Don’t give me snake oil for Christmas

The newspaper lay spread out on the kitchen counter, with my 9-year old leaning over it.

“Look, mummy, someone’s found a dinosaur skeleton in England,” she exclaimed after a few minutes of concentrated silence and pushed the paper towards me.

I glanced at the article she was pointing to.

“Well, it looks like they may have found one,” I said, “but we don’t know for sure if it’s true.”

“But isn’t everything they write in newspapers true?” my daughter asked.

“Yes, but…” I began, for how do you begin to explain the era of fake news we live in to a child?

We teach our children to tell the truth, but perhaps more importantly, we need to teach them to critically evaluate information presented as facts.

Speaking of truth, the British grime artist Stormzy was recently criticised for telling a bunch of school kids at his old primary school that Boris Johnson is “a very, very bad man” and comparing him to the big bad wolf. Stormzy, of course, was merely giving a truthful answer to a question from a pupil.

Truth and facts may be foreign concepts to the prime minister, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t strive towards honesty in our communication with others, especially with children.

Disturbingly, plenty of people calling into radio shows or being interviewed on the streets in the weeks leading up to the election, said they knew that Johnson lies, but would still vote for him because he is ‘a fun guy’ compared to the dull and uninspiring Jeremy Corbyn.

And here we are, a week after the election that saw the ‘fun guy’ win big. As a result, Brexit will almost certainly happen by the end of January, and we can all look forward to at least five years of government led by a man utterly devoid of a moral compass.

It took him only a few days to start reneging on election promises, but at least he stays true to form.

Much of British media, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to think its job is to hold the prime minister to account, preferring instead to continue its obsessive maligning of the ‘Stalinist,’ ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘terrorist-loving’ Jeremy Corbyn who had the audacity to suggest that poor people are deserving of a decent life. He should have known better than to think that harping on about principles of fairness, equality and compassion would win him the election. Silly man.

But seriously, I’m with Stormzy and the school kids he visited; the snake oil charms of Boris Johnson don’t bite on me. And yes, truth still matters. Perhaps more than ever.

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