I thought a recent article did a commendable job in showing the impotence of facts in our political culture. However, I was sorry to read some of the conclusions it reached.
Where powerful opiates are concerned, we should be careful not to mis-prescribe. The idea of “preventing the platforming of disinformation” risks abandoning the search for truth entirely. That’s because in order to de-platform, you must have a preconceived notion of truth that – based on the identity of the person being de-platformed – you won’t allow to be contested. And yes, identity necessarily fits into the picture. After all, someone has to be allowed to speak about stuff like racism and transphobia, and we can’t use the truth of what they’re saying to decide who they are, because they can’t speak unless they already agree to certain truths.
But that’s the issue. In the political culture of de-platforming, the source of an opinion becomes far more important than its validity. Isn’t this the very same sentiment that leads people to deny the conclusions of “trans-friendly psychologists”, as the article recalls? You are correct to point out that reason is a weak antidote to dogma, but we should take a moment to picture a post-truth world.
For example, in a world where ‘facts’ are no more than the constructs of some interest, class, race, gender, etc, we should ask ourselves: how will arguments be won? The only answer I can think to give is the demographic we happen to have. If that’s been working in your favour for the past few decades, good. But there’s no guaranteeing that the class, race, and gender (and a hundred other things) demographic will move in this direction forever. Yes, we could crush all that intolerant stuff if we were willing to play the identity game – and win today’s shouting match. But what would we do if, a few decades later, the ‘other side’ held that same revolver and the upper hand?
If truth and validity are simply words we use to add stature to the realities that we construct, there’s nowhere left to turn when the demographics aren’t going your way. Yes, salvaging the political conversation of truth may mean losing some votes, elections, whatever else, along the way. But we should take some comfort in the fact that most things about our society seem more ‘reasonable’ than they were two centuries ago. Let’s not give up on truth (or what we really mean, people) just yet.
All the best,
Declan Nelson, Merton College
I’m usually quite a fan of your Lifestyle content- perhaps this statement is more generous than it is true- however, I was disappointed to find a recent article on essential vegan ingredients lacking an important, nay, indispensable item. I am speaking of Marmite, of course. I understand that as a non-vegan my opinion my be unqualified if not unwanted, yet, I sincerely believe this unsung and often maligned hero can offer much to those foraying in to plant based diets. The deep, dark depthful (forgive me, I use this non-word for its alliterative value) and above all, savoury flavour marmite imparts to vegetable or pulse based stews, sauces and gravies is unparalleled- my vegan spagbol would be lost without a teaspoon gently stirred in as it simmers away.
Very best wishes,