Truth and the modern world

Remainers say that leaving is catastrophe. Leavers predict a great British future. Who has the keys to the truth, and is there any single truth? If it lies somewhere in between, then everyone is lying to some degree. The only truth is then your own opinion, but this is insufficient if based on false information. Your opinion is then only truth to you.

Generally held opinion

What then is generally held opinion? Is it just a generally held belief or a generally accepted truth? Normally, truth is observable fact.

But today, we have accepted the notion of points of view and ‘acceptable’ bias. So the news that we get is tainted by bias. We have to qualify what we hear by the speaker. The same events (ostensibly facts) are now massaged to suit each point of view. The invasion of Turkey is “claiming territorial rights”. The annexation of Crimea is “rightfully taking what is ours” today, whereas in the 19th century it was cause for war.

ISIS is “building a stronger caliphate”, in application of Islam. The right to territory and settlement are seen differently from each side of the Gaza wall. The right way to manage a country is quite different from east to west, from North to South, from Europe to America, from Left to Right.

Fake news or real news?

Is the BBC biased? They have invited more Eurosceptics onto question time than remainers.

Donald Trump is able to dismiss negative opinion by simply tarnishing it fake news, witchhunt. The term ‘mainstream media’ is a negative connotation in many circles meaning lying, cheating and biased fake news.

What can we do?

Initially it would seem very difficult to navigate the modern world. The only solution it seems to me is to compare your sources. But then just trying to understand the world in which we live becomes a ‘full-time’ job. Every day in the twists and turns of Brexit, there are claims and counterclaims. It’s probably worse now than during the referendum campaign, at least just as bad.

The concern is that if we were to have another referendum, the information base would really not be better. Is there more information available now about the European Union? If so has anyone really read it? If they read it, have they been convinced? What do we do about forecasts and forecasting?

Most people’s opinions about Brexit are not based on historical fact but projections. And the projections are widely different depending on whom you care to listen to, whom you believe and who your circle of friends believes.

Personal opinion

The tide has turned I think to favour remaining. But this is just my opinion, it’s what I’d like to believe. It’s what I hope and what would drive me if I felt sincerely about it to call another referendum. Polls are contradictory. Think tanks are polluted by funding from people with an agenda. Even the motivations of the Prime Minister are in doubt, who speaks, it is claimed, only out of the desire for power for the next five years.

When the opposition speak, who is to trust them? How can one really evaluate whether their policies would help us overall or empty the coffers? When the Right talk about their great track record of managing the economy, do they tell you all the facts? Do they tell you that our levels of borrowing and therefore interest payments are the highest they have ever been? And how do you evaluate the importance of that without a degree in economics?

Where is Truth, the Whole Truth?

Who is in a position to tell us the truth? We used to believe that it was ‘the media’. They were the counterbalance and we believed them because of the power of investigative journalism. But the media has been polluted with private funding and the number of investigative journalists is far fewer than before.

The BBC has never really forgotten its role of essentially supporting the incumbent government, while appearing to be balanced. They are the devil’s advocate. They do not have an opinion. But how are the editorial decisions made and the angles taken? Mostly based on what sells.

We know that the papers are starkly divided left and right. It’s hard to think of a centrist media outlet. The Liberal Democrats claim this moral high ground, but they don’t have a majority.

We know that Macron made so many claims in his presidential campaign. But then when he came to power, did not satisfy people’s expectations to counterbalance the rich, powerful corporations as he said he would. He rather got into bed with them. Hence the Gilet Jaunes.

Climate deniers bring on Extinction Rebellion. Europe generates sceptics and supporters, believers and non believers. Religion of course is the best example of that.

How to Navigate the World

There does not seem to be an obvious solution to navigating the modern adult world, except by comparing all the sources. Perhaps we have to accept this constraint if we want to observe the world in a balanced way. Otherwise we just read our favourite paper.

Of course there are limits. It’s pretty difficult to listen to people with whom we disagree, those whose views are so diametrically opposed that they offend or shock. So we tend to seek out, to listen, to agree with the sources with whom we agree, whose views coincide with our existing views.

But what of learning? What about changing our views? What about good, reliable, intelligent, truthful sources who base their talk on observed fact, on reliable sources and investigate, corroborate, cross-check for us the information and the news that we are fed?

Hitler and Goebbels knew full well the power of communication. They certainly used it to their advantage! But we need to be very careful in our modern day. People are so tired of Brexit, Trump, Putin and Bannon, of fake news that they might just turn off their brains and follow the next charismatic leader who appears to tell them the truth.

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