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Opinion

Paul McNamee: The truth is out there – you just have to look for it

“We need to be vigilant. To tell the difference between facts and agenda-driving opinion given wings by blowhards who shout loudest”

Nobody really knows anything. As a basic starting point, I give you Arsenal FC.

They are a big club, one who have been a dominant force in English football for decades, and with a global reach.

Several weeks ago, their long-standing manager Arsène Wenger left the club. Urbane, multi-lingual, he was a chap who always gave the impression of somebody who was trying to remain calm despite having slight acid reflux. Still, he was a great manager. He led Arsenal for 22 years to multiple trophies. His departure prompted lively debate about a successor.

How Britain is constituted after Brexit is just one of those things we need to understand. And only by really understanding can we start building or finding solutions that go beyond the ‘I just feel it’ll be great’ school that has taken hold

Hours and hours of sports radio broadcast was filled with insiders and experts keen to explain who would take over and why. Last week, out of the blue, a man called Unai Emery got the job. Which nobody predicted. He’d been 66/1 just days before. This set up hours more of analysis, a lot of which was angry, with pundits annoyed that they’d not got close to being correct, and so were left looking well outside the tent.

There was a similar moment with the US/North Korea talks. Just a couple of weeks ago, international experts and cheerleaders were heralding Donald Trump’s new no-nonsense non-diplomacy diplomacy. He’d done it, and the Nobel Peace Prize would be a formality!

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Fast forward a month and The Donald is sending weird notes calling the whole thing off, but still asking for Kim to give him a quick ring. Like it was a mate who annoyed him at a Christmas party, but time to let bygones be bygones. Nobody quite predicted that.

Meanwhile, last week the Institute For Fiscal Studies said the only way to keep the NHS afloat was to increase annual taxes by at least £2,000 per household.

This is a dramatic finding, one with huge importance, both because of the change it would bring to individuals and how we view the tax system in Britain, and because of what it means for the NHS.

There was a lot less on this than Wenger’s successor. It’s understandable. Talking football is preferable to talking tax.

But a problem arises here with conflation.

We’re in an age when all stories, regardless of their genesis or their basis in fact, are allowed to oxygenate and receive equal billing and, most importantly, equal credibility.

And because a lot of this happens on social media, agendas grow and how a story is presented becomes more important than facts.

This is not new. But it’s accelerating, and while it might be dreary, we need to be vigilant.

In the coming weeks and months, we have to be able to tell the difference between facts and agenda-driving opinion given wings by blowhards who shout loudest. At The Big Issue, we will do this. We make a pledge to redouble efforts to cut through the self-serving flannel. It’s never been more vital. How Britain is constituted after Brexit is just one of those things we need to understand. And only by really understanding can we start building or finding solutions that go beyond the ‘I just feel it’ll be great’ school that has taken hold.

Some people DO know things. And we should listen to them, ask them questions, provide ideas and use smarts and facts to build solutions.

Of course, we can still talk about football.

Where do you stand on José…

Main image: Michael Vadon/Flickr

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