Time for Several Whiskies

Ian Jack

  • Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War by Edward Stourton
    Doubleday, 422 pp, £20.00, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 85752 332 7

In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries made ‘post-truth’ their word of the year, defining it as an adjective that described circumstances ‘in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. This hardly seems up to the job: if that’s all the word means, the wonder is that we have waited so long for it. When has our understanding of public life not been shaped more by emotion than by ‘objective facts’? When was this golden age of objectivity? Surely not in the time when press lords such as Northcliffe and Beaverbrook liked to attest to it, along with the retired army sergeant next door who had been East and seen a thing or two. George Orwell offers a sharper insight into the meaning of ‘post-truth’ in his reflections on the success of pro-Franco propaganda in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. ‘I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway,’ he wrote in 1942. ‘I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written.’

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