Amber Rudd, Britain’s current Home Secretary, claims that ‘fake news’ has been spread related to what the UK government has done to help unaccompanied refugee minors. Really? What is ‘fake news’? Is it news that is slanted to a particular point of view or is it downright lies? She insists: “The fact is, we took 8,000 children last year in to this country and settled them. Three thousand arrived unaccompanied and illegally and have been settled here. These numbers are large.” This is her slant.
On the other hand, many would argue that it is what is not being done that is the issue. With the closing of the Dubs Agreement, many already vulnerable children are being left hopeless and in despair – prey to the most vicious smugglers and traffickers. According to the Refugee Council, in 2016 of all the unaccompanied children who arrived in Britain alone, just 31% were granted asylum. Instead, many separated children are granted short term leave to remain for 2.5 years; leaving them with an uncertain future.
Confused? It’s because the two different sets of statistics are being approached from two different points of view. Most of us know that’s what politicians and campaigners do, but how do we determine who we believe? Well, I for one would look at the motive behind the presenting of facts. Is it a fact based on fear: if we let these children in, we’ll be overrun, violence will increase and we won’t be able to look after our own? Or is a fact based on compassion, and a desire to help the vulnerable? I know which side I’d prefer to listen to.
What is truth? Is it objective facts? Is it all the details of a story told without embellishing or distorting? Or is it something deeper – a sense of what is the right or moral thing? Or is it a mixture of all three concepts?
Now I’m not a philosopher, theologian or journalist but I do have some inkling what truth is based on what I know it isn’t. I’m a parent and have listened to the half-lies and blatant lies of my own children, and I’ve been a school teacher and have seen the way good teaching intent can be distorted and misinterpreted by those with a particular educational axe to grind.
It’s a big question that’s on many people’s lips, with the rise of so-called post-truth. The definition of post-truth is that objective facts are somehow less important than appeals to people’s emotions and beliefs. Is this any different to how persuasion has always been used? The main difference now is that with the rise of bite size news and social media, everybody has suddenly become an ‘authority’. Billy Blog’s rants could somehow have equal weight to the serious news channels, at least in the eyes of the undiscerning. Even the serious news channels will have news that is biased to an agenda – this is not a conspiracy theory, just a reality.
Postmodernism would have us believe that truth is relative and that truth is whatever is true for you. To some extent this is a workable idea, but it’s where those so called ‘truths’ clash with one another and cause conflict, oppression and hate that the problems start.
As a Christian, I for one am relieved that I don’t have to get twisted up in worrying about who is telling the truth, because Christians believe that Jesus Himself is ‘the truth’, not any single ideology, however good or wise it may seem. Truth is therefore encapsulated in the divine rather than in any of us messed-up human beings. It’s a relief because even those of us with the best of intentions have mixed motives.
Today is World Book Day and I rushed about this morning getting my six-year old dressed up as the Gingerbread Man. Now, did I do this because I wanted to make him happy, or did I do it to make myself feel good at how cute he is? Much as I’d like to say that my motives were 100% selfless, the truth is that I did do it for myself – a smidgeon at least.
And that’s what human truth is – a mixture of the selfish and the selfless. Give me the divine any day!
 http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/4853_top_20_facts_about_refugees_and_asylum_seekers. Accessed 2nd March 2017.