lead to the UK voting to leave the EU, and the US to vote for a president who spent his campaign - and subsequently much of his presidency - vilifying immigrants, Muslims and women.

The Oxford English Dictionary made the word to describe this phenomenon - post-truth - their Word of the Year for 2016. The word is defined as:

‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

That's worth emphasizing: objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Let's not get seduced by jargon. There is no 'post-truth'. There is the truth and there are lies.

The truth by itself should appeal to the emotions, like watching refugees fleeing war-torn areas, children being denied basic human rights like healthcare and education, and much more. People who twist the truth to suit their own biases are being dishonest, and we need to confront them and call them out on it.

Which leads to one of the many astonishing remarks made by Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President Donald Trump. Then White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, (how long ago that now feels) made this claim before attacking the media for "false reporting":

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

The only thing that was wrong was the claim that it was the largest audience ever. That was simply not true. Kellyanne Conway had another way of looking at it, now famously calling Spicer's opinions "alternative facts." There are alternatives to facts, and also alternatives to the truth, so let's be honest about what they are: lies.

Of course, Donald Trump himself has repeatedly attacked news he doesn't like as fake, even going as far as to claim he invented the word.

If we accept these euphemisms to take on meanings that they certainly do not deserve, we do ourselves, our languages, and society as a whole a great disservice.

So let's call out the bullshitters for their bullshit a lot more in 2018. Surely we don't want more of the same?

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