DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Beware attempts to legitimise hate

ON Shushan Purim, I wrote that "the world is currently in Purim mode - unable to distinguish between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman, i.e. knowing the difference between a good and a bad leader", citing the popularity of the Purim villains Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn as proof of the moral anarchy of the times.

Now, as we approach Chanucah, the world is still in Purim mode, mistaking entertainment and reality TV stars for hardheaded politicians.

This week, the British Equality and Human Rights Commission asked all UK politicians to avoid legitimising hate.

The situation is even more dire across the pond in America where the Trump campaign majorly legitimised hate, whipping crowds up to scream for Hillary Clinton to be locked up without a shred of evidence except that provided by Russian-backed propaganda, distributed by the so-called "social", really terribly anti-social, media fake news sites.

The Trump victory led to the Oxford English Dictionaries choosing post-truth as their word of the year. They also attributed the popularity of the word to the Brexit campaign.

While the Leavers were less than truthful in their campaigning - not that the Remainers were much better - I believe that the issues in the EU referendum were less clear-cut morally than in the American presidential election.

While many voted for Brexit for anti-immigration and xenophobic reasons, many others - including me - voted for it out of concern for our sovereignty being held to ransom by a largely undemocratic and unaccountable EU which could in the future be taken over by extremist European parties under whose legal sway we would be.

At a time when people only choose to watch the news sites with which they agree and threaten to block as Facebook friends anyone who dares to disagree with them, we certainly are living in a post-truth era.

But this phenomenon is nothing new, although the anti-social media has made it more apparent and widespread.

The Torah was unique as an ancient document in recording not only Israelite victories but also their sins and mishaps. Most other civilisations only recorded their victories and hid their lapses.

Which is my current problem with some of the charedi press, which tends to concentrate on extolling its own community rather than exposing issues needing to be addressed. The Torah was much more upfront in calling a spade a spade in the case of wrong-doing.

But the Jewish world aside, propaganda has been alive and well for a long time, particularly in the decades-long anti-Israel campaign which flies in the face of the facts about Israel's historic right to its land, its genuine human rights and democratic record and its opposition by Arab forces seeking to destroy it.

You can argue your head off with pro-Palestinian campaigners, but they just won't want to listen, just as you can argue your head off with a Corbynite or Trump supporter and they also just won't listen.

Truth is certainly being sacrificed in today's world and the anti-social media keeps making it possible. Newspaper journalists have historically gained a bad press, but the print media is kept on its toes as editors train their staff to be sticklers for the truth, lest they fall foul of libel laws.

One of the shortcomings of the Leveson Inquiry was that it was impotent against social media and the Internet where most of the current problems lie.

Contrary to the Purim spirit of our current times, living in a post-truth world is no joke except for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is laughing all the way to the Baltic states as he rejoices in the fact that the president-elect of America is his admirer, as seems to be Britain's Labour Party leader, Israel's defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, French presidential campaign frontrunner Francois Fillon and Turkish president Recep Erdogan, who is turning to Moscow in the wake of its fallout with the EU.

Russia, indeed, has very little history of having a free press, ranking 83 in the 2015 Freedom House report, with 100 being the worst.

Two years earlier, the country came 148th out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index from Reporters without Boundaries. You only have to watch TV channel RT and contrast it with BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 news channels to see the difference.

The biggest winner of the world's longest Purim ever is Vladimir Putin and the losers will undoubtedly be innocent people all over the world who have been duped by post-truth propaganda into believing that maverick celebrities can really improve the quality of their lives.

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