Editorial: A bad week for the truth, but you can’t firehose facts away
In a post-truth world where deep fakes are an ever more dangerous threat, calling out false narratives is imperative. This week we saw two of the world’s most influential and powerful men use all their influence to manipulate and mangle the truth for their own malign purposes.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin delivered a master class in fabrication and delusion to further their separate twisted stories. In Russia, Putin was once again preposterously insisting he was defending his homeland as if it were under siege, and it was not he who invaded Ukraine.
In the “Victory Day” ceremony, he strove to serve up a fantasy to inspire the people. In reality, a year ago, the Russian military occupied 20pc of Ukrainian territory and was primed for further gains. Today, its occupied areas in Ukraine have decreased to 17pc.
Casualties in eastern Ukraine are reported to have exceeded 100,000 since December last year. The blitzkrieg he promised, is a catastrophic war of attrition. No amount of square-bashing or ornamental parades can gloss over the grubby fact that Putin has made a disastrous decision and innocent civilians are paying the price. Indications that Ukraine has now launched its counter-offensive highlight once more the enormous folly and incalculable cost of Putin’s aggression.
In the US, former president and leading Republican contender Donald Trump used a CNN interview to launch another bogus campaign built on the same big lie – that the election was stolen, and he was the victor. He also took his opportunity to ridicule the woman who won a ruling against him this week, that he sexually assaulted her. But where E Jean Carroll’s dignity and courage throughout the case were exemplary, Trump’s distortions, insults and confabulations merely diminished his own standing, and that of his supporters. His absurd attempts to once again present himself as a victim were every bit as disingenuous and dangerous as those of the man whom he so hails as a “genius” in Moscow.
A mountain of evidence has proved the election was not rigged. Yet he persists in disdainfully undermining, and betraying the same degree of contempt as Putin, for democracy. That he was given such a prestigious podium as CNN to steam-roll over the truth was unsettling. It is not that the interviewer did not attempt to “fact check” the former president, but he was still given the freedom to ignore, or speak over her, for 70 minutes of prime-time TV.
But, what neither Trump nor Putin can runaway from is that the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. Or as Gandhi put it: “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.” Not even a firehose of disinformation can wash away the facts.