I had another one of my epiphanies yesterday. As I was chatting to my wife, something became clear to me which I hadn’t really seen clearly before. That is: there are now two kinds of truth in the world – political truth and actual truth. They’re not the same thing at all. To some extent there’s always been political truth, but it’s been getting worse over the last few years and covid has put it into overdrive.
Let’s start by thinking about what political truth is.
What is political truth?
1. Believed by the establishment
The first mark of political truth is that it is general held by the establishment. I think ‘the establishment’ is quite a hard thing to define, so let me try to give a few examples:
- the government and MPs in general;
- most of the mainstream media, especially the BBC;
- most of the university-educated middle-classes.
The establishment are the people who are generally the movers and shakers in a society: they’re the people who run the country, manage companies, and so on. The fact that it’s difficult to define precisely doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!
2. Has little resemblance to actual truth
Political truth has got a love/hate relationship with the facts. It loves facts which support it; it tends to gloss over facts which contradict it. In general, political truth only looks at a subset of the facts and evidence available – it cherry picks.
Political truth is narrative – a story which is constructed from facts and evidence, but is more than that. It’s the ‘bigger picture’. But the problem is that the bigger picture does not necessarily reflect the actual data. The bigger picture in fact has been chosen for political reasons, rather than because it relates to the data.
3. Cannot be questioned
Political truth cannot be questioned. Not seriously, anyway. If you dare to question political truth, you could end up being cancelled or losing your job. At the very least, no-one will really take you seriously if you question it. We’ll look at a few examples of this in the next section.
The point is that the establishment see it as their job to police conformity to political truth. If a member of the establishment questions political truth, they risk losing their place as part of the establishment.
This doesn’t just apply in government or the mainstream media – I think it trickles down into society as well. There are certain opinions which are difficult to question on social media – mainly those opinions which question political truth.
4. Those who do question political truth will be labelled outsiders
One of the most interesting things I’ve found with political truth is that people who question is will be cast as outsiders. Sometimes they’ll be called “far-right”. Sometimes their academic credentials will be called into question. In general, someone who questions political truth will be labelled as a terrible person, beyond the pale. Their arguments won’t be considered – it will just be a character assassination.
So – political truth will be defended by labelling anyone who questions it as with an unfair association.
5. Most ordinary people hold a different view
The final thing to say about political truth is that it’s a view which is held primarily by the establishment. The working classes generally hold a view which is closer to actual truth.
1984 – the Ministry of Truth
One of George Orwell’s most famous books is his dystopian novel, 1984. The book is about a future where the government control what truth is, through the Ministry of Truth. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
As well as administering “truth”, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, “truth” is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures “truth” in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.
The government manufactures and determines the truth. In Orwell’s novel this was a dystopian future – but it looks a bit like what is happening now!
I’m going to look at three brief examples. These are all things which I’ve written about on this blog before.
One thing which the establishment seems to believe at the moment is that men can become women and women can become men. Even to the point of changing your birth certificate. Don’t believe me? The UK Government guidance explains, “you will also be able to obtain a new birth certificate showing your recognised legal gender.”
So the UK Government believe that it is actually possible to change your sex, to the point where they will issue you a new birth certificate. This has been the case since 2004, when the Gender Recognition Act came into being. Over the last few years it’s become contested as more and more young people are being encouraged to transition. I wrote about this four years ago, and things haven’t changed much since then.
I believe we can see all five elements of political truth at play when it comes to transgender ideology:
- The establishment believe it;
- It’s not supported by the science – see, for example, the Transgender Trend website;
- Very few people in the establishment question transgender ideology, and if you do…
- such as J.K. Rowling, you get called transphobic / cancelled / etc.
- Almost everyone I’ve spoken to about this issue (mainly parents) has been concerned about the effect of transgender ideology on children.
Now, fortunately I think actual truth is beginning to reassert itself. Some high profile people have begun to question the narrative. But there is still a long way to go.
I don’t want to open a can of worms here! This isn’t about trying to take a side on Brexit. But it is fairly obvious to me that there is an establishment view of Brexit. It goes something like this: “Brexit is a disaster. It was only voted for because low-information idiots saw a misleading slogan on the side of a bus. And it was only voted for by racists. Any right-thinking person should support the EU.”
I wrote about this also back in 2016. It’s not about the rights and wrongs of leaving the EU – it’s about the narrative which is constructed about Brexiteers.
