I am writing to express my wholehearted agreement with the stance taken in the article, ‘Feelings don’t care about facts’ (12 September).
The problem isn’t a new one, as was rightly pointed out. For the benefit/interest of the reader, I would like to quote from an obscure yet enlightening source, William Jay’s 1849 ‘Review of the Causes and Consequences of the Mexican War.’ In it, the author penned the following protest against the state-sanctioned substitution of fiction for fact:
“falsehoods… coined in [the capital], became a circulating medium throughout the country. They were found in almost every official despatch; they were uttered through the press; they were passed as genuine by Governors in their messages, and by Legislatures in their resolves. Who shall estimate the injury done to the morality of the nation by this widespread contempt for truth?…. It has been well said that truth and the confidence it inspires, is the basis of human society, and that error is the source of every iniquity. How deplorable, then, that the love of truth and abhorrence of falsehood should be weakened by the authority and example of those in high places.” He could just as well have been writing in this “post-truth” era, of the “alternative facts” spun by Messrs Johnson, Orbán, Duterte, Bolsonaro, and the delusional megalomaniac currently residing in the White House.
‘So what?’ you might say. Stop being so melodramatic. Society hasn’t collapsed. We are still free—heck, freedom of speech means the freedom to tell fibs. Let’s unpack this very briefly.
If the state is at liberty to lie to its citizens, it presumes the power to dictate what is true and what is false. What is this if not the foundation of totalitarianism? No, freedom is not the freedom to lie; on the contrary, it is “the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” as Orwell wrote exactly one hundred years on from Jay. Thus freedom and falsehood aren’t mutually reinforcing, but—ultimately—mutually exclusive.
Little wonder, then, that the most fundamental freedom—the freedom to live—has suffered most at the hands of COVID in countries led by veteran liars: the US, Brazil, the UK.
The article’s author was spot on: let us exercise our right not to listen to lies, not to afford them any airtime—not to give pride of place to primal feelings where they should have none at all. Let us stop reporting uncritically on brazen bullsh*it, but instead seek systematically to dismantle it. We may be ignored, but at least we’ll have resisted.
Anon, St Johns
The opinion advanced in your recent article on the Government’s Covid-19 response (Are We Losing Perspective on Covid-19) is entirely correct.
It is unfortunate that the government appears to be being swayed by media hysteria rather than acknowledging the huge scientific advances made in coronavirus treatment and detection, and the indications that a less draconian, sustainable approach is a preferable option. Perhaps if the government were less reactionary and focussed on evidence instead of doom-predicting models, they would develop more perspective.
Amy Sankey, Lady Margaret Hall
I am writing in response to the article ‘World leading? With what university?’ published on 12 September of this year.
I was truly dismayed, and not a little angered, by the tone of the article which suggests that a life following the Covid-19 restrictions put in place by our colleges is not a ‘proper’ life. Firstly, the article suggests that it is the more vulnerable in our community’s fault that we mustn’t abide by these rules in the first place. Placing blame on said individuals is unfair, and damaging to their mental health. These restrictions benefit us all. Covid-19 is a truly horrible disease, regardless of your chances of risk it can take a long time to feel like yourself again. In Bergamo, the epicentre of Europe’s first outbreak, of the 750 previous Covid patients who have so far been screened, 60% continue to have health issues.
My other largest issue with this article (to be frank, of many) is that it suggests that our lives next term will somehow be less. Firstly, the article falsely claims that rowing will not be able to take place next term. In fact, students have spent countless hours working very hard to make sure that rowing can take place. JCR committees have spent months working out how to provide an enjoyable freshers week. Yes, life will be different, but it remains entirely possible to have a vibrant social life.
Most importantly, however, the last time I checked our University has a duty to provide us with an education, not a social life.
Lastly, I found the article to be extremely student-centric. We cannot forget that we do not operate in a bubble. On a daily basis we interact with local residents, college staff and tutors, each with their own families and potentially their own health concerns. So while your standard 20 year old student may not be so concerned about their own health, I strongly believe that we are not being asked a great deal in order to protect others.
I very much hope that the vibrant Oxford student community I know will channel its energy into facing the world’s new challenge with vigour and consideration for others.
Alannah Burdess, Trinity