IN a recent Guardian column, Jonathan Freedland posed a crucial question: “How to defend truth in a world of lies”.
It came in the wake of the appearance on Russian television of two supposed sports nutritionists present in Salisbury last March at the exact time of the novichok nerve agent attack that eventually claimed a life and disrupted hundreds of others. Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are definitely not their real names; and they, or their alter egos, work for Russian military intelligence, which committed chemical warfare on foreign soil. According to the government in Moscow, they were innocent tourists.
In the same week, Donald Trump rejected serious research concluding that nearly 3 000 people died in Puerto Rico last year during hurricane Maria.
And Jacob Zuma loudly proclaimed in a convoluted exercise in irrationality that state capture in South Africa is a myth in spite of overwhelming evidence from reliable sources that he, and his family and political allies, have benefited massively from it.
Post-modernist chickens have come home to roost. Smart-alec academics who smugly argued that there are competing versions of truth are now captives of right-wing populism.
There is truth and it is the bedrock of democracy whose survival depends upon the exposure of blatant lies and falsehood. The alternative is a world run by fraudsters and crooks.