And again, I think we can see all five elements of political truth with the establishment’s position on Brexit. Things are changing a little: since the Conservatives won a comprehensive majority a year ago on the promise “let’s get Brexit done”, I think attitudes have changed a little. But, again, there’s still a long way to go.
A few years ago I wrote a piece about Islam. There I lamented the fact that most politicians know virtually nothing about religion. They just think all religions are basically the same.
This has a massive impact – for example, just a few months ago I wrote about Dr Ella Hill, a grooming gang survivor. She, and many other young women, found the police overlooked rape and other horrible things because they didn’t want to appear racist. The police would prefer to observe political truth rather than deal with actual truth.
Just a few weeks ago, a French teacher was beheaded by an Islamist extremist. Has there been much of an outcry about this from the establishment? No. It doesn’t fit with political truth, so it’s sidelined and forgotten.
Coronavirus: political truth on steroids?
One of the things I’ve found striking about the coronavirus situation is the fact that it does seem to hit all the marks of political truth.
Believed by the establishment
Of course! The government and most of the mainstream media (especially the BBC) have portrayed covid-19 in a particular light. There is an established line on the coronavirus, which goes something like this: it’s a disease which is so dangerous that, if we let it run wild, it will overload our health system and cause thousands of deaths.
Has little resemblance to truth
There’s a lot of disagreement about the truth when it comes to covid-19. But you wouldn’t know that by listening to most of the establishment voices! They’re so keen to promote a particular view that even the UK Office for Statistics Regulation had to give them a slap on the wrist for the graph presented a few weeks ago.
Neil Ferguson’s original model (which the government based their decision to lockdown on back in March) has been shown to have many flaws and is “fundamentally unreliable”. Various scientific studies have shown little-to-no benefits of lockdown. There are many scientists who question the lockdown strategy, for example supporters of the Great Barrington Declaration.
The fact that there are voices contrary to the establishment view doesn’t mean that they are correct. But it does seem to me that upholders of political truth have an agenda which is not to find the actual truth, but rather to punish those who question political truth.
Cannot be questioned
How many MPs have spoken out against the lockdown? How many pieces have you read in the mainstream media which bring up the some of the points I mentioned above? On my own personal Facebook page, whenever I post up anything about the lockdown there is always some kind of backlash.
Fortunately I think there are a number of papers who are questioning the establishment view. Things are beginning to change.
Those who do question will be labelled outsiders
If you do question the lockdown, you will be labelled. It might be as a “lockdown denier” or “covid denier”, or maybe “granny killer”. Earlier on today I read an article on UnHerd, The trouble with ‘Covid denialism’. What’s interesting about this piece is that it explicitly sets up Michael Yeadon as a ‘denier’, before going on to set him straight.
This is how it always works: “No, you’re wrong. Let me give you the proper facts.” I can’t really comment on the actual points made – that would take someone who knows more of the data than I do. I’d like to see them talk it out and debate these points. To my mind the problem is more the whole framing of the debate as “us vs them”: we are the reasonable people, you are the denier. It’s not intending to get to the truth, it’s intending to set someone straight.
It’s actually a kind of heresy hunting, like the inquisition.
Most ordinary people hold a different view
Polls show consistently that people approve of the lockdown measures. I don’t know where the pollsters are finding these people, because the people I talk to often have a different view. (Maybe part of the problem is the questions you ask – as Yes Prime Minister explains!) I think a lot of people, even those who are concerned about covid, just want to get back to some kind of normality. A lot of people want to get back to jobs, families and friends, doing the things we used to do.
Christians and the truth
Christians should have a commitment to the truth. The ninth commandment forbids us from bearing false testimony against our neighbour. Titus 1:2 states that God “cannot lie”. Jesus said that he himself is the truth (John 14:6), and that anyone on the side of truth should listen to him. By contrast, the world “suppresses the truth” (Romans 1:18).
I believe it is the duty of every Christian to stand up for the truth – the actual truth, not political truth. We should not simply be content to stand by and let political truth go unchecked. I believe we should challenge where necessary.
This doesn’t mean that we should simply be contrarians – contradicting the establishment view just for the sake of it! But, in a world where truth is not valued as it should be, I believe it is our duty to stand up for it.
Where the world does not value truth, we should value it. Even if it costs us personally. We should seek it – because when we are seeking the truth, we are seeking God. Our God is a God of truth, and the Spirit of truth lives in us. Let’s pray for God’s wisdom in challenging political truth and telling the actual truth.