On telling the truth - Jo Carroll

Never have we been in more need of fiction writers telling the truth.

I'm not going to engage in a philosophical argument about the nature of truth. My truth might not be yours, that sort of thing. It is the bread and butter of fiction - creating characters who have different views of the world and develop a narrative in which those differences collide and are resolved. Maybe not a 'happy every after' but at least an understanding that allows the people to rub along together well enough (and the baddies to get their comeuppance).

I mean objective truth. The 'grass is green' sort of truth. Having written that I can see that even grass can be brown. But surely we can all agree on the basic nature of grass: it grows in soil, regrows if it's cut, provides essential nutrients for countless creatures etc. These are truths the fiction writer takes for granted.

When my daughters were young one loved the story of a witch who tired of everything being green and repainted everything in the world until it sparkled like a rainbow. At which point the witch decided that maybe the green wasn't so bad and everything returned to normal. Equilibrium was restored.

I need stories like this more than ever at the moment. Why? Because we are, daily, surrounded by untruths. Verifiable untruths. '£350,000,000 on the side of a bus' untruths. 'Although we have cut 21,000 from the police force, appointing 20,000 represents an increase' untruths. The NHS is struggling because there are too many patients' (tell that to some of the patients in Northern Ireland who have to wait 3 years - you read that right - 3 years for a hospital appointment) untruth. The 'I never had sex with that woman' sort of untruth.

I understand why my daughter loved that story. She relished the idea of taking risks, of seeing things differently, knowing that all would come right in the end. But those now in power, who are showering us with untruths, making promises they can never keep, must know they are peddling fantasies. I despise them for it. They feed our fears and our differences. Truth and reconciliation - pah! Those who shout louder and bully more aggressively are free to trample on all who disagree.

It matters. If I can't believe those in power to tell me the truth, why should my grandchildren believe me when I tell them the grass is (usually) green. And how can I write convincing fiction when those who should know better try to sell it as truth.

Comments

Susan Price said…
Jo, we need truth and you've provided it here.

I recently watched the slithy Gove trying to outface a journalist who asked him about the Tories calling their website 'FactCheck' to pretend it was an unbiased source while it spread lies about Labour.

It had always been quite clear that the website was a Tory site said Slithy -- a lie. The ownership of the site had been tucked, minute and difficult to see, in one corner, where almost no one would think to look for it. Why wasn't it prominently displayed? It was, Slithy insisted. Yet another brazen lie, as the journalist held up a tablet and showed how tiny and hidden the Tory label was.

Would Slithy apologise for the pretence and promise not to tell such lies again? No, no, oozed Slithy, the Tories had only been presenting a persuasive case, as all politicians do...

No. There is arguing a case persuasively while being clear about which side you're arguing for -- and then there's rubbishing the opposition with outright lies and misrepresentation, while pretending to be 'an independent fact checker.' That's outright lying and deliberate deceit.

The Tory party increasingly represents only the 0.01% of the very rich and is funded by Russian and American billionaires (apparently, but they're determinedly hiding the truth about that too). When a party like this starts such deliberate outright lying and supports the barrage of anti-socialist, one-sided propaganda that I gasped at in my friend's Daily Mail yesterday (pages of it), I think we're in Trouble.
Bill Kirton said…
Just to say that I (and, I suspect, plenty of other AE members) share your frustration and despair at the cavalier attitudes of people who really should know better, Jo. However strong one's beliefs, their purpose is never served by communicating them through falsehoods. Oh yes, unfortunately many gullible people will fall for them but no-one comes out of it with any credibility. Looks as if things such as honour, trust, respect, even community itself have already been discarded. Vile times, and vile people calling the shots.
JO said…
Thank you both. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only on despairing in these lying times.

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