A short post – it’s been hanging around in my ‘drafts’ for a week or so, so publish and be damned.
All through history we’ve lived in different eras. The mesapotamic era, the steam era, the industrial era, the information-era, etc. I wonder what description historians will apply to the era we’re living through now? The Political-Post-Factual-Era is where we are. Suggestions on a post card please for a better name for this.
I’m not sure how it’s come to pass, but we’re in a world where facts and politicians are rarely something that go together. It’s not happened overnight, it’s been a long term change. The gap between facts and politicians has been growing for some time, but now it seems that if you’re a politician you can say anything you damn well please and know that there will be no consequences for you. No-one will hold you to account nor will anyone be allowed to challenge you. Just think of “£350M/week for the NHS” or “Taking Back Control” – two recent phrases used by politicians which never ever had any factual basis. Yet the politicians know they have no personal consequences (Google for Alistair Carmichael and how he got taken to court by his constituents, found guilty of lying, yet is still today a Member of Parliament).And that’s before we remember Blair & Campbell’s Dodgy Dossier which has cause so much devastation to the Middle East and beyond with the rise of ISIS). And Trump in the USA? Is there anything factual about his campaign? How have we got to this point?
Is it because the news media very rarely challenge the statements put out by MPs? We have 24 hour News channels, a ‘machine’ that demands to be fed. Yet this ‘machine’ just regurgitates the stories the politicians feed to it. The machine makes very little effort to report a story and to verify its factual content. Newspapers scream sensational headlines one day then forget the story within 24 hours. Stories breaking on Twitter can be more accurate than the BBC. Twitter tends to have a built-in fact checking mechanism of other twitter users who can reply directly to a wrong statement and thus point out the factual errors.
When did you last hear a BBC News presenter interview a politician and say “Hang on a minute, what you have just said is patently untrue. I cannot continue this interview until you correct yourself” and then stick to that line (memories of Paxman asking the same question of Michael Howard repeatedly) When did you last see a newspaper headline calling out a press release from a Government agency for being devoid of facts?