To believe, or not to believe - no I’m not talking about God.
But I am talking about the News - with a capital N because it seems to be shouted at us from all corners of social media at the moment. But how much is actually true?
Some, of course, is verifiable. If England, say (just supposing), were to win a football match 1-0 there can be no dispute about the score. But the meaning of that score depends on who you believe - they might have played wonderfully and only the referee deprived them of another five goals, or they might have been lucky to scrape a win.
And there are many times when even the facts can’t speak for themselves. Those of in the UK know that the promise to put £350,000,000 a week into the NHS after we leave the EU was a lie - but that didn’t stop politicians quoting it. This last week, some health service workers have been promised what looks, at first sight, like a generous pay rise. But when you work out their loss of real income over the last ten years this comes nowhere near making up for it.
Ideas ... facts ... the two become jumbled on social media. I’ve seen demands that supermarkets stop using single-use plastic - all very laudable, given the rubbish in our seas (verifiable) but without reminding us that significantly more energy is used to make glass bottles than plastic. I’ve seen a petition that demands the government does not sign a trade deal with the US as it will jeopardise the NHS - but without any evidence that is the case. Instinct tells me that such a deal is a Bad Idea, but that isn’t enough - I want to be presented with enough information to make an informed decision and not just sound-bites and petitions.
Does it matter? I think it does. In this instant-information world few of us have the time or inclination to research anything with enough vigour to develop informed opinions. We are dependent on the media to keep us informed - but the media simply feeds us snippets of largely unverifiable facts and great tracts of opinion.
Which means politicians can talk about listening to the electorate safe in the knowledge that we have no idea what is true and what isn’t.